Should We Connect People or Things?
“Connected society” and “the internet of things” are terms that we use more and more frequently. But what could they mean for sustainability and building a better future for consumers ?
There is certainly the possibility to achieve improved sustainability through person to machine interfaces; how we employ ICT technologies to enable conscientious, environmentally collaborative relationships between people and machines. This is achieved through some combination of providing information (for example The Good Guide app) and providing control (such as home monitoring systems that let you switch off the bedroom light at home from the road). But, as I have written before, I don’t actually have much confidence in the consumer as the vehicle for change when it involves the individual making an additional or more complex decision.
The Internet of Things
Rather, I think the best potential comes from helping consumers to be more sustainable by taking them out of the loop and making the sustainable approach the automated default. In technology terms this involved machine to machine interfaces or the internet of things. For example, a connected machine (a washing machine perhaps) sends a message to the cloud that enables the most sustainable temperature or other usage setting to be set in the device, perhaps taking into account information about external variables sourced from other machines and devices, such as temperature, electricity grid prices or which laundry detergent is being used. If it works well, the outcome is a reduction in resources consumed without the consumer having had to do anything different.
I see three areas with distinct characteristics in which solutions could fall:
- High cost, low volume equipment such as medical or industrial devices operated by an expert operator.
- Consumer goods such as coffee machines and other home devices
- Very high volume products – light bulbs.
Do you have any good examples of solutions in these areas ?