For a good reason, the Internet of Things (IoT) and sustainability are two buzzwords that never seem to lose momentum. The two concepts have the power to change society, transform industries, and foster technological advancements — all while preserving our planet to be a smart, sustainable world.

Advancements in the communications technology industry, and the Internet of Things in specific, are transforming the paradigm of sustainability by offering a holistic approach to an issue much closer to our lives than we think. But what are some concrete changes IoT will make in pursuing sustainability? In this article, we'll share with you five ways IoT is changing the paradigm of sustainability.

1. Smart Interior Environments

Energystar estimates that up to 43% of annual energy spending goes for heating and cooling. But heating or cooling empty rooms is not smart.A centralised HVAC system, which heats and cools the interior air in a building or a home so that all the rooms have the same temperature, is extremely wasteful.

A home or building equipped with smart technology works better by monitoring climate zones and making real-time adjustments based on the occupied rooms in each zone. This data is collected by having sensors in each room that detect the presence of any occupants. That is the most rudimentary form of smart technology applied to indoor climates, but it does not stop there.

While it might be more efficient to only heat or cool rooms when people enter, this means the rooms are potentially very uncomfortable at first. That is still not smart enough.Now, suppose you are driving to your office or home, and the HVAC system recognises that you are on the way there. Your GPS location is relayed from the vehicle to the facility's smart technology IoT operations centre or the system monitoring your home from a command-and-control centre. Your proximity will determine the state of readiness of the rooms you are most likely to use when you enter upon arrival.

A room can be toasty warm on a cold winter day or cool and refreshing in the hot summer. You can preselect your most comfortable temperature, and the room(s) will be ready when you enter because the smart technology will anticipate your arrival.What happens if you stop somewhere on the trip? The smart technology would recognise your vehicle stopped and adjust the timing of room readiness accordingly.

Now imagine that all the electricity you need to run the HVAC system, which is smart technology-enabled, is captured at the lowest cost rates of overnight usage. Then, it is stored in batteries for use when the grid cost is higher during the days. Moreover, if this power comes from sustainable resources like hydropower, wind power, or solar power, you have completed a full smart technology configuration for your smart climate conditioning of interior space.

Now change your perspective to include a neighbourhood and then an entire city. Applying smart technology to create the most efficient power usage for consumption patterns can efficiently manage the whole city.

Community-based sharing of electrical power is one of the most interesting ways a smart electrical grid may be deployed using IoT solutions for sustainability. For example, suppose a person is away from home. In that case, the home's solar system can operate independently to sell the power generated back to the grid and gain energy credits for use when the occupants return.

Smart solutions mean less waste, better efficiency, and increased sustainability. Since the smart application devices collect data in real-time, the adjustments are also in real-time. To build a sustainable future with smart cities, we need to remember this circular loop of data flow from the devices managed by smart applications and the vast interconnections possible through IoT to a smart technology control centre for system monitoring and adjustments.

Smart management of the end users' IoT devices can extract small savings, which become large when aggregated. A smart interior environment system on a city-wide basis can leverage the benefits of these savings from millions of connections.

2. Water Conservation

The ability to collect data in real-time from sensing devices connected by IoT is a simple yet powerful concept. The sensing data may identify operating states that include parameters in the normal range and activate response triggers for parameters that are not normal.

An interesting example is an automated watering system for external landscaping and agriculture. The system reacts to weather patterns through smart technology and delivers more or less watering depending on the external temperature and other conditions. The old-fashioned way was to do this by hand. Then, rudimentary technology came along using timers set for a frequency of automated watering.

Managing increasingly scarce water resources in drought-stricken areas is a major challenge, and smart technology has many applications for water conservation efforts. These highly efficient watering systems, which give the perfect amount of water, are enabled by smart applications and IoT devices. For exterior applications, these systems adjust for the humidity, whether it is raining or not, and the ground's dampness, which is picked up by sensors too.

3. Smart Gardens

Innovation in hydroponic agriculture in vertical urban gardens provides the exact amount of light, water, and nutrients plants need. These inputs are controllable with IoT applications allowing these fresh garden vegetables to be grown on-site in perfect conditions. Moreover, headquarters may remotely monitor the entire grocery store's chain-wide process for quality assurance.

A report by Kristen Park from Cornell University found that up to 25% of fresh produce costs come from transportation expenses. Produce grown above the store where it sells eliminates all of this wasteful transportation expense to bring the produce from the field. It also allows the produce to be sold at its perfect level of ripeness and not harvested earlier due to the long transportation time needed to reach the market.

Tying the vertical garden growth system into the retail sales system creates a demand-based product inventory flow. In practical terms, this means there is always just the right number of fresh tomatoes ready for sale based on customer demand. The finetuning of these systems is astonishing when we begin to learn what we did not know before by using smart applications, such as how many tomatoes are needed each day.

4. Autonomous Electric Vehicles

The massive trend toward electric vehicles (EV) that can be autonomous will make EV ridesharing the dominant method of personal transportation in the near future. These vehicles automatically take the pathway with less traffic as determined by real-time traffic analysis. Traffic congestion will be less irritating if you do not have to drive, and the vehicle drives itself.

Think of these innovative rideshare services as mobile workspaces, which link to the global satellite network. The work environment will have more fluidity and be available to people wherever they are in a smart city, from their smart home to a smart vehicle to a smart office.

IoT communication capabilities are very useful in the fleet management of autonomous rideshare vehicles to maximise efficient usage, have sufficient battery charging status for each vehicle, and monitor the maintenance needs of the cars in real-time. Sustainability improves by reducing fossil fuels as EVs replace gasoline-powered cars.

5. Efficient Waste Management

Something as simple as knowing when a trash bin is full is extremely helpful in managing the pickup schedule. Knowing the temperature and humidity conditions and the type of waste in each container also is useful. Furthermore, this data can help manage the risks of dangerous microbial activity in the trash dumpsters.

IoT sensors that report this data to a unified operations centre helps waste management operators and city managers make informed decisions about container utilisation. This strategy helps organise efficient pickups when the bins are nearly full instead of routinely picking them up when they might be less than full or overfilled.

Reducing the waste of unnecessary truck trips saves money and reduces air pollution, making this effort helpful for increased sustainability. Having the data to manage the waste streams based on their types increases the processing efficiency of the waste management system. For example, bin pickups based on contents can make sorting recyclables easier.

Looking Forward to a Smarter Future

To realise a smart, sustainable future, we need to think much more creatively about the transformation needed to make everyday life better and easier without negatively impacting the environment.

At iotblue, our mission is to drive the world towards a smart, sustainable future. That's why we've developed IoT products and designed an IoT operations centre that helps drive efficiencies and reduces the carbon footprint of smart spaces, neighbourhoods, developments, and entire smart cities.

Are you looking for sustainable solutions for your smart city? Connect with one of our IoT experts to discuss how we can help you manage your smart, sustainable space with Cervello Cities, our Smart City Operations Centre (SCOC).