Internet of Things


The IoT and Energy Conservation

By Emma Bailey

From ancient Roman aqueducts delivering fresh water to advanced clean energy generation easing the burden of fossil fuels, technology has long been used to address the great problems facing humanity. The Internet of Things (IoT) may well represent the next evolution of this trend, leveraging the power of modern computing and connectivity to tackle some of our most difficult and pressing problems. In particular, the IoT has already demonstrated great usefulness in energy conservation and environmental protection efforts. To learn more, let's dig into how this fledgling technology may play a key role in reducing waste and promoting a more sustainable future.

Assembling an Internet of Things

At its core, the Internet of Things is simply a collection of "smart devices": everyday objects outfitted with sensors for collecting all manner of useful information, all connected with one another and with the wider internet in a vast, intelligent network. By turning everything from refrigerators to water meters to vehicles into internet-enabled data collectors, the IoT is capable of generating an extraordinary amount of data on nearly every aspect of modern life. In fact, some estimates project that yearly data generation could reach 44 zettabytes - that's 44 trillion gigabytes - by 2020.

Putting Data to Work

Of course, all that data means nothing on its own. To put it to use in addressing environmental issues, this data needs to be integrated, digested and analyzed. One powerful tool is cognitive computing, which employs sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to process great volumes of data quickly and efficiently. The insights gained from a cognitive IoT approach allow for better tracking of energy and resource use, more efficient allocation of resources and an ability to spot important trends - critical assets when it comes to the often delicate task of environmental management.

Toward Urban Sustainability

The potential uses of cognitive IoT technology are powerful and wide-ranging. It's estimated that traffic problems in urban areas cost $87.2 billion per year in excess fuel consumption and lost productivity in the United States alone. With integrated smart networks capable of helping drivers find parking spaces more quickly, adjusting traffic patterns based on real-time traffic data and generating insights that can be used to devise more efficient routing, these massive inefficiencies could be dramatically reduced. Waste management, too, stands to benefit from an IoT overhaul. Considering Americans generate enough trash each day to fill 63,000 garbage trucks, the amount of fuel consumed every day for trash collection is staggering. Using smart, solar-powered trash receptacles that can compact trash and notify waste management services when they become full enough for pickup can save on fuel consumption and its associated pollution by 70 to 80 percent or more.

How Data Can Transform Domestic Life

The Internet of Things has the power to transform life inside the home as well, greatly reducing the staggering 57 percent of total energy production that is wasted by poor conservation habits and inefficient designs. Smart thermostats, which use learned behaviors, sensor data and other information to adjust their settings for maximum efficiency, can reduce the energy used in heating and cooling by as much as 12 to 15 percent. Smart meters allow both consumers and energy providers to track energy use with pinpoint precision, helping to identify usage patterns and deliver energy more efficiently and affordably. Many IoT-enabled home automation products - like lights, televisions and air conditioners - can even turn themselves off if they detect that no one is in the room, slashing another major source of wasted energy.

Wrestling with Water Management

Considering water managers in 40 out of 50 states project some form of water shortage in their state over the next decade, it's clear that water conservation is every bit as important as energy conservation and other environmental efforts. Fortunately, the IoT offers potential solutions to this problem as well. Platforms like Banyan Water, which uses sensors and other internet-connected devices to precisely track water flow and usage for properties of all sizes and types, have shown the ability to reduce water consumption by 50 to 60 percent. Additionally, allowing property owners to see their water usage patterns typically leads to more responsible consumption habits, with an average reduction in water use of nearly 20 percent.


As environmental concerns become ever more pressing and water and other precious resources grow more scarce, the need for more responsible and effective conservation efforts will become critical. The future holds a number of great challenges when it comes to conservation and resource management, but they can be overcome through dedicated and sustained efforts. The rapidly evolving Internet of Things has already proven to be a valuable ally in this mission, and it may well be the key to a greener and more sustainable future for all.


  Emma Bailey is a freelance writer and blogger based in Chicago, IL. A Midwest transplant from the state of California, she typically writes on the science and environmental issues that are closest to her heart. Her interests include kayaking, watching horror movies, and finding perfectly ripe avocados. You can find her on Twitter @emma_bailey90