December 2, 2018

Digitalization will unlock full value potential of cleantech

Tiia Katajamäki

Development Manager, Sustainability, Tieto

The fourth wave of industrialization on its way. By 2030, we will have connected another 2.5 billion people – and altogether 75% of the world’s population – to the “knowledge economy”. The number of connected things will sky rocket too. Conservative analyst from Gartner forecast that, in the next three years alone, the number of IoT devices in use will rise from 14 billion to 25 billion.

In short, the volume of data generated will be immense. At the same time, cities, companies and consumers have ever growing needs colliding with resource scarcity. From a cleantech perspective, the data generated, creates tremendous business potential. Cleantech products and services improve operational performance and productivity while reducing costs, usage of energy, end-waste or material resources.  Data will be the fuel for accelerating new sustainable innovations even further.

Smarter, Circular Societies

Roughly 80% of the planet’s energy and resources are consumed in the cities. Cities have a key role to play in responding to tightening environmental regulation as well as creating sustainable solutions together with companies and consumers. However, technical means solve only half of the problem. Steering the efforts with analyzed data and biggest positive impact is also needed. Digitalization will change the business logic in several sectors and create new, resource efficient practices. As an example, healthcare, logistics, energy and building sector are all going through extensive transformation where leaner processes and new ways of working are crucial.

Digital service paths, better predictability and prioritization, shared platforms can all enable sustainability.  The ICT sector alone has been estimated to enable the decrease of all global emissions by 20% due 2030. Further on, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that circular economy and intelligent asset management will redefine the concepts of maintenance, materials tracking, logistics chains as well as energy storing. Shared, recycled resources and lifecycle management approach will change the role of citizen and companies thoroughly.

What is needed for change?

Better predictability and measurable, reliable and analyzed data are needed to ensure we harness the scarce resources of society and businesses in a way that positively impacts economic, environmental and social development. 

There are already multiple individual cleantech pilot projects and testbeds underway in Nordic cities and around the globe. Digital, shared platforms and open data are in the pipeline, and the development on 5G networks will speed up the progress even further. However, there still would be some additional steps we need to take. Some prioritized actions we should engage to:

i) True ecosystem thinking: from local, service or company based to industry wide networks and clusters to enable sustainable innovations

ii) Helicopter view on data management: application programming and open data interfaces are often required, but many times the overall ICT infrastructure is not supporting it – or it has been totally ignored  

iii) Impact approach: instead of performance, what is the overall impact of the actions? What kind of data do we need to analyze, combine and follow up?

The ICT sector, businesses and sustainability professionals need to start a different dialogue. We can even start today. You can ask yourself, am I working with the right partners, with relevant actions that are measurable and preferable making a real positive impact on the society?

Read also how digitalization is a key part of solutions in addressing climate change. 

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