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When one talks about Internet of things (IoT), first thoughts that come are that of sensors, data, platforms, cloud, Analytics, AI..… It is surprising that behind all this jargon and technical discussions, what is not talked about often is the real impact of IoT on people and planet. Is it really just another technological advancement which makes life easy for people…. Or is it producing more electronics cluttering and choking the environment. We use IoT for monitoring and measuring the environment itself, which has it benefits with better predictability and understanding of our planet. What we look in this article is no use of IoT for sustainability and environment monitoring but, about the impact IoT usage in industries, Consumer goods etc. have on sustainability.

Primary purpose of an IoT initiative is about providing efficiencies in Operations, better customer experience and many other business benefits . Sustainability is rarely thought of as primary goal. So it is pleasantly surprising when there is a positive impact on the environment because of these initiatives. A lot of data is not available yet to quantify the impact.

Illustrated here are some of thousands of use cases and the impact IoT has on Business operations. You be the judge if it is helping or hurting… the environment..

I have elaborated the effect for first case….leave it to your judgement for the others.

– A large number of countries have adopted RFID technology for Electronic Toll collections (E-toll) on Highway. E-tolls. Automated payments on highways help governments not only generate additional revenues to fund road infrastructure, but also reduce traffic congestions. The environmental impact is lesser fossil fuel burning and vehicular pollution. For large countries and countries with heavy Vehicle density on roads like India, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia etc. there is a significant impact on Fossil fuel usage and related impact on environmental pollution…

Now your turn…..

– IoT sensors embedded in machineries and appliances.. for better performance monitoring and maintenance.
– Tracking of assets for better utilization….
– Asset tracking across geographies allows optimization of routes.…
– Use of IoT in manufacturing improves manufacturing unit productivity
– IoT in retail enables better visibility of in-shop and warehouse inventory…
– Tracking of pharma products under low temperature transport across geographies allow reduced wastage of medicines.
– Automating Warehouse processes through IoT usage

I am sure you have guessed most of them correctly. While IoT does bring in environmental benefits, there is still some way to go before we say all is well with IoT.
IoT value chain starts with automated data collection which requires use of right sensors, tags for Data collection. It is important to get this aspect right as this is the foundation of all down stream benefits. However sensors come with their own environmental impact, in form of batteries and replacements of sensors once the life is over. Better battery technology and or other technologies will over time help in reducing the environmental impact. IoT is here to stay, it provides a lot more of benefits than harm. Usage across industries and sectors is bound to grow.