EVORA Global blog IoT

IoT: How can it help address urban sustainability challenges?

A common trend occurring in countries across the world is the movement of people into cities. The knock-on effect of city growth is that their energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions rise exponentially in order to meet the needs of the inhabitants.

Current estimates state that cities consume over two thirds of the world’s energy and are responsible for similar levels of global greenhouse gases[1]. As cities are expected to continue growing in the future, it is important that urban sustainability issues and challenges are addressed in order to restrict the impact of climate change.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical devices which can connect and exchange data. Often, IoT forms the basis of new innovative approaches, which are presented as the solution to many urban sustainability challenges. According to the world economic forum[2], which analysed 640 IoT deployments, it found that 84% of these can in some way help address the UN Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting the global potential of IoT. For the purpose of this blog I have focused upon two key areas of interest to me, air quality and commercial buildings. In both of these areas the IoT has the potential to drive sustainability progress forward.

Air Quality

Air quality has received considerable attention in the media over the past year. In London, where we are based, the major source of pollution derives from transportation. It is important for environmental and health reasons that within cities we are able to monitor air quality effectively. However, a key challenge has always been the coverage.

Often air quality is measured by monitoring stations at set locations providing limited spatial representativeness, which is problematic in densely populated areas where significant variations can occur due to a wide range of emission sources. Advances in low power wide area (LPWA) networks (long range wireless communication) has enabled small and low-cost sensors to be developed, which can be attached to street furniture (think sign posts and street lights) within cities. Readings can be received in real time from these sensors providing air quality data with greater depth and scope than before. Using this information in models can support decision making processes and also help raise general awareness of the issue.

A practical example using IoT to improve air quality monitoring is the Air Map Korea Project[3], which involves sensors (with IoT capability) being placed on over 4.5 million telephone poles, 60,000 public phone booths and 4000 offices. The desired result is for the data to help government-led efforts to reduce air pollution. Another example, slightly closer to home is a mobile air quality monitoring project in Glasgow[4], where sensors are placed in vehicles to provide readings throughout the city. I am expecting more and more schemes like these two to start occurring in cities around the world.

Commercial Buildings

Cities contain a wide variety of commercial buildings, such as offices, hotels and shopping centres, which account for a considerable part of the overall energy demand. If cities are going to continue to grow as expected, it is vital that these buildings are able to reduce their energy demand and associated carbon emissions. Savings can often be achieved through improving the operational functions. Commercial buildings commonly have a set level of intelligence built in, with internal networks providing a tool for communication between equipment, for example as part of the Building Energy Management System (BEMS).

Approaches utilising the IoT are now offering greater system connectivity, providing building managers with more accurate data and better methods to regulate and control internal conditions, enabling building environments to be improved and efficiency savings achieved. An example of this connectivity would be a building where heating and cooling is adjusted automatically based on the occupancy and weather conditions or even lighting systems that adjust to our natural circadian rhythm.

At EVORA, we have been providing monitoring and targeting consultancy across a range of assets to help reduce consumption within buildings. Our SIERA software can be directly linked to a utility AMR stream providing us with consumption readings every 30 mins. Through reviewing the data monthly, we are able to optimise plant equipment timings and highlight unusual fluctuations, leading to financial and carbon savings (click here to see a case study where we delivered energy savings of 30%).

Having greater connectivity allows for services like this to exist, which improve the internal environment and assist in the way buildings are managed and operated, offering a viable solution for lowering energy demand from commercial buildings.

If you are interested in discussing this further or want to know how EVORA could help your organisation with sustainability initiatives,then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of the team.

[1]C40 Cities – https://www.c40.org/why_cities
[2]World Economic Forum – http://widgets.weforum.org/iot4d/
[3]Business Korea – http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=19374
[4]ScotlandIS – https://www.scotlandis.com/news/2017/september/with-iot-air-quality-in-glasgow-gets-smart/