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How IoT, AI, and Digital Twins are helping achieve sustainability goals

Azure IoT can help transform businesses to be more efficient, manage renewable energy production, reduce waste, or accelerate the development and launch of sustainably oriented apps. A range of end-to-end solutions from our partners addresses sustainability in a variety of ways.


Organizations striving to improve their sustainability can make progress toward those goals by using the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI technology that monitors and analyzes their use of resources and resulting emissions. However, businesses adopting IoT for other reasons often improve their sustainability as a side benefit as well.

Nearly three-fourths of IoT adopters with near-term sustainability goals view IoT solutions as “very important” for reaching those goals. The combination of sensor devices, edge and cloud computing, and AI and machine learning can provide data and analytical insights into how resources are being used, where leaks or faults are occurring and affecting consumption, and where efficiency can be improved. Additionally, Digital Twins technology can create digital models of real-world equipment, buildings, or even smart cities for more detailed insights into how they can be run more sustainably.

Our recently published e-book, “Improving sustainability and smarter resource use with IoT technology” goes further in-depth on the following insights and case studies about IoT and AI solutions and sustainability.

How digital technology can aid sustainability efforts

With greater awareness of climate change and increasing regulation around activities related to emissions and resource usage, sustainability efforts are becoming an urgent priority at many organizations. Microsoft has established transparent goals and tracking of its progress toward carbon-neutral operations and offers a software solution to help others record and report their environmental impact.

We’re also using Microsoft Azure IoT platform tools, to help power solutions in the following sustainability categories:

  • Efficient energy production and distribution: Digital tools are being applied to help electricity production plants—a significant source of air emissions—operate as efficiently and cleanly as possible. Utilities are using IoT solutions to monitor and manage electricity transmission and distribution grids to achieve maximum efficiency, route additional power as demand fluctuates, and detect outages faster. They’re also helping to remotely control renewable energy facilities such as wind farms. Our customer smartPulse offers a solution designed to manage electricity distribution and trading to give utilities the ability to manage imbalances in a financially favorable way.
  • Creating smarter, carbon-neutral buildings: The construction and operation of buildings create 38 percent of total energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide around the world, creating an enormous opportunity for smart building solutions to make a notable impact on the carbon footprint of buildings. IoT technology, Digital Twins modeling, and AI have proven especially useful in managing buildings by automating lighting and climate-control systems, as well as modeling the environmental effects of any design or operational changes. Vasakronan, a global leader in sustainability, has adopted IoT and Azure Digital Twins solutions for its commercial and office properties across Sweden, leading to notable energy cost savings.
  • Improving public infrastructure: Updating infrastructure with IoT technology can make it more sustainable and create other livability improvements, such as increasing safety and reducing excess light pollution. The city of Valencia in Spain saw this when city officials launched a public lighting upgrade. The project included replacing lighting in a national park, where too much light can disrupt wildlife and plants. Light solution provider Schréder and Codit, a cloud integration solutions provider, teamed to upgrade more than 100,000 lighting fixtures and tie in Azure IoT technologies. The city reduced its electricity consumption, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent and saving millions of euros annually.
  • Agriculture and food production: Data-gathering and analytical technology informs decisions that lead to better environmental practices involving planting, watering, and pesticide use. Computer Vision can detect when weeds or pests are threatening a growing area. Related technology is contributing to the development of more automation at a time when farm labor shortages are becoming more common. The N.C. State Plant Sciences Initiative, for example, is using faster and more efficient data management to tackle agriculture’s biggest challenges, with the aim of creating better predictive food analytics, increasing food safety, and making more productive crops.

Improving business performance at the same time

Beyond the benefits of reducing consumption of natural resources and reining in emissions, sustainability efforts can generate business value. Forty percent of survey respondents in a recent survey said they expect their company’s sustainability programs to generate modest or significant value in the next five years. That value primarily comes from saving energy costs, cutting back on needed materials, and improving operational efficiency.

Get started with sustainable IoT solutions

By combining sustainability goals with innovative solutions, businesses and people can limit their everyday impact on the planet’s resources. Azure IoT can help transform businesses to be more efficient, manage renewable energy production, reduce waste, or accelerate the development and launch of sustainably oriented apps. A range of end-to-end solutions from our ecosystem of partners addresses sustainability in a variety of ways as well.

Learn more from our e-book, “Improving sustainability and smarter resource use with IoT technology,” or discover how Azure IoT can help your organization adopt IoT, AI, and related technologies.

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