AI and IoT for a More Sustainable Future
Mon, April 19, 2021

AI and IoT for a More Sustainable Future

Current IoT projects could be a game-changer for sustainability, as it contributes to achieving environmental goals / Photo by Teoh Chin Leong via 123RF


IoT Analytics, a provider of market insights for the Internet of Things, M2M, and Industry 4.0, recently released a report that showed that as of 2018, there are over seven billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices out of 17 billion connected devices across the world. While these devices aren’t meant to directly interact with consumers, they help provide information, control, and analytics to connect a world of hardware devices. 

Forbes, a global media company focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle, reported that the number of cellular IoT connections is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2023, with Northeast Asia anticipated to account for 2.2 billion. The reason behind the increase in cellular connections is the ongoing large-scale deployments in China. The 2018 “Internet of Things: The Pillar of Artificial Intelligence” by the DBS Asian Insights also predicted that the IoT installed base will grow from 6.3 million units in 2016 to 1.25 billion in 2030. 

The potential of IoT in business has been receiving a lot of hype for the past several years, and for good reason. IoT devices can respond to situations based on the data they collect. Of course, without data and the ability to interpret it, these devices are only a bunch of sensors collecting information that can’t be used. Thus, IoT models alone aren’t good enough and are pretty much useless, which makes transferring massive volumes of data collected by vast numbers of sensors neither affordable nor sustainable.

A 2017 survey by Cisco, an American multinational technology conglomerate that develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, telecommunications equipment, and other high-technology services and products, reported that enterprises considered 76 percent of their IoT initiatives a failure. The report stated that the majority of those plans looked good on paper but became more complicated in the long run. But this would not be the end of IoT, thanks to the help of artificial intelligence. According to Information Age, an online site that provides the latest news, analysis, guidance, and research, the ability of AI to quickly obtain insights from data makes it a compatible accompaniment to IoT deployments.

“With AI, large amounts of information can be collected, and essential patterns and insights from it can be found and automated; [it simplifies] the very process of making use of data,” said David Schatsky, managing director of Deloitte LLP. 


The Game Changer for Sustainability

The combination of AI and IoT not only benefits businesses but also our environment. A 2018 survey by Intel and Concentrix, a business services company, reported that 74 percent of business decision-makers who are working on environmental sustainability agree that AI will help in solving long-standing environmental challenges. At the same time, about 46 percent of them agree that IoT will help solve these challenges. 

IoT connected devices are already embedded in our buildings, appliances, and even transport infrastructure with the rise of smart city initiatives across the world. What’s great about this news is that all these connected devices' energy costs are far outweighed by the energy savings, productivity gains, and reduction in pollution that they bring. For instance, cities will have a greater capacity to deal with increasing demands more efficiently, be more responsive, and more robust. This will enable them to have better distribution, drive dynamic pricing, and make it simple to choose where people buy their energy. 

It was predicted that the IoT installed base will grow from 6.3 million units in 2016 to 1.25 billion in 2030 / Photo by Wutthichai Luemuang via 123RF


With AI and IoT systems, existing practices in cities can help in maximizing the benefits of renewable energy methods, which will reduce environmentally hazardous activities. This will help make renewable energy solutions such as wind turbines and solar panels more cost-effective and efficient. At the same time, smart grid technologies will give energy providers a better understanding of power usage. Also, it will provide the ability to make real-time adjustments for efficiency, changing the way electricity is produced and distributed to us. 

Current IoT projects could be a game-changer for sustainability, as it contributes to achieving environmental goals. An analysis by IoT Analytics of more than 640 IoT deployments showed that 84 percent of existing IoT deployments can address the UN’s SDGs. According to the World Economic Forum, an international organization that engages the foremost political, business, cultural, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas, 75 percent of these projects concentrate on five SDGs. 

This includes industry, innovation, and infrastructure (25 percent), smart cities and communities (19 percent), affordable and clean energy (19 percent), good health and well-being (7 percent), and responsible production and consumption (5 percent).


Benefits of IoT and AI to Sustainability 

Through IoT and AI tools, systems can identify sources of air pollution quickly and accurately and monitor purity levels. These tools can be used to reduce harmful emissions released in our surroundings. For instance, an industry can determine immediately the source of a gas leak using smart sensors. Thus, remedial measures can be applied effectively and immediately. At the same time, the application of IoT and AI can help in addressing soil pollution. They have the potential to transform traditional agricultural practices into something with a low impact on the environment. Farmers can monitor their crops and soil as well as maximize crop production.

Using IoT and AI for environmental sustainability can also help in safeguarding our oceans from pollution. We can now get rid of the trash from oceans through autonomous garbage collection trucks. The technologies can assess the changing conditions that harm the ocean, including illegal solid waste disposal, discharge of industrial effluents, and illegal fishing through the use of machine learning. Communities can also improve their water quality by monitoring pollution levels in real-time.