Skip main navigation

Overview of IoT and Sustainability: Setting the Scene

An introduction to the Internet of Things in relation to sustainability.
© The Mind Lab
The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a type of technology that is involved in collecting data from the environment around us and using that data to make decisions.

The ‘Things’, are devices that autonomously collect data. The ‘Things’ also have the ability to connect through the Internet to allow data to be processed and provide useful outcomes.

Many of us are surrounded by IoT devices and applications already, but perhaps we haven’t been fully aware of these. The most familiar are things we interact with like a fitness band, a smart speaker like Amazon Alexa, a web camera, or your printer. There are others like GPS trackers, weather sensors, and electricity smart meters that do a job in the background to make life easier. So, some help us with a task we are wanting to do, like ask for a recipe, others carry out a task autonomously, like report energy use. There are also many business and industrial uses of IoT that help with work tasks.

What these applications have in common is a device that collects data in a remote location, and a communication connection so that data can be reported and analysed through an internet connected application.

There are many different applications for IoT, such as smart cities, supply chains, agriculture, transportation, water consumption, manufacturing, healthcare, retail. We will explore some of these applications throughout this short course.

This function of collecting data, taking decisions, and reporting through the internet is having a profound impact on our daily lives, whether it is at home, work, or the places where we live. Almost any activity we can think of has the possibility of providing data on which decisions or actions can be taken to work toward more sustainable and resilient futures.

IoT and Sustainability

The intersection of IoT and Sustainability can be examined in two ways:

  1. The role of IoT systems in gathering data to inform strategy and decision-making that can impact sustainable futures.
  2. The sustainability of IoT systems themselves can affect waste minimization, recycling, and energy use.

We will focus on these two threads, highlighting the connection between technology and sustainability, through this course.

An example of how IoT can inform sustainable outcomes is the Tether healthy home sensor discussed in the video. Data is sensed inside the home and sent wirelessly for analysis by a computer application. By understanding the temperature and humidity within a home the home occupier can take decisions about the heating and ventilation to improve comfort. For rented homes, the information collected helps with decisions to improve housing quality and public health.

This function of collecting data, taking decisions and reporting through the internet is having a profound impact on our daily lives, whether it is at home, work or the places where we live. Almost any activity we can think of has the possibility of providing data on which decisions can be made or actions can be taken to work toward sustainable outcomes.

We’re going to take a look at some of these applications, the technology that enables IoT, how data is used and why sustainability is of critical importance in understanding the value and relevance of IoT over the rest of this course.

Next though, we are going to explore the idea of sustainability in a connected world, and how IoT may be able to help achieve some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Task

Before this, share in the comments below what you see as the biggest opportunity for IoT in terms of working toward more sustainable outcomes – these outcomes could be focused on environmental management, social inequalities, or economic efficiencies for example.

© The Mind Lab
This article is from the free online

Internet of Things (IoT) and Sustainability

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education