The Impact of IoT on Sustainable Development

The Internet of Things (IoT) is currently trending with its ever expanding eco-system of digital sensors, appliances and wearable smart devices. Like other sectors, the role of IoT in sustainable development and environment protection will be crucial in the coming years.

Environmental degradation is occurring all over the world. Land degradation, deforestation and desertification pose a growing threat to food security and water availability. Widespread loss of biological diversity is undermining the productive capacity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This reduces access to essential environmental goods and services, including vital ecological processes such as water purification, nutrient cycling, control of pollution and soil erosion. Environmental degradation exacerbates the frequency and impact of droughts, floods, forest fires and other natural hazards.

Let us explore how IoT is making a positive impact on sustainable development across different sectors.


1. Water Management

IoT enables understanding of changes in water quality of a particular reservoir. The connection of different sensors and monitoring systems help in providing the water level and flood warnings as well as foresee other disasters such as earthquakes and potential landslides in prone areas, assisting the civilians and authorities to take drastic action on such issues.

2. Agriculture

Smart and adaptive irrigation and agriculture systems in which the soil water content and nutrients are continuously tracked and appropriate actions are taken on the reported deficiency or damage are also gaining huge popularity among the farming communities.

3. Wildlife

IoT also allow real time detection of animals. In case of any disease outbreaks, it will be useful for control, survey and prevention of such scenarios.  For this, the livestock would be fitted with special chips (RFID) and readers would for placed in the designated monitoring spots.

Applications like eBird helps the scientists in keeping tracks of birds as well as their habits and migration patterns. Systems that triggers alert on uncontrolled deforestation and potential wildfires can also help the respective authorities to protect and maintain the forests and its inhabitants.

4. Marine Organisms

Overfishing and over- exploitation of aquatic diversity is endangering high-value species like salmon and cod. ThisFish, an internet tracking network in association with local bodies help to trace back the fish to the fisherman who caught it and the location through GPS readings and toll data. In this way bad fishing behaviors can be detected and stopped.

FishPal provides reports on the type and quantity of fishes caught on a daily and monthly that can be checked by the fisheries department and also informs suspicious fishing activities.

5. Buildings

Those who dismissed smart home technology as unrealistic playthings for lazy youngsters are increasingly finding it hard to resist the charms of IoT-powered smart home devices. These devices will become hugely popular in the coming years as they become highly intuitive and innovative, extending to not just home automation comfort but also home security and the safety of your family. That is the kind of home sustainability that will keep the power consumption in check and make optimal use of renewable energy.

Even smart workplaces with Green Design are contributing highly towards energy conservation. With maximum use of daylight, rainwater capture, smart cooling and ventilation systems, solar power etc ensure maximum efficiency in power use and full utilization to renewable sources.

6. Waste Management

One of the major issues faced in the urban areas is the inefficient waste management. Improper disposal of waste can cause various health hazards and affect the surrounding air and water. The machine-to-machine or machine-to-man (M2M) systems can be established for a much intelligent division and disposal of waste. The trash cans or the dumpsters can have built-in sensors to measure the amount of trash. Once the trash is full, the signal transceiver sends a message to the central command centre via internet or satellite with the GPS location and the IP address.

Use of such Industrial IoT solutions and devices for waste management helps in determining the best time to collect the wastes and figuring out better routes for the collection trucks handling the potential waste build up scenario in cities.

IoT-based waste management systems are getting traction worldwide

Such smart waste management systems can also help in identifying the different types of waste, such as domestic or commercial, and dividing them based on their degrading ability and processes. This would help in proper disposal for all kind of waste causing less environmental issues and keep track of the ever-growing issue of e-waste management.

7. Wastewater

SeWatch, a wastewater and sewerage wireless monitoring system provides a system-wide reporting solution for combined sewer overflow and sanitary sewer overflow discharge or overflow. Water level sensors for sewer system manholes relay information to an application running on a PC or server which alerts on computer screen or via SMS about manhole overflow and spill-over.

A Shining Example

China has come up with a “Sensing China” strategy. It is an environmental protection and overall industrial pollution control system featuring real-time data perception, resource concentration and sharing, system integration as well as effective supervision and decision-making that established to improve the environment and prevent environmental accidents.

The specific tasks include intelligent sensors and automatic monitoring devices, wireless monitoring for pollution treatment, water quality data monitoring, air monitoring system, and regional ecological monitoring.


Connected devices promise to be the major drivers of change within the coming few years. With higher demands for this technology from both public and private sector for better energy distribution, accurate business forecasts, the fruits of Green IT and an answer to many of the environment challenges faced by the region, the overall production gains is expected to shoot up.

Of course, new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, will emerge making IoT more intuitive and user friendly, but largely, manufacturers will have to work harder at securing their connected devices as the risk to data will also increase. Amid all of these trends and predictions, the future ahead is definitely a promising one and certainly worth looking forward to.

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About Sarath Muraleedharan

Sarath Muraleedharan is an Electronics and Communication Engineer graduate and IT professional from Kerala, India. He completed his primary and high school education in Qatar and graduated from Amrita School of Engineering, Tamil Nadu (India). Sarath has worked in Cognizant for 4 years and have been a part of many environment related activities and initiatives at workplace and college like e-waste disposal, tree plantation and hygiene. He has also been actively involved in school and college projects on environment and sustainable development themes like waste recycling, mariculture, global warming and innovative agricultural technologies.

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