Alternative Energy

Technology and digital transformation will be at the heart of a sustainable future

3rd June 2022
Kiera Sowery

Industries are continually advancing, and while that comes with benefits, it also has environmental downfalls. With this in mind, many sectors are changing how they work in order to tackle the rapid change in the climate. Eco UK Group, Gravitee, Glide Group and 4D Data Centres report.

Minimising waste and lowering the amount of produced pollution is paramount for achieving environmental sustainability, and focusing attention on how to achieve that in each industry is the first step in the right direction. 

From lighting to data centres and APIs to smart fibre, no sector is free from the impact of climate change and net zero targets. Sustainability can no longer be ignored, and one of the ways organisations are achieving this is through adopting a circular economy.  

What is a circular economy?

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy is based on three principles: to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural materials. It is designed to benefit businesses, society and the environment.

“Adopting a circular economy through lighting means being more efficient and effective by implementing sensors and switching to LEDs,” said Steve Gardner, Managing Director at Eco UK Group. “This means less light pollution, cleaner air, and minimising the risks of running out of the resources needed. Making better decisions today can create a better and more sustainable tomorrow, with even the smallest change making a big impact, creating better working environments and preserving industries for generations to come.” 

The data centre industry is also a primary force linking digital transformation and global energy consumption. According to the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2020, 205 terawatt hours were consumed by data centres in 2019. There has been a 26-fold increase in data storage capacity, an 11-fold rise in data centre IP traffic and 30% increase in computer server usage. There is no future that doesn’t include data centres, and the only way to build towards a sustainable future is for the industry to adopt a circular economy. 

IoT driving digital transformation

“People across the world are absorbing data like never before,” says Jack Bedell-Pearce, CEO and Co-Founder at 4D Data Centres. “This trend is being driven by the IoT and personal devices, such as smartphones, tablets, electric vehicles and health monitors, which are likely to reach more than 40 billion during this decade.”

Alex Drag, Director of Product Marketing at Gravitee agreed. “IoT and event-driven APIs aren’t just for smart watches, refrigerators, and other connected consumer experiences. They can (and do) also play a huge role in empowering sustainability-relevant companies and technologies. 

“Additionally, IoT sensors at factories can capture, transmit, and measure the amount of CO2 that’s being emitted and stream that data in real time (based on an event instead of constant polling) to the business so that they can figure out how to either reduce emissions or compensate via programs and initiatives like carbon crediting, capture, etc.”

Disruptive innovation and sustainability

We’re also witnessing a rise in smart fibre infrastructure, a full fibre broadband solution that supports the growing demand for sustainable development, specifically designed for the Build-to-Rent (BTR) sector. This surge will enable the future proofing of broadband, Wi-Fi and smart building infrastructure, allowing operators the freedom to innovate well into the future, without wasting valuable space and energy along the way. As a result, disruptive innovation and sustainability are driven simultaneously.     

“Not only do traditional cabling systems waste space, but they also waste energy in a way that is simply impossible to justify,” said Sean Lowry, CTO at Glide Group. “These legacy cabling systems consume large amounts of electricity 24 hours a day, every day, requiring cooling equipment, monitoring equipment and network switches to function.”  

So what comes next?

Many sectors nationwide are already adopting a more ‘green’ way of running their businesses. Going green not only protects the environment but it is also more cost effective. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that improving energy efficiency can greatly contribute to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 40%. 

“Today’s economy is linear; companies dig up materials, transform them into a product and ship it to an end user who throws it away at the end of its life cycle,” commented Bedell-Pearce. “This way of working is no longer sustainable, and we now need companies to recycle and reuse the majority of critical raw materials (CRM) in order to protect the environment as well as helping to reduce costs.” 

However, that’s not to say that changes in sentiment, personal priorities, purchasing decisions, and more won’t matter. Businesses and industries need to make the move towards a more environmentally friendly energy production, distribution, and consumption, and there will be one thing they need to make and implement the best decisions possible: Data.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses now have a new outlook for the future, with working from home having a positive impact on the environment. “The average worker reduces their carbon footprint by approximately 1,800 pounds by working from home with fewer commute hours,” said Lowry. “With this in mind we are investing in smart fibre infrastructure to support the BTR sector which in turn supports employees to be flexible, efficient and more sustainable when working from home.”

We all have a part to play to ensure technology and digital transformation are at the heart of a sustainable future, and by making small changes, each industry is ensuring it is on track to embrace digital transformation both now and in the years to come.

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