Smart sensor networks technologies and applications for green growth
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04-02-2010, 10:57 AM

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Sensors and sensor networks have an important impact in meeting environmental challenges. Sensor applications in multiple fields such as smart power grids, smart buildings and smart industrial process control significantly contribute to more efficient use of resources and thus a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other sources of pollution. This report gives an overview of sensor technology and fields of application of sensors and sensor networks. It discusses in detail selected fields of application that have high potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reviews studies quantifying the environmental impact. The review of the studies assessing the impact of sensor technology in reducing greenhouse gas emissions reveals that the technology has a high potential to contribute to a reduction of emissions across various fields of application. Whereas studies clearly estimate an overall strong positive effect in smart grids, smart buildings, smart industrial applications as well as precision agriculture and farming, results for the field of smart transportation are mixed due to rebound effects. In particular intelligent transport systems render transport more efficient, faster and cheaper. As a consequence, demand for transportation and thus the consumption of resources both increase which can lead to an overall negative effect. This illustrates the crucial role governments have to enhance positive environmental effects. Increased efficiency should be paralleled with demand-side management to internalise environmental costs. Further, minimum standards in the fields of smart buildings and smart grids in regard to energy efficiency can significantly reduce electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, this report also highlights that applications of sensor technology are still at an early stage of development. Government programmes demonstrating and promoting the use of sensor technology as well as the development of open standards could contribute to fully tap the potential of the technology to mitigate climate change.

Sensor technology for green growth

Environmental degradation and global warming are among the major global challenges facing us. These challenges include improving the efficient use of energy as well as climate change. ICTs and the Internet play a vital role in both, being part of the problem (they consume energy and are a source of pollution) and have the potential to provide important solutions to it (ICT applications in other sectors have major potential to improve environmental performance). Various examples illustrate the role of ICTs as a provider of solutions to environmental challenges: Smart grids and smart power systems in the energy sector can have major impacts on improving energy distribution and optimising energy usage (Adam and Wintersteller, 2008). Smart housing can contribute to major reductions of energy use in hundreds of millions of buildings. Smart transportation systems are a powerful way of organising traffic more efficiently and reducing CO2 emissions. All these applications have one important attribute in common: They all rely on sensor technology and often on sensor networks.

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