5 ways the IoT is helping the Environment

Cascajo Sastre María    1 June, 2016

Next Sunday will be the World Environment Day. The United Nations uses the date every year to create awareness regarding pressing environmental issues. This year the topic is wildlife. We will see how even in this non technological field, the IoT can be useful for environmental uses. Here are five ways technology is being used to make the world a better place:

The Iberian Lynx, a Preservation Success Story. Spain has one of the clearest examples of how to save a species on the verge of extinction through technology. At the turn of the century there were under 100 Iberian lynxes left and considered a critically endangered species. Thanks to a cutting edge captive breeding centre called La Olivilla in Southern Spain, the number of these felines now surpasses 300, many of which have been reintroduced in safe habitats, protected for the causes that led them to be an endangered species, as a second stage of this repopulation effort. How is the IoT helping this wildlife programme? Lynxes are tracked with location collars that georeferences them the same way other IoT asset management systems would. Scientists can study behavioural uses of space and territories by these lynx in the wild. Connected drones, less invasive than humans, also help monitor them and see how well they are doing from a distance. Researchers are considering the option, in the near future, of changing the uncomfortable (and battery-dependant) collars for weightless subcutaneous sensors that would remain under the lynx’s skin it whole lifetime as a sort of ID.  

Environmental Sensors. It is very clear that sensors can get the job done where people cannot. Deploying sensors to measure elements like air or water quality, radiation, or sensors to detect hazardous chemicals can help track the evolution of the environment. Inaccessible, polluted or uninhabitable spaces can be accessed without risking the health of technicians. Parents of infants with breathing problems and asthma affected citizens could also receive precise information in real time. Of course workers that need to operate in hazardous conditions (like mines or workplaces exposed to radiation), can benefit from this real time environmental data more than anyone.

Smart Farming. Efficient farming has a huge positive impact on the environment. We already explained here how technology was being used to control crop or greenhouse irrigation through sensors. Automatic irrigation in Southern California is being deployed as a way to fight the periodic droughts providing water according to the conditions of soil. Connected drones are also being deployed in farming. Their spectral on-board sensors help farmers optimise the use of fertilizers and plant protection products besides providing airborne soil condition data to complement soil sensor information.

Energy Efficiency. A Boston Consulting Group report determined that ICT-enables climate mitigation strategies could reduce global climate change 16.5% by 2020 compared to current efforts. No other climate mitigation strategy is expected to be as effective. These improvements include Smart Home and Smart Building energy management, efficient use of home appliances, smart grid devices, asset tracking applied to logistics and smart industrial motors that adapt speed variably to illustrate with only some examples.

Energy Requirements. The energy toll of adding connected device by the million every year is enormous and it cannot be overseen. It is in the interest of everyone moving forward to create an IoT that minimizes energy requirements and environmental impact. LPWA, has this idea of low-power embedded in its name in fact. In the near future, ubiquitous low-power sensors will be able to work under conditions that surpass current IoT capabilities. Besides working underground or being able to be deployed at a long distance from the nearest antenna, battery life will be extended to last for years, thus reducing the energy impact.

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