At its essence, the IoT connects physical objects—almost any item or device, really—to the Internet through embedded sensors and software. IoT-enabled devices can be linked to one another to create a network of connections. Once online, the sensors collect and share data about their environment, their condition and their use.
This information, managed from a cloud-based software platform, can drive smarter, more precise decisions to reduce waste, improve efficiencies and alleviate environmental impact.
The World Economic Forum found that 84% of IoT deployments are addressing—or at least could address—the United Nations' sustainable development goals, which include responsible consumption and production, sustainable cities and communities and climate action.
"At its core," the World Economic Forum says, "IoT is about ... reaching people and objects that technology could previously not reach and in the process also supports sustainable development elements."
On a basic level, the IoT environmental impact is simple. Connected devices do not need to run continuously. Instead, they may operate only when needed—such as when a motion sensor triggers a security camera or the ability to dim lights remotely in response to changing conditions or resident needs.
With advanced IoT systems, analytics and automation, these potential advantages grow considerably. IoT-connected smart meters, pipes, valves and tanks could help quickly determine where leaks are happening in a vast public infrastructure. Similarly, water- or energy-intensive industries—such as mining, manufacturing and agriculture—could use connected sensor-enabled devices to monitor water and energy consumption and identify conservation opportunities.