A recent article in The Daily Telegraph "Net zero is a disaster waiting to happen" questioned whether the country can afford the UK Government's plans to achieve Net Zero and whether it was even possible.
A lot of the argument around Net Zero focuses on different types of renewable energy technology and whether it is a sustainable solution to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Examples include whether it is plausible to use hydrogen or can battery technology help make wind farms more viable. Too often, the climate change debate is dominated by the discussion around renewable energy.
This energy debate is a necessary conversation but only one piece of the net-zero jigsaw puzzle. One of the things not often discussed is how small iterative changes to consumer and business behaviour can profoundly impact the carbon a country like the UK generates.
This is where the Internet of Things (IoT) can come in. The significant advantage is that IoT technology is already available, proven, and ready to scale.
The combination of sensors, actionable insights, and machine learning and AI that make up IoT can transform the efficiency of almost any business or activity. It can mean shaving minutes off every car journey, identifying the exact time when heating or lighting needs to be on or reducing machine downtime in a factory. Added together, across millions of different events, widespread adoption of IoT can help us make a giant leap towards net zero.
Take, for example, home delivery. The pandemic has escalated the number of companies that deliver. Thousands of outlets have developed an online and delivery offer they would never have previously considered due to cost. Necessity has led to investment which means that there is no going back. The key to reducing carbon is to make these journeys as efficient as possible. Taking the best route, and finding the house, and parking up quickly. Anyone who has tracked a delivery driver can often see the struggle many drivers have in finding the right spot. A 10-minute journey turns into a 12-minute journey, 20 minutes if they can't find a parking space. Up to 100% more fuel used, double the carbon generated. Companies that offer IoT solutions like AppyWay, which uses kerbside sensors, can guide the driver straight into a parking space.
In the long-term, EVs are the answer. However, we need to speed up adoption. One of the significant issues reducing the take up of EVs is range anxiety. What if we cannot make our destination and get stranded. For a small business contemplating a switch to EVs, this could be a significant concern. They can make 20 deliveries a day in their old white van but worried they could only do 15 in the EV vehicles, the switch is delayed. However, IoT technology can help drivers take on more deliveries with the comfort of data analysis that plans journeys around charging points. Collecting more granular data of delivery journeys can improve the understanding of what charging infrastructure is needed and, importantly, where. Smart cities that analyse deliveries patterns can speed up the roll-out of EV charging points in the places where drivers need them. This step could potentially save millions, as well as give companies the confidence to switch to EVs.
That is just one example of how data and IoT can make one activity better for the environment, in this case, home delivery. Better both in the short term, as well as lead to a long-term permanent change.
In short, let us have a debate about renewable energy. But before we decide that Net Zero might be too expensive or too complicated, let us start thinking a bit smaller. From how you heat and light your home to how businesses choose when to switch to EVs, IoT can significantly contribute to the journey to Net Zero.