Build an environmentally sustainable future with IoT

GUPTA, Gagan       Posted by GUPTA, Gagan
      Published: December 3, 2021
        |  

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Technology has driven global prosperity for centuries. Unfortunately, it has brought severe side effects. Some of today's most pressing challenges have been partially caused by technology advances.

Consider following examples:
Poor mental health. With suicide rates at record levels and younger generations increasingly unhappy with life, recent studies indicate that the use of smartphones and similar devices is largely to blame for deteriorating mental health.
CO2 emissions. The invention of the steam engine in the 18th century laid the ground for today's fuel-powered motors and generators. These are causing man-made CO2 emissions, which are the likely cause of global warming.
Water pollution. Numerous chemicals invented in the 19th and 20th centuries are responsible for the rise in water pollution levels.
Traffic Congestions. The bane of urban living. Neither having the smart city planning nor the smart transport system; has a direct impact on people's living standards, is one of the major problems of metropolitan areas, which is of particular concern to urban planners.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is currently trending with its ever expanding eco-system of digital sensors, appliances and wearable smart devices. Like other sectors, the role of IoT in sustainable development and environment protection will be crucial in the coming years.
Let us have a look at how IoT is making a positive impact on sustainable development across different sectors.

1. Water Management

IoT enables understanding of changes in water quality of a particular reservoir. The connection of different sensors and monitoring systems help in providing the water level and flood warnings as well as foresee other disasters such as earthquakes and potential landslides in prone areas, assisting the civilians and authorities to take drastic action on such issues.

2. Precision Agriculture

On the agricultural front, IoT is making satellite farming more of a reality. Also known as precision agriculture, this farming management concept puts a premium on functionality. As a result, farmers waste less and produce more. From monitoring crops to tracking soil conditions, IoT can help in more ways than one.

3. Wildlife

IoT also allow real time detection of animals. In case of any disease outbreaks, it will be useful for control, survey and prevention of such scenarios. For this, the livestock would be fitted with special chips (RFID) and readers would for placed in the designated monitoring spots.
Applications like eBird helps the scientists in keeping tracks of birds as well as their habits and migration patterns. Systems that triggers alert on uncontrolled deforestation and potential wildfires can also help the respective authorities to protect and maintain the forests and its inhabitants.

4. Marine Organisms

Overfishing and over- exploitation of aquatic diversity is endangering high-value species like salmon and cod. ThisFish, an internet tracking network in association with local bodies help to trace back the fish to the fisherman who caught it and the location through GPS readings and toll data. In this way bad fishing behaviors can be detected and stopped.
FishPal provides reports on the type and quantity of fishes caught on a daily and monthly that can be checked by the fisheries department and also informs suspicious fishing activities.

5. Buildings

Those who dismissed smart home technology as unrealistic playthings for lazy youngsters are increasingly finding it hard to resist the charms of IoT-powered smart home devices. These devices will become hugely popular in the coming years as they become highly intuitive and innovative, extending to not just home automation comfort but also home security and the safety of your family. That is the kind of home sustainability that will keep the power consumption in check and make optimal use of renewable energy.
Even smart workplaces with Green Design are contributing highly towards energy conservation. With maximum use of daylight, rainwater capture, smart cooling and ventilation systems, solar power etc ensure maximum efficiency in power use and full utilization to renewable sources.

6. Waste Management

One of the major issues faced in the urban areas is the inefficient waste management. Improper disposal of waste can cause various health hazards and affect the surrounding air and water. The machine-to-machine or machine-to-man (M2M) systems can be established for a much intelligent division and disposal of waste. The trash cans or the dumpsters can have built-in sensors to measure the amount of trash. Once the trash is full, the signal transceiver sends a message to the central command centre via internet or satellite with the GPS location and the IP address.
Use of such Industrial IoT solutions and devices for waste management helps in determining the best time to collect the wastes and figuring out better routes for the collection trucks handling the potential waste build up scenario in cities.
IoT-based waste management systems are getting traction worldwide.
Such smart waste management systems can also help in identifying the different types of waste, such as domestic or commercial, and dividing them based on their degrading ability and processes. This would help in proper disposal for all kind of waste causing less environmental issues and keep track of the ever-growing issue of e-waste management.

7. Wastewater

SeWatch, a wastewater and sewerage wireless monitoring system provides a system-wide reporting solution for combined sewer overflow and sanitary sewer overflow discharge or overflow. Water level sensors for sewer system manholes relay information to an application running on a PC or server which alerts on computer screen or via SMS about manhole overflow and spill-over.

- A Shining Example
China has come up with a Sensing China strategy. It is an environmental protection and overall industrial pollution control system featuring real-time data perception, resource concentration and sharing, system integration as well as effective supervision and decision-making that established to improve the environment and prevent environmental accidents.

The specific tasks include intelligent sensors and automatic monitoring devices, wireless monitoring for pollution treatment, water quality data monitoring, air monitoring system, and regional ecological monitoring.



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Build an environmentally sustainable future with IoT
Build an environmentally sustainable future with IoT

Project 15 Open Platform IoT sustainability

The mission of Project 15 from Microsoft is to empower scientists and conservationists around the world. The project pairs conservation teams with a community of developers, students, and Microsoft partners. Backed by the power of Azure and an Internet of Things (IoT) open platform, the project helps these teams capture and analyze the data they need to preserve critical species and ecosystems.
A key part of these solutions is the Project 15 Open Platform, which Microsoft designed and built. This open-source software connects to the cloud and securely manages devices that conservation projects use. Its architecture serves as a reference for building end-to-end IoT solutions.
By getting teams roughly 80 percent of the way to finished solutions, the Project 15 Open Platform helps meet these goals:
- Close the skill gap. The ready-made platform boosts innovation. Scientific developers can expand into specific use cases.
- Increase speed to deployment. By helping teams overcome technical challenges, the platform reduces the time needed to build crucial insights.
- Lower the development cost. The platform reduces complexity, resulting in lower overall development costs. It also opens up opportunities for partnering with open-source developer communities and universities.

Various Azure services and configurations make up the Project 15 Open Platform:

1. The Azure IoT Hub device provisioning service provisions IoT devices and connects them to IoT Hub.
2. Streaming platforms and services build the data pipeline that's necessary for basic telemetry and event processing:
  - Azure Event Hubs ingests telemetry and events from IoT devices.
  - Azure Event Grid provides a publish-subscribe model that routes events.
3. Azure Stream Analytics analyzes data (3a). Azure Functions processes data (3b). And Azure Time Series Insights monitors, analyzes, and stores data (3c). These three services also feed data into a presentation layer.
4. Users connect to the presentation layer through browsers. In that layer:
  - Azure SignalR Service messaging provides real-time visualization.
  - Azure App Service and its Web Apps feature provide platforms for building, deploying, and scaling web apps.
  - Tools like Time Series Insights and Power BI visualize IoT devices, telemetry, and events in websites.
5. Databases, Azure Blob Storage, and tables store telemetry and file data from offices in the field.
6. Other Azure components provide additional functionality:
  - Azure Functions and the API Apps feature of Azure App Service work to make device management events available in websites.
  - Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) manages users.
  - API Apps and Event Grid manage external data.
  - Azure Digital Twins offers modeling capabilities for optimizing operations.
  - Microsoft Defender for Cloud secures the solution by establishing security policies and access controls.
  - Azure Notification Hubs and Azure Logic Apps handle notifications.
  - Azure Machine Learning provides AI capabilities for forecasting device behavior.
  - Azure Maps tracks geofencing data to provide location-based services.



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Challenges

It should be highlighted that there is no doubt in what IoT technologies would bring to the table, such as various useful benefits to society and an overall improvement in life quality. Each technology has specific issues and drawbacks that need to be detected and closely investigated on time, since IoT technologies have the potential to change our lives and habits. Several important facts need to be emphasized when addressing IoT technologies to be able to understand the long-term effects associated with the fast development of IoT:

- IoT technologies have caused an increase in the utilization of limited resources or raw materials where some of them have become rare or are already rare (for instance, specific precious metals for electronics),
- The prices of electronic devices have become more acceptable, which means an increase in production volume, finally more resources are being utilized. A rebound effect is possible in that sense,
- The long term environmental impacts of IoT technologies are unknown. A noticeable amount of energy would be needed to support the production and operation of IoT devices,
- An increase in electronic waste is expected due to the large estimated number of IoT based devices in the near future,
- In some sectors, IoT technologies could have social impacts due to the reduced necessity for labour and limitation of direct social contacts, which is vital and an important aspect for each human being.
The main point of the above raised issues is not to indicate and create a negative attitude towards IoT technologies but to carefully analyze the overall aspects in order to secure a smart and sustainable development of IoT technologies, which are a valuable opportunity for humanity.

Future Directions in the Field

The smart city concept is the most progressing IoT application area since cities have been vastly populated, which causes severe infrastructural issues. The main benefit of IoT technologies in the smart city concept is to bridge severe infrastructural challenges in highly populated cities. The improvement of life quality in cities is also expected thanks to the efficiency improvement of various convectional services in cities. The early detection of various and common daily problems in cities could be efficiently solved with IoT as with transportation issues, energy and water shortage supplies, security issues, etc. The biggest challenge in the smart city concept is directed to the efficient networking and operation of different sensing technologies, which must be followed with the proper education of the population.

Each technology that is rapidly progressing has got specific potential drawbacks that need to be carefully analysed and addressed. Since IoT devices are measured in billions, and with large potential impacts on the population, specific challenges need to be addressed, which were detected based on the herein conducted review. The main goal is to secure a sustainable and balanced development of IoT technologies. Therefore, further issues are briefly discussed below and should be carefully considered during the further development of IoT technologies:

- The rapid development of IoT technologies causes fast consumption of raw materials to produce different electronic devices where unfortunately some of raw materials are already rare or becoming,
- Electronic devices are becoming more economically acceptable where a potentially large population would be affected. High production volumes are expected which can finally cause a rebound effect and a more rapid unwanted utilization of already limited resources,
- The sustainability aspect and long-term effects of IoT technologies are not clear and insufficiently investigated. A noticeable amount of energy would be needed to operate IoT devices and the electronic industry is leaving different unfavourable environmental footprints that also need to be carefully investigated,
- Electronic waste will become one of the major issues caused with the planned rise of IoT products. Recycling rates must be improved and better e-waste management should be secured,
- IoT technologies can cause social impacts in specific industrial branches or businesses since working labour could be reduced and direct social contacts have also been reduced. In that sense, the application of IoT technologies should be carefully considered taking the raised issues into account,
- Significant advancements in both specific electronic components as well as user-friendly software solutions are required,
- Further development in sensing technologies and advanced data acquisition systems is also required,
- The minimization of energy consumption in IoT devices is a crucial target, i.e. reduction of energy supply.

Takeaways for stakeholders designing IoT deployments

Embracing a sustainability awareness culture is essential. Not only to maximize sustainability impact, but to build on commercial opportunities. Of the projects analysed, 95% are small or medium in scale. A significant number of them are successful, at least in the five areas of highest concentration within some of the most commercially viable industries. This presents an opportunity to scale up some of these projects to a large or macro size. Identifying sustainability goals and adopting an impact measurement framework will reveal opportunities for replicating successful solutions across untapped areas.

Conclusion

Connected devices promise to be the major drivers of change within the coming few years. With higher demands for this technology from both public and private sector for better energy distribution, accurate business forecasts, the fruits of Green IT and an answer to many of the environment challenges faced by the region, the overall production gains is expected to shoot up. Of course, new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, will emerge making IoT more intuitive and user friendly, but largely, manufacturers will have to work harder at securing their connected devices as the risk to data will also increase. Amid all of these trends and predictions, the future ahead is definitely a promising one and certainly worth looking forward to.

At Vyom Data Sciences, we can help you build and accomplish your IoT strategy or approach that suits your business requirements and your company's objectives. If you want to see how we can assist in your IoT dreams, schedule an appointment with one of our IoT consultants today.

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