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Moving Beyond “Zero Impact”

The positive environmental impact of the Internet of Things

A significant amount of research has been carried out in recent years to determine the environmental footprint of the Internet and its estimated 50 million servers operating around the world, but recent studies are now turning to understand the positive environmental balance of the Internet of Things and smart systems, including infrastructure and transportation systems. The use of telematics devices and big data has brought about the rise of a “handprint” – all the positive effects made possible by technology, especially in terms of energy savings and environmental impact.

A 2013 study by the Boston Consulting Group pointed out, for example, that a comprehensive portfolio of ICT-enabled climate mitigation strategies could reduce global climate change emissions by 16.5% by 2020, which translates into a total fuel saving of 1.9 trillion dollars. Not only does this represent a greater saving than any other strategy, but it has also been calculated to be seven times larger than the ICT sector’s own footprint.

This astonishingly positive impact is the result of the improvements made in terms of energy efficiency, which, in fact, is one of the benefits of insurance telematics and the steady rise of smart cars and smart cities. It’s not so much about individual devices, services or technology, but about the network that connects these devices together: the Internet of Things and its many subsystems. It’s about intelligent efficiency, and interacting smart infrastructure and smart vehicles.

In our vehicle-based sector, intelligent efficiency spans from smart GPS navigation systems that detect the quickest route, taking into account traffic, road and weather conditions, to telematics devices that preventively alert drivers to tire and motor maintenance to improve fuel-consumption-efficiency and avert breakdowns.

Moreover, just as in the smart car and smart city scenario, in which vehicles and infrastructure share precious information with each other to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and air pollution, and limit the waste of fuel and time, the growing number of smart devices connected to the greater Internet of Things means that more and more data can be analysed to improve the environmental footprint of our every action.

Until recently, most environmental data was secured exclusively from governmental or officially appointed services, but the exponential and geographically pervasive rise in the crowdsourcing of data from all the devices networked into the Internet of Things means that our energy efficiency potential will to continue to increase and improve.

And that’s how the Internet of Things could prove to be our trump card for improving our environmental impact on the planet; a perpetual “big data” engine that overtakes the principle of “zero impact” and actually helps save more energy than it consumes.

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