How data is creating a sustainable future

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the concept of sustainability. By utilising the data generated through the use of technological devices, it can revolutionise the way we work and the way we live, for the better.

Sustainability means different things to different people. To some, it means recycling more and buying local. To others, it means using the latest technology to optimise their lives and lower their consumption at home and work.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the way people are going about it. It’s becoming a key tech platform that can improve everything it touches, thanks to the smart use of data.
Here’s a quick rundown of how the IoT is making a difference in three key areas.

Energy and office management

Every building on earth creates a carbon footprint, from the materials they are built with and how they are gathered and transported, to the impact of the resources consumed to keep it running. Lowering the environmental cost, especially in urban areas, is now a key priority for city planners, architects and building managers. The market springing up around this is expected to reach £13.84 billion by 2023.

Tenants expect the offices they use to be slick, well run and provide all the connectivity a modern, productive business needs. IoT is essential in this. Improved building management can only be achieved by having a building that’s fitted with sensor-powered monitoring and analysis. Smart data analytics mean that building managers will be able to optimise things like electrical usage and heating.

Not only that, always-on monitoring of the the network running through a building means problems are anticipated before they became major incidents, such as internet outages or tech failures.

Smart offices can also scale down from large, multiple occupancy blocks into home offices. Using smart devices can help make essential savings in a number of ways, energy saving lights, app-controlled thermostats and printers that tell you when they’re about to run out of ink.

The impact of data on IoT and sustainability

Every time a machine talks to another machine, data is generated. Every ‘conversation’, every action and command build a usage picture. Most of the time these terabytes of data are going somewhere, but users don’t often consider where or why.

A new trend in data analysis is coming in, called “Big Analysis”, which will take data and actually put it to good use. Now, this isn’t in the remit of most small businesses – just because you generate data, it doesn’t mean you need to analyse it yourself to benefit. Instead, try and ask yourself questions about the following points:

• Are you currently using existing data collection systems or IoT products, like building management systems, active metering, HR systems? Is anyone already collecting data within your business? 
• How can you utilise this data? Making sense of the data is the first step in refining your processes and reducing your consumption
• If you have multiple departments, are they each collecting their own data? Avoid duplication where you can to save time and resource.

One example of big data analysis in the real world is the analysis of printer networks. Real-time data collection means the system can learn from hundreds or thousands of printers connected to it, and then begin to determine what the recurring signs are of faults and problems. By having a broader overview and looking at data from a contextual point of view, instead of independent stacks (i.e. individual printers), everyone benefits from better qualified results.

Design and manufacturing

IoT data is having a huge impact on the way products and services are being designed. The changes are happening two main ways:

1. Objects are designed with a data component embedded. Regular toothbrushes versus smart toothbrushes for example, or a standard watch versus a smart watch.

2. Objects are designed based on existing IoT data – understanding how people actually use things means there’s a shift toward user-centric design focus.

Huge changes in manufacturing are making everything more streamlined and productive. An IoT powered supply chain is one of the most exciting changes to hit manufacturing. Being aware of your supply chain at every moment means you’ll never over-order and waste unwanted materials, or spend unnecessary money on storage; this alone could save billions for businesses of all sizes.

Looking to a connected, data-rich future

In the ongoing push to lessen our impact on the world, the benefits of IoT are undeniable. Every time we use data to reduce the resources we opt for, work smarter and plan better; we’re taking a step toward a more sustainable future.

What’s more, sustained growth is intrinsically linked to technology and technology is becoming synonymous with the IoT. With an expansion of Big Analytics and our understanding of the data we’re generating through everyday actions, it’s only a matter of time before widespread changes improve businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Check out our list of the most IoT connected cities in the world and what the UK can learn from them.