A Circular Economy: An Untapped Opportunity for the IoT Industry

Internet of Things technologies can enable the circular economy, which is changing the very nature of how business is done. However, the IoT industry has yet to embrace this incredible opportunity.
By Lauren Roman

Circular economic models that benefit customers, the environment and society can also deliver the most financial reward. This year, the World Economic Forum concluded that by 2025, $1 trillion per year can be generated for the global economy and 100,000 new jobs can be created annually within the next five years, provided that companies focus on encouraging circular supply chains to increase reuse, remanufacturing and recycling. The IoT is the key.

So, where are the IoT businesses?

Many, if not all, top IoT target markets, such as retail, electronics and supply chain, have organizations and work groups that are dedicated to developing sustainable, circular business models that benefit society and the environment in addition to the bottom line. Few, if any, IoT companies are engaging these organizations.

• Last month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation held a two-day conference on Mainstreaming the Circular Economy. The event included hour-long concurrent work sessions to discuss how circular economy models could be applied to the electronics, manufacturing, food and beverage, retail and consumer packaged goods sectors. Yet, with no IoT stakeholders on the panels, the IoT did not enter into the discussions.

• The Sustainable Apparel Coalition's members are a veritable who's-who of apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers, yet almost no IoT technology providers currently participate in the organization.

Sustainable Brands' member companies include global leaders in retail, consumer packaged goods, apparel, consumables, airlines, health care, automotive, electronics and supply chain. The upcoming Sustainable Brands 2016 conference, to be held next week in San Diego, will feature hundreds of speakers in more than 80 sessions covering four days—and not a single IoT provider will be presenting.

Circular economy initiatives are a new frontier for IoT businesses, but the IoT solutions supporting them are already here. Engaging vertical organizations focused on circular economy solutions offers a new way of promoting IoT solutions and your business. Carpe circular economy!

Lauren Roman is the founder and principal of TransparentPlanet, a Seattle-area consultancy providing automatic identification and data collection (AIDC) companies with new strategies for promoting and growing their businesses. She also helps enterprises understand that the IoT can be a powerful tool for responsible business to earn their customers' trust, as well as improve product transparency and lifecycle management.

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