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Close the freezer, turn off the heating: net zero as a target

How the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and digital sovereignty are helping to save energy and accelerate the achievement of Net Zero

February 07 2024Moritz Nowitzki

Do not consume energy unnecessarily

What do refrigerated shelves in supermarkets, office air conditioning systems, and industrial machinery have in common? They can all use IoT technology based sensors to detect unnecessary energy consumption. They notice if the doors of the refrigerated shelf are left open. Motion detectors determine whether someone is in the office and regulate the air conditioning accordingly. Within industries, IoT sensors indicate at an early stage that machines are continuing to run even though the product line has been completed, hence bringing to light the errors in the supply chain and enabling energy efficiency.

IoT projects promote sustainability

Examples show that the Internet of Things (IoT) enable many sustainable application scenarios. The data collected through networked sensors and IoT devices can be clearly displayed and analyzed using dashboards in the cloud. In turn, companies can use the results to make their processes more energy-efficient in the future. This follows the motto that companies can only improve what they measure.

Energy efficiency and sustainability are currently very popular in all sectors because regulatory requirements such as the EU Green Deal, the EU's Net Zero Industry Act or the Paris Agreement require companies and public organizations to act in a more climate-friendly manner with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions and thus curbing climate change.

The goal: stopping global climate change

In addition to legislations, more and more consumers see the environmental impact of their decisions. This has given rise to an acute need for action in terms of accelerating sustainability and environmental consciousness, and a demand for more climate-friendly products and solutions. According to a survey by PwC1, sustainability criteria and net-zero strategy are increasingly being factored into purchasing decisions: just over 40 percent of European consumers prefer products with less packaging. Nearly as many (42 percent) avoid plastic wherever possible and a third choose products whose origin can be traced transparently. The 2022 Global Sustainability Study by Simon-Kucher & Partners2 confirms this trend. According to the survey, more than a third (37%) of respondents worldwide are also prepared to pay more for sustainable and environmentally conscious goods and services.

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Reducing emissions with the public cloud

But how can companies themselves become more sustainable and at the same time make their products and services greener and carbon neutral? IT and the related platforms such as the IoT based platforms play an important role in this. Achieving the required net-zero standards help companies and enterprises to operate more sustainably. According to a recent study by IDC3, 24 percent of those surveyed consider the move away from an outdated IT infrastructure to be an important step because sustainable initiatives or strategies often cannot even be implemented with legacy IT due to technical reasons. In contrast, companies achieve their goals with a modern IT infrastructure that is designed to reduce the carbon footprint and be sustainable from the outset, the study continues. For 45 percent of those surveyed, the public cloud is the method of choice for successfully implementing their environmental initiatives and optimized measures. This is because the cloud is often more sustainable than pure on-premise deployment models or assets, thanks to virtualization, scaling effects, and better capacity utilization, within enterprises.

Secure handling of critical data

Irrespective of the industry in which the public cloud or the IoT solutions mentioned at the beginning are used, when data is collected, the question of its criticality always arises. If IoT technology based sensors only collect device data such as the temperature of refrigerated display cases, this is completely uncritical. However, if the IoT sensors capture video images of customers in the retail sector or if sensitive information about a company can be derived from production data in the industry – keyword industrial espionage – it becomes clear that such data is critical and must be stored and processed securely.

Until now, companies that were not allowed to transfer their applications and data to a public cloud for compliance reasons were unable to benefit from the advantages of the cloud – such as flexibility, scalability, and innovation potential. Thanks to a sovereign cloud such as the T-Systems Sovereign Cloud powered by Google Cloud, companies retain full sovereignty over their data, applications, and infrastructure operations.

Solutions for net zero in retail

The following example shows what digital sovereignty can achieve in practice. The food industry in particular consumes a lot of energy and generates emissions. The areas for fresh fruit and vegetables have to be air-conditioned non-stop, as do the refrigerated and freezer shelves – in the store, warehouse, and logistics. This results in a substantial rise in the carbon footprint and has a significant environmental impact. There is a lot of potential here to increase energy-efficiency and reduce energy costs. To enable the net zero strategy, retailers can use intelligent energy management in their stores. Software measures CO2 consumption around the clock and provides a transparent picture of emissions, allowing them to be controlled better and ideally avoided. Integrated weather modeling and forecasting tools also enable the optimal use of renewable energies and more efficient operation. To ensure that retailers retain control and sovereignty over sensitive store and business data, the software is used on a highly secure platform in the sovereign cloud.

Sustainability in the automotive industry

Another example can be found in the automotive industry. Here, the data generated along the entire value chain can not only be processed securely in a sovereign cloud, but also shared with all parties involved. These include steel manufacturers for engine parts, the many suppliers of individual vehicle components, but also car dealers, authorized workshops, and, last but not least, the drivers themselves. Thanks to digital sovereignty, the data can be evaluated and used to improve processes in a secure and compliant manner. This also works in favor of sustainability strategies that are directed towards minimal energy consumption. At every step in the value chain, the origin of raw materials used can be traced in a transparent and optimized manner and CO2 emissions can be documented and reduced in a targeted way.

About the author
Moritz Nowitzki

Moritz Nowitzki

Head of Portfoliomanagement & Strategy, T-Systems International GmbH

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1 Global Consumer Insights Survey, PwC, 2019, Germany
2 Global Sustainability Study, Simon-Kucher & Partners, 2023, USA
3 IT & Sustainability in Germany 2023, IDC, 2023, Germany

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