Let’s face it: the Internet of Things (IoT) is a buzzword, and there’s a certain skepticism around any hot-button phrase. But while the concept has admittedly been subjected to a fair amount of hype, it’s for good reason. IoT brings network connectivity to virtually everything, allowing organizations to seamlessly collect and exchange data to and from any connected device.
It’s a game-changer, and we’ve barely skimmed the surface of its possibilities. With all that data at their fingertips, businesses can dramatically change the way they operate, and that includes taking major steps toward true sustainability.
Knowledge is power
IoT provides real-time access to data and analytics from a huge variety of sources, and this never-before-collected information could change the way businesses contribute to green initiatives. According to ComputerWeekly, Gartner Research Vice President Bettina Tratz-Ryan spoke at the recent COP21 climate changes talks in Paris about how IoT data could empower organizations to create more energy-efficient buildings:
“Real-time energy consumption patterns in buildings linked to time of day and people traffic help real-estate management to reduce operational cost, greenhouse gas emissions, and the environmental footprint,” Tratz-Ryan said.
With IoT, energy-management solutions can respond to actual, real-time need, bringing the amount of energy that businesses waste or overuse to an absolute minimum.
Speaking of buzzwords, you’re probably sick of hearing about “agile”. But at its core, the concept is sound: Agility is about responding to emerging situations quickly and effectively. By bringing previously disconnected devices together in a network, automated IoT allows organizations to securely gather, exchange, and analyze data from billions of devices. That means they can understand how systems are performing at all times, identify any issues that may impact environmental factors or energy usage, and make the changes necessary to maximize sustainability as quickly as possible.
Smart cities, for example, are connecting city infrastructure to IoT devices to automate things like electrical grids, emergency response, and even garbage bins, according to GreenBiz. Cities like Los Angeles, California and Fort Collins, Colorado are using IoT to monitor and reduce electricity consumption through smart street lights and energy tracking mobile apps, GreenBiz reports. The technology makes it possible to address environmental dangers more quickly and responsively, and opens up business opportunities for companies to develop and deliver the software and devices that make those insights possible. Many companies are already seizing the opportunity: According to Forbes, energy analytics and “utility intelligence providers” are popping up around the globe.
Smarter data centers
Another way automated IoT can help IT go green is with more energy-efficient data centers. Businesses need these monstrous server-houses in order to operate, but they use an enormous amount of energy. A recent study by the National Resources Defense Council found that by 2020, data centers will use the equivalent of 17 power plants’ worth of energy—”150 metric tons of carbon pollution annually.” As businesses and users begin to rely more and more on cloud- and Web-based technologies, that power consumption will continue to rise.
Fortunately, smart data centers with energy-efficient servers could help bring down this massive use of power. These data centers would measure energy usage against total energy demand, using automated IoT technologies to identify when server loads are lower and bring down usage to reflect these changes.
Getting through the hurdles
If IoT can be the catalyst for all these positive changes, what’s holding businesses back?
Change is hard. And depending on the size of the business, it can be a challenge to implement even small changes without getting pushback from executives who don’t have the same outlook on the bigger picture.
Plus, many higher-ups have some well-founded security concerns surrounding IoT. As devices become more connected, vulnerabilities grow more linked, and a breach at one end-point could have a cascading effect. Developing the best ways to protect the valuable data shared across networks will be a challenge—but it’s also an opportunity.
In the meantime, the outlook is clear: Hype or not, IoT will have a major role to play in promoting sustainability, and a greener business is a critical part of that.