The Internet of Things, AI, and 5G are all over the news these days, with new developments in all three occurring at a breakneck pace. But while new technologies come and go, it tends to be the ones with the most positive impact that have the staying power, and IoT, AI, and 5G certainly fall into the positive impact category.
Both independently and through a combination of their capabilities, these three technologies have the power to change the world permanently and for the better. In fact they already have. Let’s take a look at how IoT, AI, and 5G are driving sustainability around the world.
The Internet of Things is most often associated with smart lighting, and smart lighting is indeed an energy saver, with LED bulbs being up to 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but smart lighting’s environmental impact is in reality far greater than just the impact of smart home lighting.
When applied at much larger, industrial scales, the energy-saving power of smart lighting grows exponentially. According to the World Economic Forum, the Internet of Things’ usage in information networks and sensors could lead to more than 1.3 trillion megawatt hours of energy savings by 2030.
IoT technology also has a significant impact on water usage, giving homeowners, building owners, office managers smart ways to track and control water consumption. Sensors allow for real-time monitoring of flow and leaks, and IoT technology can impact water usage through the entire cycle, from sourcing to treatment to delivery to consumption.
The next generation of wireless data, 5G promises to bring speeds as high as 20 times today’s broadband networks, allowing an entirely new level of “real-time” data and monitoring for any activity one can imagine.
For sustainability, the implications of this new level of speed are profound. Perhaps the biggest change 5G will bring is in the sheer amount of data available to the average person. This data will take many forms, including how our products are made, which products are most environmentally friendly, where and how product packaging takes place, and the logistics around how the products we order are delivered. This will not only make things such as waste management far more efficient, it will also give consumers a much better view into which brands and companies are respecting environmental policies and which aren’t.
5G will also give all infrastructure-related systems, from garbage to electricity to water to heating, a previously unattainable level of data transparency and access. Recycling bins will be fitted with sensors that can tell if something inside does not belong there; water treatment plants will be able to have a far more granular look into pollutants; and overall system efficiency across the board will be greatly improved.
According to a 2018 report by Intel, 74% of 200 business decision-makers in environmental sustainability agreed that AI would help solve environmental problems. The form this takes is in AI’s ability to analyze and combine data sets in ways no human could, even with the help of a computer. Through artificial intelligence, utility providers can much more efficiently manage their energy loads, maximize renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Another application of AI, and perhaps the most well-known one, is autonomous cars, which offer a promising future for sustainability. Currently about a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. However, autonomous vehicles will be much more efficient with their driving than humans. Also, the engines of machine-driven cars will be smaller and use less gasoline, and the ability for self-driving cars to move extremely closely to each other will give more space to clean-air forms of transportation, like bicycles.
The potential for AI, 5G, and IoT to change the world is clear. As more and more businesses and consumers use these technologies, their capabilities will expand, and their ability not just to make our lives easier but also safer and more sustainable will greatly improve. It’s time for AI, 5G, and IoT, to take spotlight, and sustainability to become the way.