Industrial: FEATURE ARTICLE

Winds of Climate Change: Why Investing in Sustainable Asset Management Leaves the Best Kind of Footprint

by Marc Pegulu

Climate change has become a major focus for organizations. Businesses and investors are looking for solutions to reduce emission rates and curb energy usage while maintaining maximum productivity. The Internet of Things (IoT) is critical to facilitating this priority shift. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, 84 percent of IoT deployments are currently addressing or have the potential to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations.

This is where efficiency begins. As businesses move toward smarter, more sustainable asset management, supply chain risk management and resiliency remain critically important. To optimize the time, energy and resources put into tracking goods, IoT technologies must fill visibility gaps associated with asset management, while also meeting economic and environmental goals that protect our planet.  

Introducing new efficiencies 

IoT technologies provide data, analytics and insights to improve process efficiency, increase productivity and reduce waste. This has long been the vision for IoT, but its potential has previously been limited due to challenges in building, implementing and scaling these solutions.

This has since changed. IoT sensor networks are easy to deploy, allowing organizations to gather data across applications and monitor the consumption of resources and the location of assets or people. Advances in integrating geolocation and network connectivity are eliminating coverage gaps during transport and logistics, with more accuracy than ever before. 

This is not only applicable to shipping goods, though the ability to understand product location across the supply chain at any moment – from warehouse, to cargo ships to semi-trucks or airplanes – cannot be understated. Today, farmers can leverage IoT to measure weather conditions that influence crop production, track livestock health and maximize yield and resources. IoT sensors can also enable smart, sustainable food waste management solutions that reduce the amount of waste generated. This is where the low-power, long-range potential of IoT is realized.

Data and analytics are key for smoother operations

Of course, there are many IoT solutions from which to choose. If organizations cannot generate and capture the right data, then they cannot efficiently operate fiscally responsible and environmentally conscious systems. Access to data enables organizations to efficiently generate accurate insights, while saving money and improving overall organizational performance.

This can be a challenging proposition as assets vary in size, complexity, location and proximity to each other. Traditional, high bandwidth, high-energy consumption tools (which are great for video capture or the transmission of large amounts of data) are not well-equipped to address the complex challenges of asset tracking.

As a result, low power wide area networks (LPWANs) are capturing data and providing analysis, which offers organizations long range links and an extended battery lifetime. Not only does this minimize the cost of rolling out a monitoring network, but it avoids the need for regular battery replacement cycles, which can lead to extended gaps in coverage. LPWANs also allow for sensors to be placed in hard-to-reach locations to provide the necessary data – rather than being placed depending on the available power or connectivity – and feed that data back into software systems for real-time monitoring.

Organizations that know they have accurate and timely data are better positioned to make informed asset management decisions. IoT networks and battery-backed sensors can expand system potential by feeding data into machine learning databases to identify patterns, highlighting potential equipment failure and facilitating accurate resource allocation.

Meeting environmental goals

Organizations have long sought asset management and visibility to boost productivity. According to a Gartner survey, by 2025, sustainability programs will help improve resource efficiencies and supply chain resiliency. IoT solutions have the potential to catalyze social and environmental initiatives that will reduce the environmental impact of organizations. In addition, according to a recent study by IoT Analytics, 75 percent of IoT solutions support the United Nation’s sustainability development goals and long range low power solutions are a part of that playbook. By investing in the right IoT solutions, organizations can measure their impact on the environment in real time and make changes to eliminate inefficiencies. 

For example, installing IoT-enabled sensors in warehouses and offices to monitor inventory levels and material location reduces asset loss and inventory waste. This also applies to energy usage or waste due to air conditioning, water leaks, miles driven to transport goods, and other micro-elements of operations that add up and contribute to poor environmental management.

These solutions directly impact profitability by enabling organizations to produce results that also drive significant benefits in the form of reduced energy and raw material consumption and reduced waste and pollution, minimizing the environmental damage caused by economic activity.

Looking toward the future

IoT can serve as a critical building block of smart environmental monitoring by maximizing efficiencies and operations. Sophisticated IoT solutions are the ideal solution to balance both fiscal and environmental goals.

Organizations know that pressure to focus on sustainability as a core pillar of their operations is increasing. Don’t get caught flat-footed; instead, start asking how the IoT technology can support your needs while also creating a more connected and sustainable planet.

Marc Pegulu is the vice president of IoT, Wireless and Sensing Products, at Semtech.

 


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