How Data’s Multi-Faceted Uses Can Help the Planet
Data collection happens on a cosmic scale. As many as 1.145 trillion megabits of data are collected every day. And while the computing power and energy use involved present their own environmental concerns, the transparency and insights generated from data have the potential to make a difference in global sustainability.
Data use is multi-faceted. This means it can be applied to all kinds of sustainable practices and resource innovations with the potential to revolutionize global business. With effective application strategies, everything from living conditions to environmental health can be improved.
But first, you have to understand how data use has transformed and how its multifaceted nature can help the planet.
The Data Revolution
Imagine information systems designed to perfectly mirror and monitor reality. Electronic sensors all connected on broad, 5G wireless networks work in tandem to create a real-time flow of data. Systems from manufacturing equipment to water supplies are observable, predictable, and interactive. The results are industries, businesses, and materials streamlined to be as energy-efficient and clean as possible, while being distributed to the people that need them most.
Although this idea may sound far-fetched, this is already the reality the data revolution is helping to bring about. Through Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and highly connected cloud information systems, we are creating opportunities for greater awareness and efficiency, all based on data.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are key players in this revolution. These technologies allow for the collection and analysis of vast sets of data. Then, AI algorithms can compare data models to reveal patterns and insights or seamlessly make informed decisions at a scale and speed that no human can match.
The potential of data analytics and its supportive tools is already being applied to help solve the global water crisis. With 844 million people suffering from restricted access to clean water, data tools and the experts who apply them are working towards solutions. For example, a team of scientists in India is working on an intelligent water supply network built with IoT technology to improve the distribution of water in water-scarce urban environments.
This digitization of the water supply shows just how valuable data can be in creating global welfare solutions. But the uses of data don’t stop with clean water. In fact, there is an unlimited number of ways in which multi-faceted data use can help the planet.
How Data Can Help the Planet
Data is a valuable resource. This is because data helps us make sense of reality while connecting individual metrics into patterns designed to tell a story.
This is essential when it comes to building sustainable business and individual practices to improve the health of the planet. Without the understanding that comes from data, change becomes nebulous guesswork with hard to gauge benefits. Fortunately, there are three key ways the multi-faceted uses of data make a cleaner planet possible.
Understanding our Impact
There is an urgent demand for sustainability practices among businesses as the impacts of climate change are felt across the world. Research has found a commitment to sustainability from a company leads to an improved public perception, as well as greater profit potential. But to achieve this, companies and consumers need to use data to understand environmental impacts.
Too many companies engage in greenwashing, the harmful process of marketing goods and services as sustainable when they are actually not. Data can solve these problems by holding companies accountable for their real impacts on the environment and giving such information to consumers.
By monitoring pollution, carbon emissions, water quality, and more, we’ll generate the insights needed to improve sustainability efforts across the board.
Monitoring the Situation
Maintaining insights into ongoing processes is vital for sustainability. No matter what scale this data is gathered at, objective information helps us understand where progress needs to be made.
For example, commercial water usage in the U.S. has averaged a 9% yearly increase since 2015, while water pollution costs have doubled. Tracking data like this is essential to understand how bad the situation is and how far we need to go to make real change.
By monitoring the situation with data, experts can then apply data-driven metrics to climate solutions. In turn, incentive programs can be offered to companies making a measurable difference.
Forecasting the Future
Finally, data use allows us to model what the future might look like. With the estimated devastation likely to occur through climate change, this predictive function of data analytics is vital. Researchers are already using the information to better understand the future.
For example, NASA has collected an estimated 32 petabytes of data to create climate projection models. These massively complex and highly accurate projections allow scientists to examine different scenarios and observe cause and effect. This helps to reverse-engineer solutions that might keep our planet safe and healthy.
With all the solutions available through data use, our planet and all its citizens can feel a bit safer. However, it will take comprehensive applications of data-driven solutions to make real change possible.
Improving Our Environment Through Understanding
Although climate change has been a prominent talking point for decades, we have not made as much progress as we might have. Renewable energy sources are widespread and are becoming more economical. Yet, we still struggle to implement them fast enough.
Data can help solve these problems by fostering understanding and communication. From showcasing the dire nature of the situation to modeling the effectiveness of solutions, data plays an important role in making environmental clean-up easier and more actionable.
With this in mind, it’s up to you to examine the data available for your business or the businesses you buy from to support cleaner industry. The more data we have, the better we can integrate and incentivize sustainable business processes geared to help the planet and make the world a better place to live.