How smart technology is affecting sustainability

RossHelen // Shutterstock

How smart technology is affecting sustainability

Woman managing smart home devices with tablet

According to Ericsson, by the end of 2022 there will be around 29 billion smart devices worldwide. Although estimates vary for the exact number of connected devices in the world, industry experts agree that more people are adopting them every day. By 2021, 51 million homes in the U.S. alone will have smart devices, according to a Berg Insight report.

Most of these devices are marketed as ways to make homes more comfortable and save money on utilities and other costs, some are even compatible with reduced energy use and pollution. IoT Secure collected interesting facts and figures from industry experts and news reports about the impact of smart technology on sustainability efforts.

The economic value potential of Internet of Things devices was at least $740 billion in 2021 and is expected to increase dramatically by 2030, according to a November 2021 report by McKinsey. Manufacturing is one of the world’s largest industries marked by cutting-edge technology since the advent of industrialization. One way smart devices and technology can support manufacturing and other industries is by helping to eliminate waste created by human habits. Plus, fine-tuned computer sensors can shut down machinery more effectively — and much faster when there’s danger.

RossHelen // Shutterstock

Save energy and money with smart lights

Smart light adjustment arm with app

LED bulbs already use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. When you add smart lights, which can turn the lights on before you get home from work, you can save even more energy. This means your lights are on for about 50% less time throughout the day – a big difference. Smart lights can also turn on and off based on sunrise and sunset, making your day more evenly lit without the use of a switch. Unlike incandescent and fluorescent bulbs or tubes that can have high lifetime costs when switched on and off, LED bulbs do not lose life this way.

Denys Kurbatov // Shutterstock

Help reduce water waste

Water use management app

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted each year due to household leaks. Seemingly small problems—a toilet that keeps running or a slow drip under the kitchen sink—can add up to big losses. Using technology that can automatically alert users to the presence of leaks can help reduce this loss by fixing problems sooner. You can search your home for leak detection, methodical work and tuning of pipes. After that, a smart leak detector can make sure everything stays ship-shape.

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Reduce home heating and cooling energy consumption

Hand adjustable digital air conditioner button

Air conditioning accounts for about 12% of a home’s energy consumption, while forced air heating can contribute up to 29%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Programmable thermostats have already represented a big improvement, for example, letting users set a timer to start the air conditioning before leaving work.

Smart thermostats like Nest take this a step further, with algorithms that actually study how heat and cold move around your home and adjust accordingly. Nest reported in 2015 that its “learning thermostat” saved users about 15% on cooling and about 10% to 12% on heating. This translates to about 2% overall home energy savings for cooling and 3.5% heating savings.

Nolanberg11 // Shutterstock

Limit chemical leaching and greenhouse gas emissions on farms

Agronomists using technology to farm maize

Farming has long had an eye on efficiency, especially for small farmers seeking to turn narrow profit margins into livable income. While exact numbers are hard to come by, organizations like PNAS claim that smart sensors can monitor farms to allow for more targeted use of chemicals like water and pesticides. And it makes sense because computers are much better than humans at knowing, for example, exactly when to switch the flow of feces on and off.

Modern farming equipment can be programmed with a complete map of where and what to apply, keeping movements precise and applying products if necessary. Human operators—less certain and willing to err on the side of caution—are likely to overapply products through more cautious behaviors.

juliet_dreamhunter // Shutterstock

Catch methane gas leaks quickly

Gas leak detector

While carbon dioxide gets more attention on the international stage, methane is the second-most common greenhouse gas and can be more damaging to the pound. There are natural sources of methane such as livestock that can be reduced to some extent with dietary changes, for example.

But others are man-made because methane is the most common component of “natural gas” used for stoves and heating. Natural gas lines, which zigzag around the world, are prone to leaks. A system already deployed in Italy uses smart methane detection with vehicle-based sensors to find leaks that need patching.

This story originally appeared on and was produced by IoT Secure and
Distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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