Can Internet of Things Technology Really Stop Climate Change?
Managing climate change and the natural resources of the earth is increasingly getting tougher as populations around the world continue to increase. However, this is an important challenge that must be overcome by all countries of the world so as to attain sustainable development. The protection of the environment will demand multifaceted solutions, with technology playing an important role. The Internet of Things is already offering unique opportunities for addressing issues like clean water, landfill waste, deforestation, and air pollution. Ultimately, the notion of machine-to-machine communication envisioned in IoT will help reduce the environmental effects of human activities.
Current Situation – UN Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015
As world leaders gather these first two weeks of December 2015 in France for the UN Climate Change Conference, there is a sense of hope that more effective climate change resolutions will arise from the conference. This conference is being held at a significant point in history when scientists have reported that global temperatures are rising and also when there is a clear political will to address the issue of climate change finally. Over the following two weeks, over 30,000 delegates and diplomats will toil to create a new universal agreement that would commit almost all countries to initiate new policies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
The current Paris talks signify the result of over 20 years’ worth of effort towards establishing a universal agreement, including two important previous universal meetings. However, both previous conferences, 1997 in Kyoto and 2009 in Copenhagen, ended with agreements that were eventually seen as failures. So, the latest meetings are about increasing pledges relating the fight against climate change and making present pledges much more enforceable. There is also an ongoing debate as to how much funds developed countries should set aside to support the sustainable development of underdeveloped nations. Nevertheless, with USA and China, the two biggest sources of emissions, keen on lowering their emissions, experts expect that this particular UN Climate Change conference will be fruitful.
Climate Change Challenges
1. Lack of Decisive Actions to Fight Climate Change
For a long time, nations have made significant pledges related to fighting climate change, but there is little to be seen regarding the implementation of these pledges. What is most important now is decisive and strong local and international action aimed at dramatically cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing global warming as well as preventing the adverse effects of climate change.
Governments must take on a more proactive role in dealing with climate change both at home as well as abroad. This is a complex and long-term issue that private companies have very little incentive to deal with on their own. Nevertheless, with stronger government regulations, the private sector should start making necessary adjustments to lessen emissions. On their part, citizens should not only vote for leaders who support climate change policies but also do their best to recycle and efficiently use energy and also buy local merchandise and food to reduce emissions.
2. Lack of Protection of Vulnerable Communities
Even though climate change is a universal problem, it does not affect everyone equally. Given the rate at which global warming is already advancing, vulnerable communities across the world are feeling the adverse impacts of climate change. There has been very little enthusiasm and capability of the developed countries of assisting the poorer nations and vulnerable communities in adapting to the grave problems linked to climate change.
Some of the suggested solutions, in this case, are: adapting societies to tougher weather conditions; discouraging people from building houses in flood or wildfire-prone areas; and increasing research into the development of crops that will be able to withstand tough weather conditions. Citizens must also learn about how their areas are affected by climate change and use whichever tools necessary, including IoT devices, to prepare and deal with those effects.
3. Lack of a Good Economic Environment For Climate Change Solutions
Most governments have failed on their part by not creating a suitable environment where businesses can seize new opportunities by initiating their own custom solutions. This includes things like lots of red tapes and regulation processes that prevent businesses from bringing in new, greener technologies into the market more quickly and lack of sufficient incentives for companies to conserve the environment.
The best way of addressing this challenge is trusting the private sector to lead with regards to finding climate change solutions. Let the free market dictate the climate change solutions to be pursued, like through the implementation of the Internet of Things concept. This will allow better innovations to reach the consumers and effectively help fight climate change.
Internet of Things – Our Long-Awaited Game Changer?
We need to start discussing, researching and establishing scenarios where climate change occurs. It is only through this sort of reasoning that innovators and companies will start developing new technologies, such as through IoT to track and monitor climate changes and eventually prevent such adversities.
Here are some of the few IoT technologies already being used to prevent climate change:
1. Smart Thermostats
Nest is a smart thermostat designed to help houses users to consume close to 20% less energy. This results in significant savings in electricity bills, and you will likely have paid back your initial installation cost within two years. The smart thermostat comes with four unique sensors: activity sensors to detect when someone is in the house, weather sensors, humidity sensors and finally temperature sensors.
Nest collects and stores data about the user’s daily routine and their preferences, and combines that information with external weather data to modify the cooling and heating settings of the home accordingly. Users can remotely control Nest from a computer or smartphone, and it also sends energy reports and other alerts (for example, when to change the air filters), which can further reduce electricity bills. Google’s acquisition of Nest signifies that the IoT smart home sector is lined up for rapid expansion.
Relevant: Hot and Cold: The Best Smart Thermostats
2. Smart Grid System
A smart grid system is essentially an IoT managed electricity system that collects sensor information from electrical meters, fault detectors, voltage sensors and any other connected devices. On the smart IoT grid system, any changes in the connected devices, as well as their total electricity usage, is automatically detected by the network, which modifies its output based on real-time data.
If the smart grid senses that there is no recent electrical activity in a certain home, for example, power-hungry devices like water heaters are automatically turned off. Research shows that the implementation of a smart grid system has the potential of lowering carbon emissions significantly by close to 12%.
3. Smart Traffic Systems and Parking Lots
Current research on smart transportation already shows that IoT is helping to reduce the consumption of fuel in cars. One example of a smart parking unit informs drivers about the location of nearby open spots, thus reducing the cruising time associated with looking for a sport by 21%.
Meanwhile, a synchronisation program of traffic signals in Los Angeles ended up saving drivers over 30 million travel hours and over 35 million gallons of fuel. If these IoT technologies were implemented across the country and also across the globe, they could help in reducing crude oil demand and general vehicle pollution.
4. Air Quality Egg
The innovative Air Quality Egg is an IoT device that uses smart sensors to gather and share details about the quality of air outside an individual’s office or home. Even though government agencies monitor air pollutants every day from their centralised locations, the Egg can collect real-time data from the user’s nearby environment. The information is then relayed across the Internet and can be used for designing and measuring the effects of urban air pollution policies. Also, the Egg encourages people to get more information about their town and realise how their personal actions affect their community.
5. Smart Trash Cans
Bigbelly is a smart trash can and compactor that uses solar power and alerts the sanitation crew when it gets filled up. The historical data that is collected from all the Bigbelly bins can be analysed by the waste management facility to plan collection activities as well as making adjustments, like putting a bigger or smaller trash can. This smart trash can system can be applied in cities, campuses, beaches, and parks. After installing the Bigbelly trash can, Boston University reduced its overall trash pickup times from 14 to 2 times per week. Thus, the university saves both time and energy used for driving to the pickup points. Given that scientists predict household waste will rise considerably as urbanisation increases, extra IoT tools will help in handling the bigger volumes of waste.
6. Invisible Tracck for Forest- Cover Conservation
The management of forests will be crucial in preventing climate change. In this regard, IoT devices like Invisible Tracck help guard against illegal logging. The small devices are covertly placed inside trees in the protected areas, and they send alert to authorities when illegally cut trees pass in range of mobile networks.
Currently, this technology is used in the Amazon forest in Brazil to fight deforestation activities. For a long time, deforestation has gone undetected since radio frequencies, and satellite range is usually weak in most remote places. Luckily, with IoT even the remote and most vulnerable parts of the world can be protected and policed.
Australia has pioneered an innovative Marine Observing System along its Great Barrier Reef so as to collect information for researchers looking at the effect of climate change on oceanic conditions and marine ecosystems. Buoys fitted with smart sensors collect physical, chemical and biological data. Data is then sent to the base station using various wireless technologies, such as microwave, 3G mobile network and satellite, depending on how far the buoy is to the shore. The collected data has been critical to research on biodiversity, fish movement and damages to the coral reef.
IoT presents a great opportunity for attaining social and economic benefits. However, smart policies are necessary to maximise those benefits. In particular, policymakers must leave the old reasoning of thinking that data that needs to be controlled tightly, and instead consider it as an important resource that can be harnessed for general social good.
Thus, the policymakers should diligently work to remove outdated policies meant for the old-fashioned “small data” environment to make sure that the IoT opportunities that lie ahead for “big data” can be achieved. Here are several recommendations:
1. Lead Through Example
Due to the numerous opportunities for the IoT to make significant effects on both climate change and current societal challenges, policy makers should be at the forefront championing this technology. Nationally, government buildings must start deploying smart IoT building technologies, and the regulation agencies should make it easier for green innovations to come to market. Smart meters, smart thermostats and other smart devices that guarantee energy efficiency should be promoted to get more consumers involved in saving the environment.
2. Reduce Data Sharing Barriers
IoT solves many issues through getting data to where it is needed promptly. There are several reasons why data flows are impeded, including physical reasons (insufficient network connectivity) legal reasons (lack of rights to data sharing) or technical reasons (incompatible technical standards). In this case, policy-makers need to help in identifying and reducing data sharing barriers. This includes ensuring sufficient IoT infrastructure is available, promoting interoperability and also ensuring the legal frameworks enable data sharing across different entities.
3. Regulate Data Use, Not Data Collection
While previously most of the innovation occurred before data was collected, in the future the collection of data is going to be a key part of the start of the invention process. Most of the potential advantages of IoT like from the capability of collecting, analysing and sharing data. Adhering to old-fashioned data principles, like demanding that the aim of data collection gets defined early on, will impair progress. A better approach is allowing more permissive collection of data and closely monitoring and restricting uses that may lead to consumer harm. By focusing on data usage, more innovations can be created in both Internet of Things devices and the proposed solutions to address both climate change and other societal issues.
Even though the Internet of Things concept is still a novice idea, this technology is gaining traction very quickly. These new IoT technologies and devices will help in offsetting carbon emissions across the world by close to 10 billion tons – maybe, enough to help in saving our delicate ecosystem.
See recommended smartwatches on Amazon
Sony SmartWatch 3
Apple Watch Series 2