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IoT and Sustainability Perspectives

Overview of IoT and Sustainability Perspectives.
<v ->Now I’ve know you’ve looked at sustainability</v> but let’s deep dive into that because that’s definitely what I’m interested in. What do you think about IoT and sustainability? <v ->So I see that often IoT applications are justified</v> on principles of efficiency that can mean people, resources time, or energy. We looked to farming as one example, maybe another one is supply chain, making sure goods get to the right place at right time in the best way. What other sustainable perspectives should we have?
<v ->Well, one of the things that worries me a little bit</v> is that you know, you talk about all these new devices that are going to be needed to collect all this data in the different places and obviously there, that’s hardware that needs to be developed. Do you take that into account when you create the business case? Do you actually look at what are they made of and where does that all that stuff come from? Also, what happens to end of life? You know, can you recycle it? Have you thought about that?
<v ->Yeah, that’s important.</v> It’s something that the industry is continuing to improve on, but taking account of the design of a product, where it’s manufactured, how it’s distributed and supplied, and where it’s put into operation, is important. One particular aspect we can look at is power. So we might think of an IoT device being powered from a battery. So you need to think about what type of battery? How big is the battery? How long do you want that battery to last? But maybe you could use solar or wind power or other forms of energy harvesting to power that device instead of a battery.
One of the aspects though that may not be obvious to begin with is the wireless communication choice. Because if you then consider how far does a signal have to reach, that effects the battery life and the battery choices. So the right choice of wireless communication system has a direct impact on the design and the operation of a device. So there’s no straightforward answer there, but it’s certainly an important part of the design process and the operation of the system. Another aspect is disposal and recycle. So when the system comes to its end of life, how do we take care of the environment with those devices that are no longer required anymore?
So we need to make choices about recycling, disposal, and reuse. What do you see as the people perspective of IoT? <v ->Yeah, that’s a really good question</v> and definitely one that I include as part of what I think sustainability is. It’s about thriving of people on this planet forever. When you think about all the data that you collect as part of IoT, who owns that data? Is it the person that actually develops the device or are there already frameworks around that? And also, you know, what are the data ethics around that? The other question around people, I suppose, is how does it affect a future of work?
Are you replacing people’s jobs and not replacing them and what’s going to happen to those people? Can you comment on that? <v ->Yeah, I think it is a really interesting topic</v> and the answer to that is continually to evolve. An example could be, consider if you have an air quality sensor. So because you deploy and operate that sensor, does that mean you own the data from that sensor? You have to think about who has rights to data and that might be dependent upon where the sensor is located, what type of data is being collected, who that data affects. So interesting aspects to look at I think. With the future of work, there’s pros and cons potential.
Sometimes we’re more fearful of new technology or we don’t recognize all of the benefits necessarily. A couple of examples that I’ve seen recently, one is in the healthcare sector. One aspect that quite often affects healthcare workers, especially in residential homes and hospitals, is lifting people. Now they can deploy what we call cobots. A robot that collaborates with the worker to help them do their job better. That can help them lift people and move people about and it takes the strain of the job, but it helps people do their job better.
What I think we’re seeing is that if you apply sustainable perspective to an IoT business case, it can actually make it a better business case and produce better outcomes for all of the people and stakeholders involved. So where can we go to, to learn more to apply sustainability perspective to IoT? <v ->I love that question. Thank you.</v> I wish more people would ask that question when they write business cases and start designing new things. One of the really good business benchmarks that are available to apply a more systemic lens to whatever you design, whether that’s a product for IoT or services is the Future-Fit Business Benchmark.
It’s a Benchmark designed by the Future-Fit Foundation, a not-for-profit based out of the UK and they really take a very holistic lens to business performance including all the aspects that we have been talking about. So look at it.
As this video has highlighted, and has has been signaled throughout this short course, the connection between IoT and Sustainability extends beyond just the use of technology to provide data to inform decision making for more efficient and sustainable outcomes

Instead, there are many ways that sustainable perspectives can be considered.


It is important to think about the sustainability of the technology itself – how can sustainability be considered in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of hardware such as devices and sensors, as well as components of this technology such as batteries. How are the components of the systems disposed or recycled?


Questions about data ethics, ownership and governance are also important sustainability considerations. Who has the rights to data. We covered this in the previous activity this week.

How do we assess Sustainability?

In the video we referred to a particular framework that can help any organisation to find out exactly where they are at relating to the vision of contributing to (or obstructing!) a thriving society that is socially just, economically inclusive and environmentally regenerative: the Future-Fit Business Benchmark.

The Future-Fit Business Benchmark is a non-profit organisation and it’s tools, guidance and documentation are all open source. It gives an answer to what organisations and society should be aiming for, how we can get there and also provides a way of transparently reporting on it in a way that can be fairly and objectively assessed.

Following this video, we are going to look in more detail at Smart Cities as an example of IoT systems that demonstrate many of the key ideas that have been discussed through this course.

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Internet of Things (IoT) and Sustainability

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