Guest Post

How IoT helps environmental, social and governance goals

Every organization must address sustainability concerns as IoT device use grows. Cloud optimization, smart buildings and predictive maintenance can help address ESG goals.

Sustainability is an increasing priority for nearly every high-tech company -- and it is no coincidence. Emerging technologies such as 5G, blockchain and AI are unlocking new use cases for smart, connected devices that make up IoT. However, they are also causing a massive surge in energy consumption, water usage and CO2 as devices become more powerful, Accenture reported.

In response, high-tech companies are rolling out sustainability programs and designing products with environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals in mind.

These initiatives are plain to see at recent tech events, with many high-tech companies demonstrating their dedication to developing more sustainable products and initiatives.

For instance, at CES 2022, LG pledged to use up to 600,000 tons of recycled plastic in its manufacturing process and increase the recovery of electronic waste to up to 8 million tons by 2030. Meanwhile, Samsung announced a new version of its Eco Remote and new smart monitors.

While IoT is designed for energy efficiency, the explosive growth of the number of IoT devices is elevating the need for device manufacturers to further improve power efficiency.

Universal Electronics Inc. has announced sustainability solutions to minimize power consumption and reduce battery waste, including its UEI Extreme Low Power Connectivity system-on-chips (SOCs.) The company's new connectivity offerings with integrated energy harvesting capabilities can deliver up to 2.5 times more computing power with up to 80% less battery power consumption compared to traditional Bluetooth smart SOCs.

Ways to implement sustainability into IoT

Companies should consider how to best use IoT technologies to improve product sustainability and support more eco-friendly manufacturing.

Accenture has outlined the following three steps that high-tech companies can take to help achieve their ESG goals.

1. Optimize cloud resource use

Green cloud is a term that emerged due to the explosive growth of cloud usage. It is a practice that focuses on cloud energy and resource optimization. Companies should establish a baseline of existing data center energy consumption, computing requirements and sustainability goals.

There are tools that can help with this and cloud design products that reduce carbon emissions across all stages of the journey. Such tools use algorithms to quantify the greenness of potential cloud options based on a range of information, such as the cloud service providers' carbon emissions goals, locations, energy sources and readiness to transition.

2. Transition to energy-efficient smart buildings

Smart buildings can reduce energy consumption, cut costs and generate revenue. High-tech companies can develop smart building products and services to sell while they simultaneously test and use them to achieve their own sustainability goals.

Automated processes can help control building operations such as climate control, lighting and security. This enables companies to help reduce energy consumption, optimize space use and minimize their buildings' environmental impact.

Johnson Controls is one company that uses IoT and edge computing to monitor environmental controls and leverages 5G and AI to minimize building pollution and improve supply chain management. Its recent acquisition of FogHorn Systems, a developer of edge AI software for industrial and commercial IoT, brings new opportunities for smart and autonomous buildings.

3. Improve semiconductor design and processing

Semiconductor design and manufacturing are at the core of creating nearly any product these days. With the growth of IoT, AI and machine learning, semiconductor manufacturers now have the tools to manage and analyze data to implement predictive maintenance programs.

Custom analytics can predict process issues to detect impending deposition process failures and prevent significant yield reductions. Organizations can apply data to a single asset, across multiple machines, to a manufacturing line or even an entire fabrication process.

To take these processes a step further, digital twins offer a detailed simulation of real assets that updates in real time through a constant stream of sensor data. They provide a test bed for organizations to try out new processes and analyze issues without unnecessary costs or negative environmental outcomes.

Companies should adopt a circular model, where sustainability starts at the design stage instead of after the fact via recycling. High-tech manufacturers that design for refurbishment and longevity can save money, potentially create new revenue streams and reduce their carbon footprints.

Sustainability improvements are happening all around us and are incorporated into personal devices, smart electronics in our homes, cars, office buildings and the environment. It's time to act now and use sustainable offerings as a competitive advantage.

About the author
Vikrant Viniak is a managing director at
Accenture, where he focuses on the high-tech industry. He is passionate about solving complex problems using creative thinking, bold and iconoclastic action, and data-driven analysis and decision-making. He helps clients with their most strategic imperatives, including digital transformation, driving growth through digital operating models, everything-as-a-service transformations and strategic partnerships.

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