Discover the impact of IoT on circular economy

The world is slowly beginning to realize that we need to be more careful with our scare resources. While raw materials will soon be depleted and the world is forced to keep up with our consumption drive, there is more waste and unuseable materials. It’s about time we’d start getting serious about sustainable circular economy.

The advantages of a circular economy
In a circular economy, materials and resources are reused at the beginning of the same process after a production process. This substantially reduces both production costs and waste. It also promotes recycling in general, and contributes to a better image for a company.

An obvious application of IoT is already quickly visible: if such a circular production model is connected to the internet, it can be monitored what happens to every material that is used during every phase of the process.

Troughout the process, data is collected and transmitted to a central computer, so that it is precisely clear where improvements or adjustments are required to keep the process as efficient as possible. Because of this high efficiency, the costs are also drastically reduced and output is increased.

Sustainability
An important way to achieve a circular production process is through sustainability. In this process, steps are adjusted or modified in order to last longer.

This can be realized by connecting the production equipment to the internet. This allows the performance and efficiency of the device concerned to be constantly monitored. As soon as the performance changes or the efficiency decreases considerably, preventive maintenance can be scheduled to get the device back in perfect condition. This prelongs its lifespan and reduces the risk of sudden defects.

This also makes the maintenance process much more efficient. Spare part scan be ordered in time, so that they are available when necessary. The maintenance crew can be scheduled more effectively, especially if emergencies such as sudden defects are reduced. In this way, there are more efforts done towards making the equipment more sustainable, rather than just maintaining it.

Reusage: the sharing economy
A shed, a sanding machine, a chainsaw or a pump. Almost everyone has bought such equipment, because they are not very expensive, but are handy to have at home, ‘just in case’. The average time for which it is used during its life cycle, is a maximum of a few hours.

What a waste! Thanks to IoT, such device scan be connected to the internet and included in an app like Uber. Owners can register their devices and record a small amount per use?

Reclycling
In addition, there is the recycling element. Certain items that are normally seen as waste at the end of a production or consumption process can now be reused. This is the perfect definition of the circular production process. Waste is converted into a raw material or an object that is needed again in the process.

Internet of Things can contribute to this. An example of this are trash cans equipped with sensors. These can measure the quality of every material that is thrown in and the exact amount of it. This way it can already be sorted out for what purposes it can be used. In addition, it can make the recycling process more efficient, for example by only sending garbage trucks when a bin is already full, while optimizing the route of a single garbage truck and reduce time and emissions.

Another application is that of automatically replacing harmful or easily recyclable parts. Again something that works with connecting a (final) product with the internet. But now it doesn’t tell you when a related product is finished, but a a part.

For example a battery. Suppose your laptop is connected to the internet, which signals that the battery needs to be replaced. It can send an automatic message to the manufacturer to pick up your old battery and replace it with a new one. This way you prevent consumers from discarding certain products which are easy to recycle.

Bibliography
Heida, M. (2018, September 6). Blog. Opgehaald van Internet of Things Nederland: https://internetofthingsnederland.nl/de-impact-van-iot-op-de-circulaire-economie/