To many consumers, the internet of things is embodied in “gadget-like” products that leverage simple sensors and connectivity to deliver an experience. The initial wave of those consumer-grade products generated lots of excitement about their potential, and just as many concerns and complaints about usability, privacy and security. As the technology and tools evolve and mature, we are seeing use cases involving connectivity become more and more common. Scale matters, and some of the biggest potential benefits of a more ubiquitous and mature internet of things appear to be environmental.
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The fact is, even though the internet of things is relatively new in the mind of consumers, similar technologies are key, core elements of scientific study in a broad array of fields across the planet. Marine, geologic and atmospheric sciences, just to name a few, are leveraging a variety of connected sensors for monitoring, assessment and potential reactive actions. In order to identify change, the scientific method requires a baseline for comparison — as such, much of this technology has been in wide usage for many years. Examples in ocean science would include pH/ocean acidification level monitoring for the health of reef ecosystems, sea level change monitors and temperature sensing technology. Next-generation sensors allow for real-time monitoring and the collection and distribution of larger data sets than ever before. Integrated analytic tools allow for a faster analysis of this data and can even provide suggested models for remedy.
Geologists are embedding networks of sensors to identify seismic activity and to better understand the relationship between hydraulic fracking, groundwater and earthquakes. Atmospheric scientists are sampling and comparing data from a wide network of sensors to determine CO2 levels and the impact of deforestation. They are also utilizing a variety of sensor types in outer space to track extreme weather patterns, thermal data and many other elements. Agricultural sciences are heavily leveraging similar technologies to maximize crop yield and for soil/field maintenance.
Industry and cities
The industrial internet of things and rise of smart cities are already making significant progress across many regions of the world. City officials are closely tapping data to make their cities more efficient, thus having a direct impact on the community’s safety, security and health. These opportunities are largely being driven by the prospect of productivity. In other words, focusing on doing more with less waste — which is at the heart of environmentalism.
There is also no doubt that transportation is another clear area of opportunity for IoT. A focus on efficiency and autonomous capabilities have the potential to fundamentally change the way that we move across the planet, saving tremendous natural resources, reducing emissions and reducing the overall number of vehicles that need to be produced.
It is no secret that today’s transportation has room for improvement. This much-needed room for improvement provides an opportunity to disrupt the transit system into more efficient, eco-friendly solutions, making public transit a more viable option.
Home and office
The potential positive environmental impact of IoT consumer devices, like thermostats, water monitors and smart lighting, in terms of energy, water and other resource conservation and savings is large and only just now beginning to scale up.
The internet of things is just getting started. Soon your “smart home” will simply be “home,” and these “smart cities” will simply be cities. As we see intelligent devices become commonplace, the planet could be one of the happiest customers.
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