IIoT & Environmental Monitoring Congestion in Building a Sustainable Future

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As of now, environmental problems are some of the most discussed challenges, and its burden is partly borne by major manufacturers, key suppliers, and distributors.  

Seeking solutions, many organizations engaged in the global supply chain and embracing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, see them as a way to improve the environmental sustainability as well, among other benefits these technologies are bringing.

IIoT allows companies to foster a more careful treatment of nature and stricter government regulations, while keeping in mind a demand for accommodating the needs of a growing population.

Here are some real world examples of Industrial IoT-related solutions which can be applied in different industries to the benefits of the planet’s wellbeing and how it can be done.

A Brief Look at a Monitoring Solution in IIoT

Building a trustworthy IIoT system measuring environmental factors and sending signals to end-users so that they could put the received data into action, doesn’t differ much from another IoT solution, containing the same elements, controlled in the same way, with cloud computing companies providing the solution migration to the cloud for the system’s increased performance and scalability.

  • Sensors. They present a basic unit and driving force within an IIoT ecosystem. Hundreds of sensors monitor critical environmental variables throughout the manufacturing unit, be it temperature, carbon emission, humidity or other parameters. They consolidate data in real time and pass it further for processing and analytics.
  • Network connectivity. For implementing IIoT solutions in their factories, companies can choose from a variety of connectivity options, which will intertwine the other elements in the solution’s architecture: BLE, Wi-Fi, ZigBee or Z-wave, 6LoWPAN, etc.

Usually the following factors are considered: reliability of a connectivity protocol, the factory’s existing infrastructure, IT team’s expertise, and device compatibility.

  • IIoT platform. Choosing an appropriate platform is essential for deploying an effective IIoT solution, as it will influence the quality of the incoming data monitoring, exercised control over data endpoints, data analytics, and connection with end-user applications.
  • Web and mobile app. The main aim of this element is to visualize the incoming and processed data in a readable form, and make the use of the IIoT system and control over it handy and easily manageable: a mobile app provides quick real-time updates by sending alerts and notifications, while a web app serves as a dashboard providing analytics and historical data in graphs and another intuitive form. Both types of apps are operated and controlled remotely.

Predictions for IIoT Use Cases & Their Influence on the State of Environment

Environmental Monitoring

Almost half (46%) of respondents of the recent Inmarsat’s study reported that monitoring environmental conditions (such as water, soil and air quality), registration of environmental parameters, and improving resource efficiency are the largest drivers behind the adoption of IIoT-based solutions.

While traditional monitoring technologies for air and water safety use manual labor (enhanced, however, with advanced instruments and lab processing), IoT improves this technology by reducing the need for human labor and making detection systems much more effective in continuous measuring and registration of environmental parameters.

The environmental factors, usually measured within the environmental monitoring practices, include:

  • Environmental quality monitoring and control system (air quality, CO2, temperature and humidity);
  • Natural gas energy and diesel fuel flow monitoring and control system;
  • Dust monitoring / environmental monitoring of high-risk goods storage / combustible gas monitoring;
  • Sewer levels monitoring and measurements on presence of pollutants in wastewater.

Benefits for the environment:

  • Reducing environmental pollution. Hazardous waste produced by major manufacturers, such as chemical, metalworking and pharmaceutical industries, can be reduced only after they are measured and analyzed.
  • Emergency preparedness. Once voluminous amounts of data are collected, they can be used not just for measuring, but for prediction and disaster management as well. Those sensors are detecting motion close to an earthquake epicenter and transmitting data out to centers that can issue a warning to residents.

Many companies globally are using IoT for damage prevention. For example pressure-sensing electronic probe are designed to detect the levels of resistance required for a user to penetrate the surface of snow-packed ground. That measured level is read almost instantaneously on a liquid crystal display screen and can be used to determine the likelihood of an avalanche.

  • Setting conservation and efficient energy management goals. Successfully deployed environmental monitoring can provide manufacturers with deep insights into the effect their activity has on the state of the environment. Once informed, factories and other industrial units will find it easier to define their future strategy in this domain.

Smart Energy Grids & Smart Meters

The smart energy grid acts as a digital automation technology for measuring, control, and analysis within the electricity supply chain with the help of sensors, monitoring power lines and transformers.

A smart meter is a fundamental element in the smart grid chain. It utilizes sensors and control devices to obtain information from end users’ devices and measures their energy consumption in real time, as well as passes the collected data for further processing and analysis.

Benefits for the environment:

  • Providing users with the ability to monitor their energy use constantly and in greater details, thus motivating them to turn off unneeded appliances, dim lighting and adjust thermostats.
  • Promoting the arrival and installation of distributed generation (DG) and energy storage (wind and solar generation, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), etc.) technologies.
  • Reducing fossil fuel resources consumption, as well as cutting down on greenhouse gases emission and other air pollutants.

Smart Waste Management & Recycling

According to the World Bank’s Urban Development report, the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) will rise from the current 1.3 billion tons per year to 2.2 billion tons by 2025.

Smart factories are searching for smart ways to deal with their industrial wastes. A number of solutions are already present on the market: for example, the Bigbelly technology. It attaches chips and solar panels into waste and recycling containers, so that the latter could alert in real-time when they are approaching full. Thus, the technology saves time, eliminates unnecessary work, and saves labor costs.

Besides, the technology yields information on the trash bins’ content, which could be later used for marketing reasons.

Other technologies equip the waste and recycling equipment with wireless notification systems, thus connecting them to a computer or smartphone and providing data in real-time.

Benefits for the environment:

  • Optimizing waste collection with the collected data results in planning more efficient routes, vehicle loads and collection frequencies, leading to an overall waste collection cost reduction of 30% and a carbon emission reduction of up to 60%.
  • Eliminating unnecessary waste collections will lead to increased productivity and reduction of unnecessary work hours, saving labor costs.

From an overhyped buzzword to real-world evidence, IIoT could bring major benefits in environmental monitoring and protection, if applied right. The reason why this congestion can be that successful is simple: getting accurate real-time data, it is getting easier for manufacturers to track the way they are influencing the environment and take measures to make this impact the least harmful possible.

Article By: Alex Makarevich

Alex Makarevich is Content Manager at R-Style Lab – a custom software development company with a business office in San Francisco, CA and dev center in Belarus, Europe. Having worked in the publishing house Éditions Techniques de l’Ingénieur (Paris, France) and got experienced in editing texts both in English and French, she has switched now to topics associated with IoT, web and mobile development.


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