There are plenty of climate change rallies these days all over the world, hoping that conciouses and laws change in a way that people start really thinking on how the world is heating, endangering the planet we live in. In within these laws that are to change some could potentialy address the inneficiency and the waste of energy. For instance, in Germany they have laws that ban the use of gasoil-fueled cars in some cities, while in UK fossil fuel heating systems (gas, oil and coal) will be banned by 2025.
So, how do we witness all these changes from a technological perspective? Much has been talked about the Internet of Things (IoT) but in my opinion the message has not poured down to the “common people” as they consider this as something “of the future” with little meaning to them. Of course IoT can be applied in many places so people can start seeing the benefits, not only from an enviromental perspective, but also from a cost – effective perspective as long as achieving savings is concerned.
Why would you heat a whole house when you are only in a few rooms of the house? Heating a house in winter can cost you an arm an a leg, but if you think the amount of energy that you can save by only using inteligently the energy that you require, you will do a favour to all of us.
Keeping a good level of warm across the rooms with an intelligent system will reduce drastically your bills without having to be in discomfort. Now imagine this example if it is taking to a much bigger scale as a hotel or even a factory where unnecessary locations are kept warm simply because the system either keeps hot everywhere…or nothing.
Applying what we just mentioned to a bigger scale means that the average savings will be much bigger. Applying IoT at large scales is a masive change and move towards sustanibility. The ideal situation would be if IoT was included right from the moment a building is designed. However, it is not free. Designing a “green building” cost a premium of <2%, but yield 10 times as much over the entire life of the building.
Is it worth it? Of course, the problem is that not many people are willing to invest in a very long term investment. However, at the pace the technology is progressing and with costs of sensors and electrical appliances going doing, those investments will not have to be a serious burdem at the time of designing a new building.
Smart building automation and IoT come in a very large variety of applications, ranging from the usual and already mentioned heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), indoor lighting, fire & safety, access & security. There are many other that are not so-well known to the public but could also make a different as irrigation systems or swimming pool monitoring.
However, IoT has been around for many years. The origin of it was the first “PLC” (programmable logic controller) as they were called. They would action depending of external factors such as programming and they have evolved, doing what they have always done very well: automatitacion depending on external inputs.
The evolvement of those PLCs into something more “ingenious” has been possible thanks to the leverage of new technologies such as IoT, big data, cloud computing, data analytics, deep learning and artificial intelligence. PLCs actions area now part of the information that is going into the system, thus valuable data that can help take decisions upon a bigger picture. The benefits are huge and range from the very initial energy saving, capability to reduce the OPEX (Operational Expenditures) to run your business, increase of occupancy comfort, meeting regulations and sustainability standards.
Smart city is nothing but applying IoT for the benefit of citizens. Measuring traffic and stablishing patterns of how people move across the city can help alliviate traffic. Changing how trafic lights synchronize with each other, timing that people can cross roads, measuring air quality so very dangerous zones are avoided or detecting strong rain coming, thus creating floods and other atmospherical hazards that can be communicated before a catastrophe happens.
These are some of the very basic uses of IoT for “common people”. However, goverments and local councils can apply all sort of technologies associated. Putting all the data recieved together in a “data-lake” can help the overall sustanability of structures and a better usage of the public services, like flexible commuting using ad-hoc bus routes depending of the need of the citizens or a better scheduling of trains and undergrounds, changing timeshifts based on real data rather than on a pre-set time which is, in most cases, inneficient.