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How Industry 4.0 is Ushering in a Sustainable Era

Industry 4.0

Cutting carbon emissions and pollution is only one side of sustainability – although they tend to get the most attention. Sustainability is really about development and growth in an eco-friendly and socially equitable manner. Thanks to smart technologies from the fourth industrial revolution – or Industry 4.0 – sectors like construction and manufacturing can now truly enter a sustainable era.

Sustainability is the core business strategy for the future, as highlighted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They include fostering areas like low-impact industrialization, energy-efficient buildings, and smart manufacturing. That’s where Industry 4.0 comes in, combining physical operations and production with digital technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

World Economic Forum, Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2018, New York

But to ensure a sustainable future, businesses and organizations need to take action now before environmental conditions worsen. The good news is that some researchers estimate that Industry 4.0 tech could reduce emissions by up to 15 percent by 2030. Here’s a deeper dive into how Industry 4.0 is in use today to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Industry 4.0 and Sustainable Development

Industry 4.0 doesn’t necessarily refer to a specific set of technologies – although things like cloud computing, IoT, and machine learning are undoubtedly critical parts of the equation. These technologies illustrate the primary aim of Industry 4.0, which is merging physical processes with digital connectivity. A sustainable smart building, for instance, might have connected IoT sensors that self-regulate energy usage based on real-time demand and use.

Another hallmark of Industry 4.0 is data and data analytics. Connected devices, equipment, and users are constantly generating data. Big data tools like AI, machine learning, and real-time data processing allow organizations to increase productivity further, optimize processes, and enhance growth. In the context of sustainable development, this can mean operating factories run more leanly, more energy-efficient, and with fewer carbon emissions as a result.

Connected Eco-friendly Construction

Industry 4.0

The applications of Industry 4.0 in construction range from design to ongoing management. Architects now use tools like building information modeling (BIM) software to optimize buildings for sustainability. They can design industrial and commercial buildings with elements like eco-friendly bacteria that repair structures organically. Sustainable design and architecture can now be conducted with Industry 4.0 technology in mind.

Once erected, heating and cooling systems can self-regulate for energy efficiency in real-time. If people exit a room, sensors and IoT devices will tell the environmental control systems to turn off the lights and air conditioning. Industry 4.0 is a sustainable construction game-changer because smart buildings can operate in an eco-friendly manner.

Ultimately, Industry 4.0 tech might enable buildings to be entirely closed-loop for resource usage, energy consumption, and overall sustainability. The wastewater might automatically be filtered and recycled. And AI systems will continuously analyze data to make real-time adjustments for more sustainable energy usage.

Sustainable Smart Manufacturing

Industry 4.0

In a way, the manufacturing sector already approaches things with a sustainability mindset. Maximizing output – while minimizing waste – is critical to success and profitability. And with more organizations re-orienting their manufacturing processes to be more green or comply with regulations, Industry 4.0 is becoming standard in tomorrow’s smart factory.

Industry 4.0 in manufacturing also extends to the supply chain, where smart vehicles can transmit data to a cloud server for analysis. An AI system can then determine which routes or modes of transport have the least environmental impact. And Industry 4.0 environmental controls in factories go well beyond heating and cooling. Smart filtration sensors might detect a rise in certain chemicals or pollutants and take measures automatically to protect the health and well-being of factory workers.

With Industry 4.0, business growth and environmental sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Industries like manufacturing and construction are, in many ways, the backbone of the global economy. And business leaders need to look no further than technologies like connected factory equipment, AI-enabled energy systems, and industrial IoT devices to help those industries growing strong, smart, and sustainably.

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