How the IoT Is Helping Our Environment

The Internet of Things offers numerous applications and benefits for animals and their surroundings.
By Juan José Bello

The IoT Might Be Solving Planned Obsolescence
According to The Economist, Planned obsolescence is a business strategy in which the obsolescence of a product is planned from its conception. This is intended to make customers buy again and again new products or services that manufacturers bring out as replacements for the old ones. Of course, this practice has consequences for the environment since it increases the amount of waste: in Europe, electronic waste (e-waste) is increasing by 3 to 5 percent each year. Some electronics contain toxic substances that could endanger air, water and human health.

One of the most popular examples of planned obsolescence occurred in the 1920s. As technology evolved, light bulbs' lifespans increased, having as consequence a reduction of demand; the more light bulbs lasted, the less customers needed to replace them, which affected suppliers sales. Manufacturers such as Philips, General Electric and Osram gradually lowered light bulbs' lifespans—the industry standard of 2,500 hours in 1924 would eventually drop to only 1,000 hours by 1940.

How can the IoT fight back planned obsolescence nowadays? General Electric, for instance, is pushing an Internet of Things service strategy that consists of embedding sensors in different assets in order to tell customers when to schedule maintenance and avoid part failures. Sure, more durable products may translate in a demand reduction of new GE products. But according to William Ruh, GE's VP of software, the company can grow on the services side; instead of making revenues by just producing and selling goods, through IoT data, it can work on machine health monitoring services.

What's Next?
There are several emerging technologies with a promising impact for the environment, like vertical farming, synthetic biology, agbots, closed ecological systems and in vitro meat. However, these are based on the IoT or are not yet scientifically and financially viable. If you don't want to wait for years until these technologies are available, you can start with easily scalable IoT initiatives.

Juan José is an IoT enthusiast. He is currently working on projects for retail analytics through the IoT. Juan enjoys getting lost in a book during the week and playing his acoustic guitar on the weekends.

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