Reusing and repurposing products, extending their useful life and thus reducing the demands we make on our environment, is key to something called the Circular Economy. That’s crucial to the role of digitalization in the battle against climate change, because digitalization supports the circular economy…helps make it work.
How does digitalization help? It helps trace the materials used in a product and allows us to reintroduce it into the supply chain in a different product. Soon, there will be a digital fingerprint in almost every product. It’ll be like a passport that lays out the ingredients and the manufacturing process for a product. All garments will have it. The technology in buildings will have it, so that when you take a building apart you’ll be able to tell exactly what, say, the window frames are made of and thus be able to reuse it more efficiently.
Digital projects for circular economy climate solutions
In 2021, the European Investment Bank, which is owned by the European Union, backed a Swedish company called Renewcell. The company developed a process for turning old clothes into new cloth by making a pulp from the old clothes ad pressing them into new cotton sheets. By 2025, this is going to be very important, because of new regulations that mean clothes will have to be recycled just the way you already recycle paper and plastic.
Other companies are developing technologies to turn old clothes into construction materials, for example.
Digitalisation also has a role to play in fighting climate change through artificial intelligence. AI is often seen as pretty scary. But listen to these innovations that I’m going to tell you about, before you judge.
One of my favourite old projects—which the European Investment Bank signed in 2019—uses artificial intelligence to reduce food waste. It’s a company called Winnow, which is British and Romanian. In restaurant kitchens, it helps the cook understand how much food they discard every day, puts a value on it and, thus, gives an incentive to stop wasting it. In your time, it’s already being used in restaurants, on cruise ships and at Ikea stores. Soon enough, you’ll have something like it in your home.
Circular economy climate solutions with Internet of Things
Your home will also been hooked into the Internet of Things. That refers to something that’s just around the corner for you in 2022. Devices and appliances that connect over the Internet and exchange data, plugging you into other networks. It means you’ll control your heating appliances remotely through an app, so you can turn on your heating in time to make your home warm when you arrive there, rather than heating an empty house. You’ll have sensors that turn off your heat when a window is open.
Appliances will be connected to energy networks. For example, heaters can be sent signals to charge and store heat for later or to switch on and off depending on when it makes sense for the electricity grid. This will manage peak demand and make full use of renewable energy.
When one house does this, it’s okay. But when all homes are connected to a big network, the scale of the savings can have a huge impact on emissions.
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