With the Paris Summit on the Environment, it is clear  that the world is undergoing a dramatic transformation – nations are developing, urban density is increasing and the age of information technology is transforming the way societies, businesses and governments live, work and build. These global transformations have significant implications on the global infrastructure developments and patterns, as well as altering the way local businesses and communities operate.

The summit has revealed that globalization is also changing the way we think about the environment. Leaders across public and private sectors are now recognizing that transitioning to a green economy is vital in order to remain competitive in an increasingly globalized world.  In many ways, protecting the environment and promoting economic growth are complementary goals; and with the help of technology, both can be achieved to build better future and smart communities.

President Obama has made it clear that there is an increasing role for technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across many sectors of the global economy as communities of all sizes, around the world, are improving their infrastructure and enhancing quality of life. This is being done with smarter, more intelligent tools enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT, which is about the connecting of devices and intelligent utilization of data, and which results in smarter, more efficient communities, and reduces carbon footprints.

Technology trends project that by 2020, more than 50 billion devices worldwide will be connected. Data generated by these objects can give entities greater insight into the health and performance of their operations by providing visibility of exactly what is going on and where. One of the greatest areas that can benefit from IoT is in energy efficiency and demand management. 

Energy management systems are part of the global movement to digitization and automation – indicating that intelligence can be used to improve productivity and energy efficiency.  As a result, communities can be more competitive while minimizing their environmental impacts.  There are real world projects being implemented today in Indiana, such as the energy efficiency pilot project at the Hammond School District.

The Hammond School District has partnered with Cisco Energy Management to implement an IoT enabled energy management system; to see what energy consuming devices are being used and where inefficiencies can be improved. This allows them to reduce energy consumption by up-to 35% by gaining visibility into their building energy consumption and adjusting settings in the system to automatically power down devices at specified times.

With Cisco, the Hammond School District is reducing its carbon footprint while reaching an annual savings of approximately $31,500. Additionally, the school district is able to recoup rebate money from NIPSCO’s customer incentive program, expecting to show an average savings of 147,000 kilowatt-hours and receiving a $10,500 incentive check.

The Paris Summit is important to Indiana as the state sees significant economic and environmental benefits resulting from technology enabled efficiency initiatives in built environments that have huge implications for global development trends. As the world becomes increasingly connected, and as Indiana is a vital part of that connection, the technologies and processes we rely on also become increasingly intertwined.

Lauren Riga is an international energy and sustainability analyst. She currently serves as assistant administrator of redevelopment for the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development.

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