Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Two major social and business trends are shaping the world today. The first is digital transformation, which is seeing all of us adopt an increasing number of technologies in our daily lives, both at home and at work. The culmination of this tech revolution, which has only just begun, will be the use of tools such as big data, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain.
The second trend is sustainable development. The European Green Deal leaves no room for doubt: by 2050, EU member states must be carbon neutral. This goes beyond the mere fight against climate change: we must all work together to decarbonize the economy.
Twin transitions: technology and sustainability go hand in hand
So, here is the question: is there any way for the two most important trends in our recent history to work together? Yes, there is, and it’s called the twin transitions, a model in which disruptive technology and the fight for sustainability go hand in hand to build a more efficient and sustainable world.
This concept has been explored in numerous studies. The most prominent one, entitled “Towards a green and digital future - Key requirements for successful twin transitions in the European Union,” was prepared by the Joint Research Center of the European Union. In the report, the JRC details how various technologies can be used to reduce or eliminate emissions in several areas.
Imagine waking up in the morning, glancing out the window and wanting to know what's going on out there. Augmented reality glasses can provide you with a wide range of information: what the weather is like, the chance of rain, what the air quality is like, what the pollution levels are, etc.
This scenario probably sounds quite futuristic, but there are many more down-to-earth ones. Thanks to the combination of big data and artificial intelligence, you’ll know the weather forecast for the coming days, since the devices involved will have enough data on days similar to today and what happened years ago in comparable circumstances. With this information, artificial intelligence will be able to forecast any weather event.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will also provide endless information. For example, it will be able to detect the moisture levels of your plants to identify which ones you need to water. It will also help you track your daily consumption: that way, you can determine the best time to run your washing machine to consume less water and electricity, when your home reaches an ideal temperature to turn off the heating, etc. And, as David Villaseca, Chief Digital Officer of Cepsa, says, with the IoT “customers are transformed into prosumers, that is, they are both consumers and producers of energy, so they have greater control of consumption, spending and savings, generating new demands that have to be covered with innovative services.”
Finally, even blockchain will be able to help you in your daily tasks. Imagine going to the supermarket, and out of a wide range of brands, wanting to choose the most sustainable ones. Blockchain will make it possible to establish food traceability, telling you where food was grown or manufactured, when and from where it was transported... With all this information, you will be able to choose foods with a smaller ecological footprint.
IN (AND OUT OF) THE CITY
The twin transitions will be particularly useful in urban areas, and above all, in the management of public resources. If you are familiar with the smart city concept, you are probably aware that by installing sensors, municipalities will be able to determine when to water green areas, when and where to put streetlights in neighborhoods, or when the garbage cans are full and ready for collection. This will save water, electricity, travel and personnel costs.
Sensors will also impact traffic management, whether on the streets or on the highway, especially with the help of artificial intelligence and big data. For starters, they will be able to measure the amount of traffic congestion in certain areas and even detect accidents. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) will collect information in real time, process it, and then predict (and reduce) traffic jams or even prevent accidents.
Villaseca stresses that “digitalization can help improve traffic management and route planning, which can reduce traffic jams and greenhouse gas emissions.”
There are already a few examples of medium-sized cities implementing some of these initiatives. For instance, Santander is a pioneering city when it comes to implementing IoT technology with real applications. How? By using thousands of devices distributed in the streets that provide real-time information on the status of all municipal services, such as water management, waste, mobility or lighting.
For the business world, the combination of technology and sustainable development will be fundamental for companies to become more efficient. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few: "The use of IoT in industrial centers," Villaseca explains, "allows us to capture process and sensor data in real time so that we can optimize production processes, saving energy and becoming more sustainable." This technology can measure the moisture level of crops, the operation of industrial assembly lines, the condition of products or even the integrity of the materials that make up a car, a large building or asphalt. Furthermore, AI and big data will help companies to evaluate their processes, identify ways to improve and ultimately become more efficient.
In this area, blockchain will also play an essential role, especially for its ability to ensure traceability of any product or process. Thanks to this technology, companies will be able to check the veracity of their suppliers or customer data as well as offer traceability to consumers who want to check the ecological footprint of these products.
As you can see, there are many different examples, but they all have the same objective: putting technology at the service of sustainability to make the twin transitions a reality.
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