Why connected technology is key for sustainability

Why connected technology is key for sustainability

Data analytics, AI and the cloud can help organisations to boost productivity and slash emissions 

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Today, sustainability equals longevity – both for the planet and for businesses. Working to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis is rapidly emerging as the most critical issue at the boardroom table.  

Amid increasingly extreme weather events, rising global temperatures and climbing carbon emissions, around 97 per cent of business leaders polled in a survey for the Deloitte 2022 CxO Sustainability Report said their companies are already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change.  

In addition, nine in 10 companies expect to accelerate their sustainability activities over the coming year in order to tackle climate change, according to the Approaching The Age of Performance survey, which was commissioned by AVEVA. Four in five leading industries want to increase their digital investments to drive sustainable business models, demonstrating the immense potential of advanced technologies – such as smart data, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing – to lower carbon industrial operations and expedite the move to net zero. 

Taking a data-centric approach to optimisation could be the first step. We are witnessing the accelerated sustainability development of enterprises that take a data-led approach to innovation. They are sharing information throughout their partnerships and supply chains to enable smoother operations, more efficient processing and, ultimately, save carbon and reduce energy use.  

To achieve sustainability effectively, organisations need to gather relevant, timely data into a single digital thread that connects their engineering and design with their operations and supply chain. These unified data streams can then spark insights and push industries to use resources responsibly, unlocking value and simultaneously driving sustainability benefits. 

Vertical leaders have already embraced industrial automation as a route to increasing productivity. Customised industrial AI empowers these organisations by providing sector-specific support and unified intelligence. When leveraged in the cloud, these systems are operable remotely, anytime and anywhere. They collect greater amounts of data about operational systems, and workers can leverage this information to make faster and more effective decisions.  

For example, AVEVA solutions helped Schneider Electric’s (SE) 62-year-old factory in Lexington, Kentucky, become recognised by the World Economic Forum as an Advanced Global Lighthouse for sustainable digital manufacturing. SE wanted to simplify its application infrastructure and help customers such as power providers and manufacturers optimise energy performance using the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Power Advisor application. To achieve its goal, SE migrated Power Advisor to Microsoft Azure and reconfigured it for multi-tenancy. The results? Simplified scaling, enhanced velocity, lower costs and happier customers – all because the heavy lifting is now offloaded to Azure. 

At Lexington, SE also deployed AVEVA Insight to visualise inventory data. The cloud-based solution was extremely simple to install and intuitive to use; its templated report formats ensured teams could implement consolidated dashboards within minutes of training. Today, SE’s EcoStruxure solution is key to the site’s digital energy management strategy. It has driven 26 per cent savings in energy spend for North America alone and $6 million in energy savings over the first few years.  

Gartner has shown that for companies operating across different geographies, cloud-based data-sharing improves integration of working teams and drives the decision-making that helps minimise carbon use, increase profit and ensure agility. 

A case in point is the City of Salem in Oregon. After harmful green algae bloomed in a water reservoir, the city turned to AVEVA’s cloud-based data platform, which is known as AVEVA Data Hub. By unifying data on past algae behaviour, the team was able to predict future algae blooms and put in place measures that ensure the city’s drinking water remains safe for residents. The technology allows the City of Salem to aggregate various sources of data about algae levels, water depth, weather, water turbidity, satellite imagery and lab samples from multiple disparate organisations into one central hub. The authorities then use this aggregated information and combine it with physics-based, AI-infused models to forecast harmful algae blooms and cyanotoxin activity, so the city can take preventive action.  

Industrial frontrunners are now looking to go one step further by sharing data – securely but agnostically – across their entire industrial ecosystem. Expanding connected networks to suppliers, partners and peers can drive exponential growth for all players across the value chain, while also helping to cut waste in materials and energy, leading towards decarbonisation.  

A fitting example is US renewable power provider Dominion Energy. The team there gathers and shares data from across its North American grid network using AVEVA Data Hub and Microsoft Azure. While the primary driver for unifying the data was initially to manage renewables intermittency and ensure efficient operations, the cloud-based approach has allowed Dominion’s team to turn power grid data into a new source of revenue. 

Dominion’s energy source and performance data lets its customers track their power sources individually and provides a data trail that proves each company is using energy from low-carbon sources. This, in turn, enables Dominion’s customers to provide proof of their own net-zero commitments to investors and environmental, social and governance auditors.  

As a result, Dominion is now able to share the data at a price with customers, who see significant value in receiving real-time updates that can validate their own net-zero performance. For Dominion, this new source of revenue is also helping to accelerate the low carbon energy transition in North America. 

Most sustainability challenges, like addressing the climate crisis and realising the Paris Agreement, are inherently complex. They demand collective action, new technology and scalable solutions to make progress. AVEVA’s solutions can be applied in partnership with strategic allies like Microsoft to address such challenges for the industries we serve.  

Together, we are well-positioned to help increase energy efficiency, minimise noxious emissions and optimise the effective use of valuable natural resources to advance sustainable development across a diverse range of industry sectors. By providing real-time energy data and supporting improved operational efficiency, industrial technology leaders have the potential to help thousands of customers to cut their energy consumption and co-create a cleaner world.  

Lisa Wee is vice president of sustainability at AVEVA 

This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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