What are the major principles of green design for IoT?
How should we be thinking about designing IoT systems that live up to their potential as “greener” technologies? After all, says IoT standards organization OneM2M, mobile and IoT technologies have some of the greatest potential for helping organizations meet their sustainability goals, through the combination of remote connectivity, low-power and low-cost devices and the use of IoT data. But the use of mobile or IoT doesn’t inherently make a solution greener over its lifetime; effort has to be put in at the planning and design stage of both IoT products, and IoT projects and solutions. A white paper from oneM2M (pdf), published in late 2021, gives a run-down of the primary considerations, which carry over broadly into both product and project design.
First, on a macro-level: Think horizontally instead of vertically. There are plenty of IoT solutions available that promise a rapidly deployable, end-to-end solution for a specific problem. But oneM2M warns against approaching IoT applications in isolation: If those solutions end up as one-offs that don’t, or can’t, integrate with existing or future systems, they may ultimately end up being a waste and needing to be replaced. This is particularly relevant for smart city ecosystems, where assets may be designed to last 50 years or more.
The problem with quick-to-market, single-purpose solutions is that, as OneM2M concludes, “With the passing of time, they demand significant new investment in redesign and system integration efforts to avoid becoming ‘orphan’ or silo investments.” That’s a waste of money, effort and resources. So IoT project design and planning needs to not only consider the problem at hand – say, smart parking or dynamic street lighting – but how common platforms, infrastructure and even individual devices could be re-used as applications and use cases expand over time.
The second broad recommendation is to actually implement the available standards features that exist specifically with greener goals in mind. Sleep mode configurations established by 3GPP for IoT are one such option; OneM2M has an API for interworking with 3GPP networks that translates 3GPP data structures to allow IoT developers to define sleep schedules on the basis of application requirements. Network management features also come into play: Can device schedules be coordinated for optimal times to send and receive data, taking efficiency into account? In addition, OneM2M says, remote management and standards-based upgradability improves the longevity of IoT devices, enabling a long service life and the ability to re-purpose devices with backwards-compatible software, rather than abandon “things” that have become obsolete.
On a more granular level, the IoT standards organization recommends four principals for developers and service providers for sustainable IoT design. These are:
–Interoperability, from interchangeable components to cross-silo data exchange capabilities.
–Scalability, to leverage economics of scale from a base of multiple suppliers.
-Modularity in system and software design, so that new capabilities can be introduced to legacy systems and prolong their useful life.
–The ‘re-use’ principle, which aims to create “solutions and sub-systems that other developers can employ to save time and improve their productivity.” In other words, a platform approach that provides service functions in common and expands the usability and potential applications that can be served.
Standardization often serves bakes in most of these principles and has a “magnifying” impact on them, the group said.
“If … IoT capabilities are to achieve widespread impact, participants in the IoT ecosystem and neighboring sectors need to focus on long-lasting and scalable deployment,” the group said. “This begins with investments in IoT systems that promote reusability and resource-sharing across multiple applications and users. … As the sustainability flywheel gains momentum over the coming years, organizations need to adjust their strategies away from legacy approaches toward sustainable and circular economy approaches.”