The movement toward a more sustainable economy is gathering momentum. Consumers increasingly prefer to do business with companies that embrace sustainable practices, and more organizations are looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. This “green” mindset is driving the development of new sustainability solutions, many of which utilize Internet of Things technologies (IoT).
Why are IoT sustainability solutions taking center stage? Underlying all these solutions is the fundamental concept of data analytics. Gathering data on business and operational activities, studying it for insights, and making decisions based on objective analysis are processes that have always been considered key to success. But today, the amount of information that can be collected thanks to the IoT has taken data-driven decision-making to the next level. A vast amount of data exists about every business, making it possible to derive greater insights than ever before. Add to that the machine learning capabilities employed by many IoT platforms and you have a veritable ocean of actionable intelligence that businesses can use to improve processes and operate more sustainably.
Below are a few of what we consider to be the most impactful IoT sustainability solutions in use for businesses today.
Five IoT Sustainability Solutions Making A Difference
1. Smart Meters
A smart meter measures the electricity consumption of a building. Before they became “smart,” electricity meters sent meter readings only to the energy supplier (you as the customer did not have access to the data), and primarily measured kWh. Today’s smart meters deliver information wirelessly via low-energy radio frequency waves, and your energy usage data is sent to your supplier at frequent intervals, with some models delivering information as frequently as every 15 minutes.
In addition to offering more detailed data than the old devices, smart meters also give customers access to consumption and peak demand usage data. These new smart meters can also provide detail into apparent, real, and reactive power to measure the power factor efficiency and energy quality. As a result, businesses using smart meters have the ability to gain more control over their energy usage, either by altering their usage habits or pinpointing issues related to power quality. Because smart electricity meters provide more information about power usage, they are an excellent tool for facilities managers looking to reduce energy usage as part of a larger sustainability program.
BBVA City reduced its energy consumption by 12%
from 2015 to 2019 using IoT technology.
2. Smart Lighting and HVAC
Sixty to 80% of a building’s energy use is attributable to lighting and HVAC systems, so any tool that can help you reduce energy consumption in these areas is well worth the investment. IoT and analytics can substantially improve energy efficiency, thereby reducing energy costs and improving sustainability.Sixty to 80% of a building’s energy use is attributable to lighting and HVAC systems, so any tool that can help you reduce energy consumption in these areas is well worth the investment. Click To Tweet
Whereas a traditional lighting control system simply follows a predetermined schedule for building lights, smart lighting gives you a greater degree of control over your lighting to help you manage it more efficiently. IoT devices can also help optimize a building management system (BMS) by providing feedback between zone conditions and HVAC energy measurement.
IoT devices can be embedded into lighting controls and relay data into BMS, providing a feedback loop to better control systems and measure efficiency. Smart LEDs can also convey information about broken and burnt-out lighting, all in real-time. According to Gartner, energy savings of up to 50% have been well-documented in many installations of smart lighting.
IoT & Sustainability: A Five-Pronged Approach
In order for any IoT sustainability solution to deliver insights, it must include the following:
The better your system of monitoring, measuring, and cataloging data, the better you’ll understand the story of your business—leading to actionable insights more quickly.
3. IoT Air Quality Monitoring
As sustainability is synonymous with corporate responsibility, this category would also include items related to occupational safety and health. The quality of air inside your building impacts people directly. According to the EPA, poor indoor air quality affects up to 30% of new or remodeled buildings worldwide, sometimes causing “sick building” syndrome.
Indoor air quality monitoring can help you achieve a healthier, more productive environment for your employees. IoT sensors can monitor continuously to detect the presence of common pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, and particulate matter (PM). Over time, the data you receive will paint an accurate picture of your building’s overall air quality, and help you determine what actions might need to be taken to improve it.
Monitoring CO2 also helps reduce energy consumption. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends specific ventilation standards, but since commercial buildings are rarely filled to capacity, most businesses end up over-ventilating their spaces, wasting money and energy on heating and cooling outdoor air unnecessarily. By implementing a demand control ventilation system, you can monitor CO2 levels (CO2 serves as an indicator of the number of occupants) and ventilate only when it’s necessary to improve the indoor air quality. As a result, your heating and cooling units use a minimal amount of energy.
4. Water Monitoring
Water is an important metric for sustainability because it is a primary component of everyday usage in most facilities. (The U.S. average is approximately 20 gallons per square foot, indicating that a 100,000-square foot building consumes over 2 million gallons of water per year.) Pipe leakage is responsible for a significant amount of water loss in industrial/commercial facilities. An IoT solution that detects leakage through dynamic water consumption monitoring could substantially reduce both consumption and waste.
According to recent studies, IoT solutions have the potential to reduce water use by up to 15%,
and contribute up to 20% savings in food waste through smart agriculture.
5. Smart Agriculture
Another IoT sustainability solution that solves a significant global challenge is smart agriculture. Indoor farming companies like AeroFarms and Bowery Farming are attracting unprecedented interest from investors because they have been successful in their unique approaches to farming, which rely on tightly controlled environments to grow the best plants possible.
IoT sensors are an ideal form of technology to apply to the challenge of environmental controls. By collecting and analyzing data on everything from soil moisture, light, air quality, and more, farmers can improve their practices to maximize crop growth. The IoT has proven to be very valuable in creating favorable conditions for plant-growing. Growlink, for example, lets farmers use IoT technology and machine learning to optimize growing conditions. Solutions like these also help farmers minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers, applying them only where and when they are needed. Reducing the environmental impact of farming and increasing production are two significant benefits of the IoT as it pertains to sustainability.
Reducing the use of chemicals and fertilizers used in farming has the potential
to remove one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Wondering how your business can use the IoT to achieve greater sustainability?
If you’d like to learn how your business can implement IoT sustainability solutions, talk to us at Iota. We can help you develop a blueprint that will guide your company’s sustainability efforts, and get you started monitoring, measuring, and cataloging data using IoT devices. We’ll also help you understand and derive actionable insights from the data you collect with our advanced analytics and machine learning service.
Whether you have sustainability goals already in place or want to explore the possibilities for your facility, we can help you get started today.