IoT: energy guzzler or sustainability-multiplier?

01 December 2023

By Dr. Philipp Schulte, CEO of G+D Mobile Security

By Dr. Philipp Schulte, CEO of G+D Mobile Security

IT’s hunger for energy is a pressing issue in these environmentally conscious times. Data centres are just as much in the spotlight as the booming Internet of Things. Conversely, IoT can also make an important contribution to improving sustainability.

The age of massive IoT has arrived. There are many reasons for this, including the simplified hardware design of IoT devices, global network connectivity, high security standards and centralized, digital management of devices, which eliminates the need for manual onboarding.

The implementation scenarios for IoT solutions are therefore almost unlimited. They range from connected vehicles, smart grids and smart buildings to complex smart city applications. These IoT dynamics have implications for environmental and climate protection. It is clear that the increasing number of IoT devices has a negative impact on CO2 emissions. At the same time, IoT can also have a positive impact on sustainability.

More sustainability thanks to IoT
As public attitudes and policies change, companies have started incorporating ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) and SGD (Sustainable Development Goals) criteria into their corporate strategies. IoT solutions provide valuable support, for example by monitoring and analyzing the carbon footprint of individual industrial activities. Most importantly, the massive IoT infrastructure itself must become more sustainable. For example, IoT devices such as sensors and tracking systems in logistics or production facilities typically use embedded eSIMs rather than traditional SIM cards to ensure connectivity. They do not use plastic frames and are typically managed centrally. This eliminates packaging waste and transportation costs. A study conducted by Fraunhofer IZM for G+D confirms the environmental friendliness of eSIM solutions (1). The life cycle assessment shows that the eSIM emits 46 percent less CO2 than SIM cards.

The next evolutionary step is the iSIM, or iUICC (integrated universal integrated circuit card). This eliminates the SIM-specific hardware component and runs the SIM operating system in its own secure environment on the baseband controller. Overall, the iSIM is significantly smaller and more power-efficient than previous SIM generations. It has been commercially available on the market since 2021 and will initially co-exist with eSIM technology: eSIMs for broadband IoT, iSIMs for secure connectivity in narrowband IoT and LTE-M applications. Over time, however, iSIM will become the standard.

Environmental protection, sustainability and resource conservation have become key business objectives. The IoT industry has an important role to play. On the one hand, it must make IoT devices more efficient, with iSIM technology leading the way. On the other hand, the IoT can also drive societal change towards sustainability through digital metering of energy consumption, implementation of disruptive applications such as intelligent traffic management systems, or in the larger dimensions of a smart city. The IoT therefore has a key role to play in shaping a greener and more efficient future.