How Internet of Things Solutions Can Better the Environment

By Marc Pegulu

The IoT's use cases and applications are endless, and the technology has proven critical in lessening mankind's impact on the planet.

COVID-19 forced individuals globally to stay inside, which had a significant positive impact on the environment, ranging from improved air quality, cleaner rivers and less noise pollution to undisturbed and calm wildlife (see  Coronavirus Lockdown Helped the Environment to Bounce Back). As restrictions continue to ease, there needs to be a focus on environmental awareness as we return to "normal" day-to-day activities. What will happen to our planet when restrictions are no longer in place? Who can play a role in protecting our world?

Individuals can play a part in changing damaging habits by recycling, reducing their carbon footprint and repurposing household items for alternative uses. At the same time, Internet of Things (IoT) solutions can significantly benefit the planet and are being leveraged across the world to help reduce environmental impacts and remedy challenges facing the global community. Companies and organizations alike are committed to developing solutions that improve environmental consciousness and conserve resources—which, in turn, enable a better world.

While IoT technology is serving the purpose of connectivity, its impact is far greater. The IoT is enabling connections in areas where access is limited, protecting wildlife, helping employees return to work, managing water waste and far more. IoT solutions leveraging long-range, low-power technology are scalable and easy to implement. But perhaps more importantly, they are filling the technology gap of cellular and Wi-Fi- or BLE-based networks that require either high bandwidth or high power, or that have a limited range or an inability to penetrate certain environments.

Here's how the IoT can better the environment:

  • Water Conversation: Nearly 900 billion gallons of water are wasted nationwide each year due to household leaks, and the average family wastes nearly 180 gallons per week (see WaterSense: Statistics and Facts). While those numbers are concerning, by incorporating IoT solutions into water-management systems, building managers and homeowners can monitor water use in real time and make informed decisions based on the collected data. If water is monitored properly, individuals can drastically decrease the amount wasted.
  • Sustainable Farming: By leveraging IoT-enabled technologies across farming and agriculture efforts, farmers and ranchers can monitor, manage and analyze operations to improve their business in a sustainable way. Long-range, low-power technology deployed across a farm can track roaming or sick animals, monitor soil moisture, and allow users to make educated irrigation and fertilization decisions based on data gathered from sensors.
  • Flood Monitoring: As a result of the climate-change effects, sea levels are rising and there's an increased risk of flooding. Often, there is little to no warning of a disaster. To monitor rising water zones, long-range, low-power-enabled sensors can be deployed in hard-to-reach areas and along the water's edge. These sensors can calculate water height and depth, gather data in real time, and update designated dashboards or send alerts if the water reaches concerning levels.
  • Wildlife Protection: IoT-enabled sensors have the ability to track the locations of endangered species, and in turn can help protect these animals from poachers in national parks around the world. By deploying sensors across an area or directly onto an animal, park rangers can protect species and people inside the park, report on if park gates are open or closed, and alert personnel if poachers are nearby.

While the use cases and applications for IoT solutions are endless, the technology is proving to be critical when it comes to lessening our impact on the planet. As the world slowly shifts back to the way things once were, it's important that everyone play their part, no matter how big or small, and that we take advantage of technologies that can go the distance and make a significant impact.

Marc Pegulu is the VP of IoT product marketing and strategy for  Semtech's Wireless and Sensing Products Group, including LoRa.