White Paper: IoT & Sustainability: Practice, Policy, and Promise

by Oct 1, 2016Smart Cities

Gordon Feller

Gordon Feller founded Meeting of the Minds in order to harness the power of a global leadership network to build innovation-powered sustainable city futures. Gordon has worked for more than four decades at the intersection of global sustainability, government policy, and private investment focused on emerging technologies.


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By 2050 nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities.  The global challenges of natural resource and infrastructure management are immense: global temperatures are rising, water shortages are more frequent, and energy systems are overburdened.  The “Internet of Things” (IoT)- physical objects embedded with software, sensors, and network connectivity- are poised to play a key role in enabling resilient and equitable management of urban environments. 

This summer, UC Berkeley’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), partnering with Microsoft, recently released “IoT & Sustainability: Practice, Policy, and Promise,” a white paper which explored how new IoT technologies can improve sustainability in cities.  

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IoT & Sustainability: Practice, Policy, and Promise

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The paper focuses on three key sectors: water, energy, and transportation- and surveyed the landscape of IoT tools to improve sustainability in each of these areas, as well as bringing together existing examples and case studies.  It discussed a wide range of technologies that can make cities not only smarter, but more sustainable, showing how IoT can provide real-time data collection on the availability and use of energy and water resources, facilitating more informed resource conservation, and can streamline data collection on traffic patterns and parking availability, decreasing gas consumption and CO2 emissions.

The paper not only illustrated the potential sustainability benefits of IoT, but also addressed the challenges inherent in IoT implementation.  The paper also includes recommendations to city-level officials seeking to employ IoT technologies, encouraging a holistic perspective based on public-private engagement, the cultivation of public-private-academic partnerships for mutually beneficial outcomes, and the balancing of concerns privacy, security, and interoperability with trust, reliability, and transparency.  It also highlighted the continuing relevance of issues of access and equality in insuring outcomes that are both sustainable and just.

The paper was accompanied by a public symposium held at UC Berkeley, which brought together leaders from industry, academic, and government to discuss the promise of IoT for enhancing sustainability in the urban environment.  The event can be viewed at http://bit.ly/289wkDL.

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