Technology and the Environment: Why We Are Confident of Saving the Planet
We are undergoing a rapid-fire change where technology is molding the way we live, work, and entertain ourselves. Unfortunately, we are also threatened by the dark side of technological progress; global warming, depleting resources, fast urbanization, growing economic disparities, and the urban-rural divide. To the credit of mankind, emerging technologies like the Blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are impacting society and the environment positively.
We take a closer look at how technology, far from destroying our ecosystem, is saving the planet and securing the future for the coming generation:
IoT-Enabled Smart Buildings Use Fewer Resources, Save More Energy
It is estimated that by 2020 over 6 billion smartphones will be accessing the internet, and a bevy of amazing technologies will be making our cars, homes, and cities smarter. A machine, human, or animal; the whole package can be transformed into a “thing” connected to the internet. That’s the meaning of the term “The Internet of Things.”
As explained by IT specialists, IoT operates by connecting devices and sensors to the cloud. This permits devices to “talk” to each other and exchange information to get things done. For instance, while you watch TV, your wristwatch reads your body temperature and “asks” the air conditioner to optimize room temperature to make you comfortable.
The morning alarm not only wakes you up but sets off a chain of events. The coffee machine brews a warm cup, the water heater optimizes the temperature just as you step into the shower, tinted windows become a shade lighter to welcome the sunshine, and the electric car decides to charge itself.
Heat, water, and energy consumption drain 34 percent of domestic bills. The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to reduce utility costs to a tenth of that figure, creating a smarter and environment-friendly building with a lighter carbon footprint. We call this the “greening” of a building; making our homes, offices, and workspaces sustainable.
Swedish property developer, Stockrose, turned to Microsoft and created an Azure IoT Gateway connected to sensors within their maze of apartment complexes. With tenants and owners receiving real-time water usage readings, consumption patterns changed dramatically. It is estimated that Stockrose apartments will save $42 million in water heating costs in the coming decade. Now comes a brilliant takeaway – tenants consuming fewer resources paid a lower rent. This is a living example of technology actually motivating people to reduce their environmental footprint.
Blockchain Is Protecting the Pacific Ocean Fishing Industry
We love our fish, but do we know where it comes from? Illegal fishing practices, slave labor, and animal rights abuse is rampant in the tuna fishing industry. To put an end to these practices, the Australian, New Zealand, and Fiji chapters of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) used blockchain for building tuna supply chain efficiencies.
Special sensors fitted in registered fishing vessels scan the daily catch, and each consignment is geo-positioned using radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. Tagging identifies the fish, the crew, the fishermen, and the fishing vehicle. The data is electronically encrypted in a blockchain ledger. Once recorded in the blockchain, data becomes tamper-proof.
QR coding continues all through the supply chain involving everyone handling, processing, or storing the tuna. The consumer buying the fish uses a mobile app to scan the blockchain coded tuna package. He gets a complete report on the origin of the fish and who handled it in the supply chain leading to the retail store.
As a WWF enthusiast put it, Blockchain narrates the story of the fishing crew, the fishermen, and their families, tracing the tuna’s eventful journey from “Ocean to Plate.” This is a momentous project encouraging sustainable fishing, and moving forward it has the potential to improve the quality of seafood supply chains all over the world.
Big Data, IoT Connectivity, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain Create Smarter Cities
It’s estimated that by 2050, approximately 66 percent of our population would have migrated to cities. Rapid urbanization means that a huge population will be concentrated in a smaller geographical area. This will increase the stress on resources and energy grids.
The solution is to create a smart city overlaying the city beneath. Roads, buildings, people, and every utility will combine into a unified, highly networked, more efficient, living, breathing organism. A person’s smartphone becomes the “node” connecting him 24/7/365 to the smart city surrounding him.
At the ground level, IoT enabled devices talking through embedded sensors will be pushing huge data to the cloud. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be assessing the data, detecting patterns of behavior, and doing a predictive analysis to help urban planners improve services. Instead of assumption-based planning, researched statistical data analyzed in real-time will be delivering sustainable cities.
Major innovations that’ll make our cities safer, keep them cleaner, and safeguard our health, even as we protect the environment
- Sensors give real-time feedback and beep alerts on air quality, noise levels, street parking availability, and waste accumulation.
- Smart Trash Bins alert collection points when they reach full capacity, and when hazardous waste is detected.
- Electronic self-driving vehicles take over urban transportation. Car ownership becomes less attractive. Reduces congestion and traffic snarls.
- The public transportation system and buildings run on renewable energy.
- Bus stands provide route information and timings of buses, along with WiFi and USB charging.
- Vertical farms help grow vegetables and fruits, and will also serve as “green lungs” for the city.
- Smart lighting conserves energy when streets are unused and may be co-opted in neighborhood surveillance.
The smart city is a confluence of technologies delivering smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth through quality food retailing, improved waste disposal, uninterrupted drinking water, and the tapping of renewable energy resources in a big way.
Non-Polluting, Clean-Energy Generation, Storage, and Trading are the New Buzz Words
Generating power in remote areas and relaying it to cities involves losses in transmission and wastage at the household level. The future will see “Smart Grids” replacing traditional power grids. The Smart Grid encourages households to boost their green-energy flow. Households will access renewable energy by way of solar panels and windmills. Tesla’s Powerwall and Powerpack have the potential to solve the Smart Grid’s storage problems.
The renewable energy panels will be hooked up to a host of IoT enabled appliances, smart meters, and smart thermostats that’ll work efficiently while using power sparingly. There’s a huge takeaway: Excess energy is sent back to the Smart Grid for redistribution.
The Smart Grid uses IoT and sensors to generate big data. Machine learning algorithms then redirect the energy in real-time. Gradually, the Smart Grid will power factories, office complexes, apartments, and businesses. The Smart Grid will be drawing power from sources that don’t need it. It’ll transmit power in the right quantity at the right time to places that require it.
Renewable energy initiatives got a huge boost with a blockchain inspired platform – the Power Ledger. Power Ledger partnered with an energy corporation to improve Thailand’s green energy infrastructure. The Liechtenstein Institute for Strategic Development has similarly partnered with Power Ledger to kick-start renewable energy projects in Europe. Power Ledger is a blockchain solution attracting heavy investments in eco-friendly power stocks that are traded in cryptocurrencies.
The Electric Vehicle (EV) Encourages Pooling and Makes Car Ownership and Insurance Redundant
EVs run on electricity stored in batteries. An EV Hybrid will have both batteries and petrol, switching to either according to the need. Batteries are topped up using external charging points sourcing power from Smart Grids. There’ll be cheaper fuel, lower maintenance costs, zero noise and emissions, safer parking, and hassle-free traffic control. Petrol pumps will transform into charging stations with large underground storage banks.
With automated driverless EVs populating the streets, it is estimated that over 60 percent of the commuting public will shift to inexpensive carpooling networks in preference to expensive car ownership and insurance plans.
EVs are integral to Tesla’s massive push to promote clean energy technologies, and the public response has been encouraging. Tesla is developing a network of EV charging stations, each connected to solar roof panels backed up by efficient Powerwalls and Powerpacks. In the future, we’ll see these charging stations connecting to Smart Grids.
The Bottom-Line: Technology is Rebooting, Refreshing, and Restoring the Environment
Will these efforts make a difference, and does it really matter? Yes, they do make a difference and it matters because mankind’s progress, stability, and prosperity can’t be built on a depleted and destroyed planet. We need to leverage technology and change hidebound attitudes to reboot ourselves, refresh our planet, and restore nature to its former glory. Smartphones, Smart Homes, Smart Cities, Smart Grids, and Electric vehicles are technology gateways to the Promised Land that uses resources more efficiently to create sustainable communities – human and animal.