Green IoT: Sustainability by the Internet of Things

02.09.2021 by Pauline Batzer
A stylized factory made of green leaves


The environment benefits and consumers are grateful when companies reduce CO2 emissions. Find out how the Internet of Things helps fulfill changing customer wishes and operate ecologically at the same time.

The year is 2050. The climate crisis has been overcome and CO2 emissions have been reduced to a minimum. The electricity for Europe’s smart grids no longer comes from coal-fired or nuclear power stations. It is generated solely by wind turbine and hydroelectric power from Northern Europe, by biomass from Central Europe and by solar power from Italy, Spain and Greece. Industry has totally transformed its processes and switched to new production methods based on the use of climate-neutral hydrogen. Organic food and sustainable farming are a matter of course and the combustion engine’s days of powering vehicles are over.

That may sound remote and utopian, but politics and business already have it on their agenda, With the Climate Program 2030 and the new Climate Protection Act (focused on the energy turnaround) the German federal government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions mandatorily by around 300 million tons a year and so to reduce global warming and become climate-neutral by 2045. The EU’s Green Deal, with a EUR 1.8 billion budget, is to pave the way for a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy. Its targets are to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent on 1990 by 2030 and achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Sustainability: A Political Target and Customer Requirement

To achieve these objectives politicians are relying on regulatory interventions that impose increasing sanctions on climate-damaging activities and in return reward sustainability. So companies must act if they are to be able to meet future requirements. That is why many businesses are currently converting their production or opting from the outset to develop new, eco-friendly business models. Their aim is to improve their CO2 balance sheet performance or even to go climate-neutral.

It is not just a matter of political parameters. Companies have realized that customers and business partners are increasingly focused on the sustainability of products and services. As studies show, for two out of three people sustainability is already a decisive purchase criterion, and increasingly so. Corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues are becoming a deciding factor in acquiring members of the millenial generation as customers and retaining them. B2B customers also have exacting requirements of their suppliers in order to make the entire supply chain sustainable. Investors too are aiming for net zero and see sustainability as an increasingly important criterion. Companies must do justice to the requirements of different stakeholder groups. The advantage is that sustainability is changing from a cost factor to a competitive edge and a part of brand identity and product design.

The Internet of Things (IoT) makes an important contribution to sustainability in Industry 4.0. An IoT application can not only boost efficiency; resources can also be used more sparingly and journeys are shorter with lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. Production and transportation are more climate-friendly – just what customers are demanding.

Illustration of CO2 savings potential through digitization with the Internet of Things

Green Logistics: Less Waste in Transit

Half of the 300 million tonnes of greenhouse gas reduction demanded by the German government can be saved in production, mobility, building management and other sectors (see chart). In supply chains the lack of transparency is often a problem: goods perish because their condition in transit is unknown. A good example of how IoT makes transportation and logistics more sustainable is set by Quehenberger Logistics. The company uses an IoT platform and the cloud to monitor the condition of goods along the supply chain. If a container with sensitive medications and equipped with IoT sensors stays too long at one location and temperatures rise alarmingly the solution sounds the alarm. Counter-measures can be undertaken immediately. Less wastage means fewer replacement deliveries, less traffic, lower CO2 emissions and a more efficient use of resources.

Predictive Maintenance Cuts Energy and Fuel Costs

Lack of transparency poses a challenge for manufacturing industry too, such as in machine maintenance. Cloud-based IoT solutions use connected sensors to collect the operating data of machines continuously and evaluate it. Thanks to predictive maintenance faults are detected before they impair the performance of a machine or cause an outage. The manufacturer can rectify many faults remotely and on-site maintenance is only required when it is necessary. Machines last longer and the customer service cost of vehicles and fuel are reduced. As at Ziehl-Abegg, where connecting the ventilators it manufactures cuts the cost of outages and service callouts for its customers – surely a sustainability bonus.

Save Resources With the IoT

Natural resources are valuable and scarce, their efficient use is indispensable, and here too transparency about their use is important. Smart metering comes to the rescue and optimizes consumption too. To take an example from practice, the Spanish company Hidroconta has connected itzs meters with the cloud in order to monitor and manage plantation irrigation and water consumption online. The IoT devices are equipped with embedded SIMs from Telekom. Thanks to global NB-IoT coverage water meters are connected at the remotest locations without a power supply. The benefits: devices can be controlled remotely, water consumption is reduced, resources are saved – and costs are cut.

Sustainable Business Is Becoming a Societal Responsibility

From responsible global procurement of raw materials via green logistics and production requirements to packaging, sales and marketing, there is potential in all corporate areas for measures to reduce CO2 emissions and conduct business more sustainably for the climate. The numerous options include holding meetings by video conference instead of on-site, a fleet of EV company cars, cycling to work and choosing an electricity supplier who uses renewables.

Telekom, for example, has launched its #GreenMagenta label to identify especially sustainable Telekom products, services and initiatives. If recycled material is used, packaging is biodegradable or the product is particularly energy-efficient, it gets a #GreenMagenta label. A good example is the terminal device cycle for smartphones. Telekom takes back customers’ old phones and recycles either them or the raw materials they contain. The telco uses the green label to offer customers and business partners products and services with added ecological and societal value. By doing business more sustainably and more efficiently Telekom can not only fulfill its customers’ expectations but also set itself apart from the competition, do justice to its responsibility to society and in addition achieve its ambitious climate targets.

Illustration of the climate targets of Deutsche Telekom IoT GmbH


 

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Pauline Batzer
Pauline Batzer

Project Manager IoT

Since 2015, Pauline has been passionate about the variety of the IoT world. She has gained a lot of experience with the Internet of Things from different perspectives by working with customers, partners, and start-up companies. For the Telekom IoT blog she writes about technological trends, products, and innovations in the Internet of Things which are implemented in different industries.