Aiming For A Sustainable World With The Internet Of Things

Aiming For A Sustainable World With The Internet Of Things

As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes real and part of everyday life, consumers are wanting to interact with a large amount of input and content, control a wide range of devices and navigate complex user interfaces – effortlessly. In about 4-5 years, there will be 50 billion “things” connected to the Internet of Things. It is estimated that convergence of machines, data, and analytics will become a $200 billion global industry over the next three years.
The IoT is huge: huge opportunity and huge potential. With many emerging options, people want ease of installation, interoperability and the ability to control with multiple types of devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptops. But how does this compare with CSR and sustainability?

Corporate Social Responsibility programs are no longer just great socially, they are clearly great business. The Internet of Things and Corporate Social Responsibility are enormous trends that are shaping the world we live in and the business we conduct. By synergizing these two important trends, we create a result that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Capitalizing on this trend in CSR and IoT, Dubai Investments held a special workshop from November 21-24 in its headquarters to help inform, educate and raise awareness on how this technology, IoT, has become the tool that allows for higher productivity, product development, as well as social action. This awareness also lent to the fact that in spite of IoT and the company’s acknowledgement of its social responsibility - the two major elements that changed the way in which firms conduct their businesses, there is still a lack of understanding regarding the role that technology, specifically IoT plays in the implementation of CSR/sustainability strategies.

The workshop, provided by Dubai-based Responsible Business Consultancy (a sister company of CSR LEBANON), began with a presentation that defined sustainability and what it means for society, specifically given Dubai’s strategy for becoming the First Smart City in the world. Dubai Investments recognizes the potential that homes, offices, schools and other infrastructure have in becoming sustainable through smart technology. As such, DI’s workshop was aimed at reaching out to members of its management, employees, and stakeholders, and also invited students to this workshop because educating the future generation and exposing them to scientific advancements adds great value to the community. Neighborhood residents were also invited to ensure that the surrounding community of Dubai Investment is collectively working towards achieving a greater sense of responsibility.

An explanation of the various definitions of this term led to a discussion on how human behavior today is unable to sustain the planet we live on and that, from a human perspective, sustainability for our planet means that it can continue to do what it was designed to do: provide fresh air, clean water, produce food and allow us all to have a high quality of life forever. But this is not where we are today.

The balance of sustainability was also further defined to explain that when decisions are made that have to do with the environment, economy and society all equally, we guarantee a world where human beings can not only survive, but thrive for eternity.


Definitions

Environmental Sustainability:
To live in true environmental sustainability we need to ensure that we are consuming our natural resources at a sustainable rate. Some resources are more abundant than others and therefore we need to consider material scarcity, the damage to environment from extraction of these. Environmental sustainability should not be confused with full sustainability, which is also needed to balance economic and social factors.

Economic Sustainability:
Economic sustainability requires that a business or country uses its resources efficiently and responsibly so that it can operate in a sustainable manner to consistently produce an operational profit. Without acting responsibly and using its resources efficiently, a company will not be able to sustain its activities in the long term.
Social Sustainability:
Social sustainability is the ability of society, or any social system, to persistently achieve a good social well-being. Achieving social sustainability ensures that the social well-being of a country, an organization, or a community can be maintained in the long term.

When factoring the above into one holistic perspective on how to live sustainability, it partakes in the impression that sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption, and diet.
But how does this have to do with IoT and how is this related to sustainability?

The second part of the training focused on providing an understanding on what is IoT in order to build the context around what is needed to create a more sustainable world.

The Internet of Things is a widely discussed concept, but what does it really entail? For starters, the IoT is a network of connected technologies embedded into facets of everyday life ranging from refrigerators to sea barges to city water sensors. These “things” or technologies communicate with one another, enabling feedback loops. Communication drives efficiency resulting in greater output with less emphasis or effort on input. Yet, the IoT is extremely broad in scope and form, causing it to often be perplexing when looked at from afar.

Smart, connected technologies make up the patchwork of the Internet of Things. Harvard Business Review groups these “things” into four general purposes: monitoring, control, optimization, and autonomy. Connected products thereby enable real-time insights into conditions, control of functionalities, enhancement of performance and self-service diagnostics and co-ordination.


The Exhibition

Following the presentation, a showcase of the IoT products took place, where the practitioner and guests had a chance to interact with the sensors and gadgets and get a sense of the impact that IoT can have on our daily lives.

It’s easy to see the IoT as merely geared towards enabling tangible and physical benefits to our everyday lives, whether that’s our heating coming on when we are nearing our homes after our daily commute or security systems that we can view and interact with directly through our smartphones. But these practical conveniences mask the truly revolutionary potential of an interconnected world where IoT devices are building up datasets of our world that are at once microscopic in detail and macroscopic in scope.

Beyond the world of industry, the Internet of Things is slowly changing the cities and homes we live in. In the consumer sphere, the steps towards mass commercialisation of IoT based technology have been tentative, with wireless thermostats and fitness tracker watches being two of the most recent success stories. If we take the former as an example, the modest improvement in our individual carbon footprint from saving a few quid off our heating bill every month might not sound like much, but multiply this across half the households in Britain and the impact is significant. The question therefore comes down to how affordable and desirable these technologies can be made to the market.

Across the infrastructure of our cities as well, the IoT is slowly embedding itself, driving efficiency and sustainability through smart heating and lighting systems in office buildings to smart water and energy provision, as well as transport systems. Moreover, IoT technologies are perfectly suited to environmental sustainability because they’re both communicative and analytical.

There are two outcomes derived from the Internet of Things: 1.) Consumers are increasingly satisfied with the availability of service and product offerings, and 2.) energy and waste is lessened by fulfilling the appropriate supply levels in the most efficient manner. However, delivering the right quantities of goods is just one small part of the scale of the IoT.

In effect, the IoT constructs a world in which its key tenet is sustainable initiatives.

Creating a more sustainable world with the IoT does, however, bring new challenges. It will require vastly different industries and individuals to work together. What’s more, the proliferation of connected devices will create enormous security challenges, forcing us to secure billions of access points against nefarious hackers. But it’s possible. Furthermore, it’s profitable. IoT technology will be responsible for up to $15 trillion of global GDP in the next 20 years, according to Cisco and IBM.


Perspective

To get a sense of what this sustainable picture looks like in the long term, just look at a city like Copenhagen, which is transforming its infrastructure with the aim of becoming a city entirely independent of fossil fuels by 2050. The city’s urban development project has, piece by piece, built smart technology into its transportation, architecture, and operations; now, before its residents’ eyes, Copenhagen has grown a data-centric infrastructure that is decreasing resource costs, minimizing pollution-related health problems, freeing the city from dependence on foreign energy, and attracting environmentally conscious residents and businesses.


Conclusion

By helping companies connect their socially responsible visions and plans with IoT-empowered energy management solutions, we give businesses the ability to eliminate waste, increase profit, and be the change they (and we) want to see in the world.

 

Author:Deena Tannous for Responsible Business - Dubai

Source: Responsible Business

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All, 2017

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