According to Larry Alton – When we think about sustainable technology, we tend to think about solar panels, electric cars, and even low-tech concepts like passive solar design. These are all important innovations, but they’re also rather static.
Unlike so much of the technology in our world today, these aren’t things that get smarter through use. To push sustainability further, it’s time to turn to the Internet of Things (IoT).
From powerfully efficient wearables to entire smart cities, the IoT is powerfully positioned to change how we think about the environment, natural and built.
Keep your eyes on these three tools making sustainability smarter.
Small Devices, Big Potential
As a society, we’ve come to love wearables – fitness trackers, smart watches, and even wearables used for sleep. But for such ingenious little devices, they’re highly energy dependent. Forget to plug in your Fitbit and you won’t be able to check the time, never mind measure your heart rate.
Now, a new generation of wearables is making a break from the charger with multi-source energy harvesting technology. These new devices aim to embrace not just solar, an easy solution, but also pressure and temperature-sensitive perovskites. A family of mineral, one type of perovskite is used in solar cells, but others can turn pressure resulting from motion into electricity in much the same way. Since so many wearables are focused on activity tracking, they’re the perfect setting for this energy-friendly tool.
Solar power is a mainstay of the sustainability movement, one of the first examples people think about when environmentalism and alternative energy come up. This is with good reason – as a widely accepted solution, there are financial supports for solar panel installation, a variety of options, and a popular understanding of solar power as a tool, even in domestic settings. Kids do science projects involving solar power; it’s renewable energy 101.
In today’s era, however, we need to start thinking about solar in much more complicated ways as solar becomes intertwined with IoT. IoT is all about data and, suddenly, so is solar. This isn’t just passive energy anymore.
Today’s solar power systems are often tied to much deeper data systems that optimize energy output, something only possible because of IoT. This data then allows the panels to automatically reposition themselves, shifting based on the position of the sun. The same goes for wind turbines and other types of renewables.
The City as Computer
We can add pressure-sensitive cells to wearables and power up our solar panels like never before, but is this enough to mitigate global warming, pollution from drilling, and other environmental concerns? On an individual level, no, but when an entire city adopts sustainable technology integrated with IoT – well, that’s another story.
In Los Angeles, for example, a city known for its traffic and accompanying pollution, the entire city is programmed for sustainability. Across the city, sensors monitor air and water quality and traffic. Other systems determine urban walkability, housing issues, and more, all with the aim of increasing green jobs in the city. All combined, these systems can dramatically reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Imagine if all major cities adopted this technology – well, we may just be headed in that direction.
Renewable technology, on its own, is highly valuable. Yet, when integrated with IoT, it becomes much more powerful. As we deepen the relationship between these tools, we position our society to step away from more harmful energy sources and harness renewables at the next level of efficiency.