Wireless Noodle Episode 21: IoT will save the world!

This week Matt delves into the ways in which the Internet of Things will help to avert climate disaster, some troubling survey results, and how IoT cellular connections evolved in 2020.

You can access the podcast here, or via GoogleAppleAmazon or Spotify

An approximate transcript of the podcast is available below. 

The Internet of Things will save the world. Welcome to this week’s Wireless Noodle. It’s been another extended gap since the last episode. Things are busy here at Transforma Insights towers. I’ll talk about a few things we’ve been doing in the next couple of weeks. Today I wanted to share details on a major piece of work we did on the environmental impact of new technologies. Plus a few bits of news that caught my eye.


Back in April we published a report we had compiled in conjunction with 6GWorld and InterDigital looking at the impact of disruptive technologies on the environment. And I’m pleased to report that it’s largely positive, particularly the Internet of Things, which is ever close to my heart. 

According to the study, by 2030 IoT deployment and its disruption of various industries is expected to save more than eight times the energy it consumes, 230 billion cubic meters of freshwater, and eliminate one gigaton of CO2 emissions.

The report, Sustainability in New and Emerging Technologies, explores the impact new and emerging technologies will have on electricity, fuel and water usage, CO2 emissions, and eWaste. The report looks at the incremental impact of new technologies by examining the resource impact of enterprise and commercial technologies compared to a world without it. 

Key findings from the report reveal that by 2030: 

  • IoT solutions will reduce electricity consumption by more than 1.6 petawatt-hours (PWh), enough electricity to support more than 136.5 million homes' energy use for one year.
  • IoT’s net effect on fuel consumption will reach a yearly 3.5 PWh reduction of (hydrocarbon) fuel. 
  • IoT devices and emerging technologies will conserve nearly 230 billion cubic meters of water – 35% of this impact will result from improved smart water grid operations, and remaining water savings will be supplemented by IoT-enabled agricultural applications like crop management and remote pest control. 
  • Considering the manufacturing of new and emerging technologies, IoT is expected to increase global electricity use by 34 terawatt-hours (TWh).  
  • IoT will result in an additional 53 TWh of fuel used for distribution and deployment of solutions. This distribution and deployment will generate incremental eWaste, including additional hardware per device and increased levels of device shipments. The overall impact will be more than 657,000 tonnes of eWaste. 
  • IoT solutions will collectively enable one gigatonne benefit in CO2 emissions. The impact on CO2 emission is notably lower in regions that have a greater representation of renewable energy in their generating profile.

The report identifies the impact of new and emerging technologies on energy and resource usage and spotlights the difference in enterprise and commercial solutions. Enterprise-based IoT capabilities are typically incorporated if they increase efficiency or produce a net economic benefit, often in the form of reduced electricity, fuel, or water consumption. Conversely, connected consumer devices dominate IoT and have a considerable sustainability impact because they typically consume more electricity than their non-connected counterparts. In consumer solutions, IoT capabilities are added to improve the user proposition and tend to be net electricity consumers. 

IoT-enabled solutions like HVAC systems, building automation, and smart lighting all generate sustainability benefits regardless of whether they are deployed in a consumer or enterprise context, and will be the most impactful electricity saving applications (along with smart electricity grid operations). Net energy consumers include commercial based IoT solutions such as CCTV, AV equipment, or personal assistance robots. 

The most impactful IoT solution in terms of fuel savings will be Road Fleet Management of vehicles and delivery vans, accounting for roughly 37% of fuel saved by IoT solutions of all kinds. Emerging technologies with the greatest impact on resource consumption are processing-intensive and deployed to ensure compliance or data optimization.

Beyond energy savings, water scarcity was listed in 2019 by the World Economic Forum as one of the largest global risks in terms of potential impact over the next decade, and a small number of IoT applications (mostly in the agricultural sector) will result in net savings of 230 billion cubic meters of water in 2030.

The impact of new emerging technology-based solutions that do not include IoT-connected devices is more of a mixed bag than the impact of IoT-enabled solutions. However, two clear groupings emerge when analysing CO2 impact (which combines both electricity and fuel impact into a single measure).

At the Use Case level, it is the most widely adopted, processing intensive, non IoT-enabled applications that are intended to improve compliance or reduce risk that are most costly in terms of net CO2 emissions. Use cases like Fraud detection (accounting for 0.67 megatonnes of net CO2 emissions in 2030), Risk Analysis (0.29 megatonnes), and Threat Detection (0.24 megatonnes), are all valuable from an end-user perspective, but they are processing-intensive and generally achieve little in the way of tangible results (from a sustainability perspective).

Conversely, some applications of (non IoT-enabled) emerging technologies are significantly beneficial in terms of net CO2 impact, with the most beneficial use cases tending to involve interaction with real-world physical processes. For instance ‘x as-a-service’ (accounting for 2.6 megatonnes of net CO2 emissions savings in 2030) includes the proactive and pre-emptive maintenance of assets to ensure that they operate efficiently and do not break down. This saves on remedial maintenance trips, and improved condition monitoring of these assets enables more maintenance to be undertaken during routine service visits. Inventory Management (1.7 megatonnes), Transportation Optimisation (1.1 megatonnes), and Supply Chain Audit (1.0 megatonnes) all include in some way improving the efficiency of physical distribution networks, and so reductions in fuel use.

What is particularly interesting is that investment in new technology tends to result in costs in terms of electricity consumption (to power the solution), often offset by some level of savings in terms of electricity consumption but more significantly savings in terms of (hydrocarbon) fuel consumption. This is an important dynamic, since it is much easier to source electricity from sustainable sources than it is to source (hydrocarbon) fuel from sustainable sources: i.e. the simple substitution of hydrocarbon fuel consumption with electricity consumption is beneficial from a sustainability perspective.


Research suggests that 84% of CEOs agree that AI-based decisions must be explainable in order to be trusted 

I think we’ve covered this already when I’ve spoken about oversight. There’s no debate on this topic any more. AI decisions do need to be explainable. Regardless of what the other 16% of CEOs might think. Done. 

Slightly worrying survey results from @UbisenseNews about Industrial IoT adoption under the title ‘IoT not fulfilling its promise’. 43% of manufacturers don’t see value in IoT compared to 29% a year ago. 

The chip shortage may prove good news for #IoT device vendors. Focus on fulfilling orders for higher value gateways and full solutions rather than pile-it-high chipsets. I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong, but supply shortage *should* mean higher margins. 


At Transforma Insights we closely track Communications Service Providers and how they are addressing the IoT market. We know you loved it last time, so here's an update of the CSP IoT connection ranking. This chart shows the evolution of the numbers of connections from 2010 to 2020.

The grand total for the accumulated connections of the top 34 operators at end 2020 was 1.43 billion, up from 1.27 billion at end 2019. That's an increase of 160 million (i.e. up 13%) over the year. That is only just less than half the growth in 2019, which was 326 million (which itself represented a growth of 34%).

Check out the website for more details: CSP IoT connections tracker

And while we’re on the subject of IoT numbers, at Transforma Insights we have just launched a new public IoT Forecast Highlights page;

Our TAM Forecasts provide our quantitative view of the market opportunity associated with Digital Transformation and all of the associated technologies. As part of this, our Connected Things (IoT) forecasts offer a highly granular analysis of the IoT market until 2030.

We have decided to make a top level of data available for free. The figures are regularly updated and are a live view of the forecast information contained in our Connected Things (IoT) forecast database. The figures available on this page are free to use on the condition that they are sourced to Transforma Insights.


Finally, we have just wrapped up the Transforma Insights first User Group Live event at the end of June. We’ll be posting recordings of all the sessions to the website for user group members and our clients to access. If you’re interested in knowing more I’ll post the address to the Wireless Noodle blog: HERE.  

Articles…The future of the Internet is articles written solely by ML algorithms and read solely by other AIs for the purposes of further refining their Natural Language Processing

Next week I’ll be talking about Nokia’s Data Marketplace offering and few other interesting things.

Just a reminder: if you’re enjoying the podcast I’d be obliged if you could leave a review. It’s much appreciated. 

Links to some of the research that I’ve refered to in this week’s show, as well as a transcript of the recording, will be available on the podcast website at WirelessNoodle.com

Thank you for listening to The Wireless Noodle. If you would like to learn more about the research that I do on IoT, AI and more, you can follow me on Twitter at MattyHatton and you can check out TransformaInsights.com

Thanks for joining me. I’ve been Matt Hatton and you’ve been listening to the Wireless Noodle