The Internet has already transformed the way individuals interact, make choices, and process information. In the shipping and manufacturing industries, that same “worldwide web” is now being deployed to encourage more energy-efficient operational and communication strategies for a low-carbon economy, thanks to IoT Tech.
As more and more devices become Internet-ready and the “Internet of Things” ecosystem continues to grow, we’re seeing improvements in safety, turnaround times and client-oriented customization options. But perhaps the most far-reaching changes will center around the use of large data systems to drive sustainability in logistics and supply chains.
Every resource – fossil fuels, water, space – that can be more effectively managed with the help of cutting-edge tools represents a factor of production that can be conserved. “Waste not, want not” is the old mantra, and it’s certainly applicable today. In fact, according to Alberta energy providers, efficiency, stemmed from the use of IoT Tech, itself is now being referred to as the “fifth fuel” – in 11 International Energy Agency member countries (America, Australia, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden) improvements in efficiency allowed for savings equal to 1.4 billion tons of oil in 2011, worth approximately $743 billion.
The transportation of goods is one of the greatest contributors to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. By using smart IoT tech to find better driving routes and also direct merchandise exactly where there’s a demand for it, the consumption of gasoline and diesel can be lowered significantly. “Driverless”, autonomous vehicles are already in use across both the public and private sector, and are set to dramatically transform the logistic industry as they hit the road in greater numbers. Fleets of automatically-operated vehicles will be able to act in concert to increase gas mileage, avoid traffic jams and move goods around 24/7. Additionally, the use of remote-piloted drones may allow for more direct, manufacturer-to-consumer deliveries, eliminating the need to shuffle product around multiple times to various warehouses and distribution centers.
The remote monitoring of the individual components of widely distributed infrastructure can help avoid delays and setbacks. Any problem or issue at one point in the network can be compensated for by having other sections pick up the slack. This prevents single failures from serving as choke points in production. We’ll thus be able to avoid delays, the buildup of excess materials where they’re not wanted and underutilized capacity: all factors that can cause energy wastage. The more transparent this data is, the more effectively managers and executives will be able to use it to keep efficiency high.
The “transparent” communication of data within IoT tech also applies to recording and monitoring the condition of items placed within containers. Defective merchandise and goods that are about to expire can be routed for repairs or replacement accordingly. This will lead to fewer demands on reverse logistics systems as end users will seldom find occasion to return products back to the vendor.
Tire giant Pirelli has attached sensors to its inventory that allow it to see where its tires are located and get an accurate idea of how many and what kinds of new units need to be produced. By customizing its manufacturing strategy, the company has been able to avoid discarding tires in landfills and has thereby spared us the environmental consequences of tires breaking down and releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart also pushes for its suppliers clean up energy-related waste all along the industrial supply chain. The mega-corporation’s Supplier Energy Efficiency Program (SEEP) promises an energy audit and recommendations for basic technologies that trim carbon waste. Von Drehle, a paper towel and tissue supplier in business with Walmart saved $37,000 in one facility from a SEEP lighting retrofit.
Cities throughout the world have begun to implement IoT tech systems in order to run civic infrastructure components more sustainably as well. The City of Barcelona has been among the first to implement a comprehensive program utilizing Internet-enabled technology as a core component of urban planning, and it was able to lower the amount of energy used in public lighting by 30 percent and reduce water consumption by 600,000 liters per year.
The shipping and manufacturing sectors can hope to achieve both ecological and financial gains by adding IoT tech functionality to existing supply chains and logistical frameworks. Only by so doing will they be able to compete as the world shifts towards cleaner, leaner transportation and manufacturing systems.
Spencer Larson is a writer and researcher based in Chicago, IL. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 2011 with a degree in Biochemistry and will be attending DePaul University this fall to participate in an Urban Planning and Design program. He is an avid kayaker and ramen-eater.
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