With IoT Efficiencies, Companies Can Boost Sustainability

The Internet of Things may allow even small and medium-sized businesses to do better financially while simultaneously consuming fewer of the planet’s resources.

So writes Darren Beck, author of the newly published O’Reilly ebook “Smart Business: Gaining an Edge Through IoT-Powered Sustainability.”

smart business book coverBeck’s free ebook was the jumping-off point for a discussion of the topic on the O’Reilly Hardware podcast Oct. 26, when host Brian Jepson interviewed Beck and Mark Wright, director of product management at Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center.

Businesses that are early adopters of Internet of Things technologies, Wright said, will have an edge over their competitors.

“The benefit of IoT is the usage information that has never been available before,” Wright said. “Even one application can lead to savings in various different areas.”

By way of example, Wright told of a burger franchise that used an IoT monitoring system to save on electrical power. After seeing results there, the burger franchise then began monitoring refrigeration, HVAC, and other major systems and was ultimately able to save 30 percent of its prior energy, operational, and maintenance costs.

Such business intelligence gleaned from IoT connectivity not only saves money but also positively impacts energy use, Beck pointed out. This will become more common as systems such as ceiling fans “talk intelligently and interact with the controls for your heating and cooling systems.”

Beck and Wright walked through a sample design of a smart sprinkler system, looking at a company’s business considerations, hardware needs, environmental variables (plant types, soil condition, rainfall, temperature, etc.), sensor input, the potential insights from IoT data analysis, and the need for a platform to provide security, cloud services, and app development.

If they employ an IoT development platform to redesign their product, Wright said, even a small sprinkler manufacturer easily could turn an existing watering system into one that is connected and sustainable—with the IoT platform providing the necessary algorithms and complementary data sources to make it all work.

“Manufacturers don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said, if they use a platform.

Beck pointed to waste management as an area ripe for an Internet-of-Things re-do. He said IoT could bring efficiencies by using a simple monitor that senses when a garbage bin is full and requests a pickup—thereby saving unnecessary “truck rolls.” A slightly more sophisticated system could see what was being sent to a landfill that could otherwise be reused or recycled, or detecting both the weight and the composition of individual trash bins to understand and possibly improve behavior. He called information like this “hidden data” that could increase profits and reduce waste.

Beck’s waste management scenario, Wright said, shows the eventual progression from simple data monitoring to the further step of “gaining insight into their business and becoming leaders in their domains.” As more companies get connected, this data will create intelligence that can be sold or shared.

“In the next five years we’ll see more algorithms to turn IoT data to create intelligence that companies can use to boost sustainability,” Wright said. “With greater interoperability of various things that are connected, and tying that back with the algorithms, we’ll be able to have a much richer impact on the environment and our use of resources. Ultimate we’ll start seeing increased savings in energy and water. That’s what I’m going to be really proud of: when we get to that.”

To hear the rest of the conversation, listen to the entire half-hour IoT and sustainability podcast.