Bigger Perspectives in IoT – Global CO2 Emission Targets

While I am focussed on our own business, I’m also interested in meta trends that are driving IoT uptake and the market, particularly when those trends will have an impact on our customers. I’m going to try and take a couple of hours to write up one of these ‘bigger perspectives’ into something useful occasionally(wish me luck finding the time).

My question of the day is; What impact will CO2 reduction targets have on global IoT deployments? Will targets shift the balance from retrofit in existing infrastructure to greenfields implementations? Will it advance or retard the pace of change?

In 2015 in Paris many governments signed up to ambitious targets to reduce CO2 emissions. Whatever your personal views on the science of climate change, and to whatever level the targets are met, this will likely remain an important driver in energy and industrial policy for many countries. Science magazine recently published an extensive article outlining what meeting those targets would really mean, a detailed read reveals just how central IoT will be to any efforts to try and get even close to these targets. In brief;

Reduce CO2 emissions for energy and industry, by 50% every decade to 2050, compounding.

That means almost no fossil fuel use in any industry in 20 years.
2. Reduce Agricultural emissions to zero by 2050.

While feeding nearly double the current global population, reduce carbon to zero. That will take massive improvements in the efficiency of agriculture while reducing energy and water use and switching fuel sources.
3. By 2050, extract more CO2 from the atmosphere annually than ALL the plants on the planet do today.

For that to be possible, a whole raft of new technologies need to be produced, deployed maintained and measured.
If the signatories to the Paris accord try and meet these targets we are looking at a green energy revolution coupled with a new agricultural revolution and the massive growth of carbon sequestering technologies. That likely represents the greatest level of industrial and infrastructural change in any thirty year period in human history. The level of change and investment required is staggering, and no area of human activity would be unchanged.

What is the likely role for IoT in this change?

For any of this change to be effective it has to be measured, so we can assume all of this will be backed by networks of sensors and generate massive quantities of data across multiple interconnected applications, and that’s a natural fit for IoT.

The major investment needed to execute these programs will offer opportunities for IoT technologies to quickly replace traditional approaches. In a greenfield situation and at scale, the low capital cost of IoT and IoT/SaaS solutions will become irresistibly attractive.


These forces of push and pull will create a massive demand for IoT solutions in all verticals where targets are an issue, and, that’s ALL verticals. Even if these targets aren’t met, whatever attempts are made to meet them may produce economically viable solutions of sufficient scale that incumbent technologies are effectively displaced. Large-scale greenfield opportunities will accelerate the decline of traditional industrial information systems and the massive scale of the change in use cases across industry will totally transform the way business systems are built and operated. I think something new is coming, a platform of platforms maybe, a new level of open integration driven by the necessity of mashing up data from so many different sources.


Regardless of what we think about climate science, CO2 Reduction targets will accelerate the pace of change and uptake of IoT because in jurisdictions that attempt to reach them, they will allow for the scaled development of innovative, cheap IoT systems that respond to the mashed up nature of the new industrial landscape. These forces will be disruptive to the planned vertical by vertical approach traditional vendors are currently trying to foster.

I cant wait to read this in 5 years and see how wrong I was…

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