Study predicts IoT sustainability potential in 2030

April 23, 2021

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the transformation it will bring about in various industries are expected to generate an extremely positive balance when comparing consumption and conservation of resources. The IoT sustainability is calculated by a study by Transforma Insights and 6GWorld, sponsored by InterDigital, which reveals the impacts that new and emerging technologies will produce in terms of power, fuel and water consumption, and electronic waste (e-waste).

The report details in figures the IoT impacts in the expected scenario in 2030 compared to 2020:

  • –  IoT solutions are expected to reduce electric power consumption by more than 1.6 petawatt-hours (PWh) – enough to supply approximately 5 million typical residences in the United States for one year. According to the report, the element that will contribute most to the power conservation will be the smart operations of electric networks, including meters, generation, and operation systems), accounting for 1.4 PW of energy saved. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems will account for approximately 130 TWh of energy conservation.
  • – By considering the electric power consumption, the study differentiates IoT solutions in the consumer industry and those used in enterprise environments.
  • – Generally speaking, IoT technologies are used in consumer solutions (such as audiovisual devices) to provide more resources and services. In the corporate environment, they are incorporated in order to provide some economic benefit, for example, in the form of more operational efficiency or reduced consumption of any resource, for example, electricity. In the consumer industry, the savings provided by the IoT solutions will come from HVAC systems, building automation, and intelligent lighting.
  • – In the corporate space, most IoT solutions will contribute in some way to energy savings, led by the systems of electric power network generation and operation and meters.
  • – In addition to the impacts on electricity consumption, IoT solutions will generate fuel savings (gasoline, diesel, and gas). In this field, the balance is extremely positive as well, even considering the need to transport IoT equipment as a negative side. For example, the additional weight of a vehicle caused by the IoT platform – and, consequently, the increased fuel consumption – is outweighed by the benefits that the IoT solution will provide to the car’s energy efficiency based on fleet management and intelligent route solutions, for example. The IoT solution that will contribute most to fuel savings will be intelligent fleet management, accounting for about 37% of the total fuel saved (up to 1.25 PWh). The road traffic monitoring will come in second place, with 9% and generating 290 TWh in fuel savings, closely followed by inventory management with 8%, enabling more efficient cargo transportation and distribution.
  • – Relatively, there are not many IoT solutions that promote the rational use of water, but the existing ones will be able to produce significant positive impacts, saving 230 billion cubic meters in 2030. About 35% of the water conservation will come from better and smarter water network operations. Other solutions that will contribute will be agricultural applications, such as crop monitoring (26%) and remote process control of irrigation equipment (19%).
  • – Finally, the study assessed the additional resources needed to manufacture and distribute IoT equipment. In the manufacturing phase, the expectation is that there will be an increase of 34 TWh in electricity consumption, 3 TWh in fuel consumption, and 112 million cubic meters in water consumption in 2030. In the phase of the IoT solution’s distribution and implementation, an additional 53 TWh of fuel will be consumed due to the increased equipment weight. And, of course, more electronic waste will be generated – the overall impact will be more than 657,000 tons in 2030 (0.9% of the total e-waste in the same year).

In addition to the Internet of Things, the study assesses sustainability for other technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, blockchain and the like, product life cycle management, robotic process automation, and human-machine interface.