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IoT in Sustainability and Circular Economy

How will the IoT support sustainability and a circular economy? Perhaps we might want to first ask ourselves are these all just buzzwords in a long list of words? Or are businesses, governments, and citizens truly stepping up and making significant commitments to use technology to change their wasteful behaviors? Before we can answer these questions, we might need to properly define these terms.

Sustainability is about finding ways to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. With that in mind, we should note that depending on who you ask, everyone has their own perspective about the world and how they perceive it differently from others. In the enterprise, sustainability programs and strategies direct businesses in these directions.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is considered an authority, so let’s work off its definition to explain it. The circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design, in contrast to the “take-make-waste” linear model.

In a circular economy, economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. A circular economy is sustainable, because resources are used and reused and reused again. There are three principles as part of a circular economy: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Consider the first principle (designing out waste and pollution), which removes negative impacts of economic activity, such as the release of greenhouse gases and other types of pollution.

In a circular economy, we’re keeping products and materials in use. It’s a circular track instead of a one-way road to a landfill, basically. Reuse requires design that prioritizes durability and remanufacturing or recycling. By avoiding non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, a circular economy also helps regenerate natural systems by using renewable energy sources or returning nutrients back to where they came from after use.

This is very different from the more linear economic model we typically follow today, which is: use, discard, repeat, repeat, repeat.

In fact, gadgets and connected devices have been a huge culprit in undermining a more circular economy. Cellphones, for instance, use precious metals in their construction, but, for the most part, these devices aren’t recovered for future use. We all know that better, faster smartphones are always on the horizon. As consumers there is no question most of us will take the bait and replace our phones within the next couple of years whether our “old” phones are truly at the end of their lives or not.

Consider this: if the manufacturer of new devices is using non-renewable resources, and we’re not reusing these devices, but rather using them and discarding them, then how long will it be until the resources we need to build these devices are exhausted?

The resources themselves will be trapped in the discarded devices sitting in some landfill somewhere. They are not helpful to consumers anymore at that point. They are no longer supporting the economy. Based on the point discussed so far, it’s not a sustainable model at all to think that as an industry or consumers we can continue to use resources in devices without designing in the ability for reuse and/or recycling.

So how can the IoT (Internet of Things) help support a more circular economy? One way is by making products easier to maintain and repair. By adding intelligence to a product or device, the Internet of Things technologies can create an asset that can signal problems, determine when it needs to be repaired, and schedule its own maintenance.

This helps ensure that the product or device is kept in working condition for longer and needs to be replaced less frequently. Another way the IoT can contribute to a circular economy is by enabling a shared-use model.

To date, companies like Uber and Airbnb have exploded in popularity in the past decade, because temporarily using other people’s cars and holiday homes for a fee makes so much more sense in some cases than the alternatives.

This begs the question why can’t consumers and businesses start to think about all the things that are owned that are rarely used and have a shared-use scenario? Consider things like camping equipment you only use once a year? How about tools?

Automobiles have proven to be the biggest offender of the circular economy. Most of the time, our personal vehicles are just sitting there, taking up space. In order to manufacture those cars, we had to use resources, and those resources won’t get recycled back into the economy as long as your car is “in use,” which actually means just waiting around in parking lots and garages waiting to be driven.

And while most suburbanites fully appreciate the convenience of owning a personal vehicle, (I personally live in the suburbs myself), many families own vehicles, one can’t help but realize that this is a pretty flawed system overall. Perhaps that’s why the current generation doesn’t want to get a driver’s license at the age of 16, much like previous generations couldn’t wait to do. So today, there are plenty of car-share apps and companies out there to help address this conundrum.

But in terms of smaller items, like tools or gear or appliances, IoT sensors can turn a product into a sharable asset.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation provides a great example of a drill. Do we consume a drill or use it? Most people use it, of course. It’s a distinction that raises the question of owning things that we use versus things we consume.

If you only use a drill once a year to hang something on the wall, do you need to own it? How many fewer drills would the world need if everyone approached it this way?

So this begs the question, should more companies be providing trade-in programs and recycling programs to decrease the impact on the environment and allow used devices to return value back into to the economy?

This only leaves the question, how does all this fit into the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? In fact, if you look around you will see hundreds of companies actively seeking to meet the UN’s sustainability goals.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals include things like achieving clean energy, creating sustainable cities and communities, and pursuing responsible consumption and production as we have been talking about for months. This is all part of the same bigger sustainability picture.

A circular economy is one that uses clean energy and pursues responsible consumption and production to ultimately create a more sustainable earth. It’s all connected, in a world that’s highly connected, and very wasteful.

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Innovating during COVID-19: A Story of Collaboration

Connected World’s Peggy Smedley recently sat down for a webcast with Eddy Van Steyvoort, VP, business line automotive and on-road, IGW/VCST, which is a part of BMT Group, Kevin Wrenn, EVP, products, PTC, and Filip Bossuyt, CEO, Ad Ultima, for a discussion about innovating in a time of COVID-19, a story of collaboration.

Van Steyvoort shares the smart factory project, which started in 2017, in silos and realized quickly that it needed to think in an end-to-end scenario. He says it recognizes it had to change its systems, the organization, and its way of thinking to a more end-to-end focus to improve efficiency, reliability, quality, and the way it supports customers. The question became how does it change; and which tools to use? It decided to go to PTC and Ad Ultima to help support it.

“PTC’s PLM Software was known already in the BMT Group and that was a very, very, very strong asset and also a very strong signal from the beginning that we had already the relation, which was already there,” Van Steyvoort says. “We could build on that relation. That was the reason why we established a total plan as partners, and not let’s say as a customer supplier, but as partners,” he adds.

Then the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit. Van Steyvoort opines the automotive industry has been shook by coronavirus, but it didn’t want to stop the strong drive on the project and decided not to change the long-term strategy.

He insists it now knows what AR (augmented reality) is and what it can bring during COVID-19, explaining that it can support people locally from a global perspective to show them how to do things. This is one of the lessons learned during this time—that it needs to invest even more in augmented reality tools.

Ad Ultima’s Bossuyt adds it is helping VCST to think end-to-end and to realize its digital transformation. “Becoming digital is a challenge today because you have to do it end-to-end. You cannot do it for only a part of your business.”

Adding to the conversation, PTC’s Wrenn says PTC can help with openness. “We are open on multiple dimensions. Our technology is open. It enables people to do digital transformation, as Eddy was talking about, connections all the way from engineering, all the way to the factory floor, and even out to their customers. Wwe are also open from a partnership standpoint. Ad Ultima is a really important partner of PTC’s and likewise of VCST. So we are used to working in these environments both from a technology standpoint and a partnership standpoint.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, PTC’s first response was to reach out to its customers and partners to make sure they could work from home. Wrenn says the technology is made to work from home and not have to be physically on site to be able to operate the technology. “It was much more important for us to figure out how our customers could create business continuity, and at the same time we were doing it for ourselves.”

In all of this, each individual learned something very important. Van Steyvoort says it is important to create a very strong sense of urgency from the very start and keep communicating this through the whole organization that it is a future-based strategy. “Instead of focusing on the change, focus on the alternative of doing nothing, because doing nothing that means you will lose the game.” Also, don’t be afraid to express the hopes and fears.

Ad Ultima’s Bossuyt notes the most important thing is the power of the network and working together with different partners where there is a lot of trust and all the stakeholders are aligned, which has created very good results. PTC’s Wrenn adds the new normal after COVID-19 is it will make people think about the kind of projects because digitalization is going to be a requirement in the new normal.

Going forward, the next steps for VCST is to link the CAD (computer-aided design) information to the PLM (product lifecycle management), that it goes through visualization in ThingWorx, and that the whole picture will be a completely integrated solution for the future. As Van Steyvoort says, “The sky is the limit. The technology is not the limit anymore.”

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #IoT #sustainability #AI #5G #cloud #edge #digitaltransformation #machinelearning #futureofwork #PLM #CAD #AR

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Smart Home: On the Rise?

Amid the pandemic, many are wondering if the use of technology is going to continue to rise. In many instances, the answer is yes. Such is the case with smart homes.

A new report points to the importance of incorporating smart-home technology. LexisNexis Risk Solutions released an insurance claims study revealing that in-line water shutoff systems correlate with a decrease in water claims events by 96%.

The study measured the changes in the number and severity of water-related home insurance claims with the Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff device against an uninstalled control group of homes in the same geolocation one year before and after installation.

Here is what it found: Prior to installation, 2,306 Flow homes had an average claims severity far greater than the control group two years prior to the installation of the device. The study also found a corresponding 72% decrease in claims severity one year after installation of the device, indicating that smart water shutoff systems are working.

The key takeaway here is that water leak mitigation and the time and money saved could help drive adoption of these smart home devices, ultimately reducing loss costs, improving the customer experience, and more.

This is in line with other reports that the smart homes market, in general, is on the rise. Mordor Intelligence says the market was valued at $64.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $246.42 billion by 2025, a forecasted 25% growth rate, even amid a pandemic. The research shows there is a greater need for security and wireless controls. Further advancements in the IoT (Internet of Things) have resulted in price drops of sensors and processors, which are expected to fuel automation in the home.

While there is much to consider when it comes to smart-home technologies, research points to a continued rise in the years to come.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #IoT #sustainability #AI #5G #cloud #edge #futureofwork #infrastructure 

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April: IoT Connectivity Leads to Better Road Safety

As with any relatively new technology, there are risks to its use. Lynch says the first risk to consider is the privacy of individuals using connected vehicles, especially when it comes to location tracking. Another concern is the security of these systems. “Wireless communications opens a vehicle to the world,” he says. “If cybersecurity is not sufficiently robust, some bad people could access the vehicle and jeopardize its safety.”

According to Na Jiao, technology analyst at IDTechEx, self-driving technologies and connected and autonomous vehicles add another layer of vulnerability to cyberattacks. The concern is not only the vehicles themselves, but also the environment in which the vehicles operate. “The threats to autonomous cars can come through any system connected to the vehicle’s sensors, communication applications, processors, control systems, and external inputs from other cars, infrastructure, and mapping and GPS data systems,” she says.

Chris Greer, director of the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program, says by contributing greater and more accurate awareness to vehicles, technology can indeed produce a roadway environment that exhibits better driver and driverless vehicle decisions, but there is also risk. “The key to managing risk is to ensure that we’re able to measure those risks reliably and accurately,” Greer says.

As long as the industry considers risks and continuously looks for ways to mitigate these risks, it’s safe to assume connectivity will revolutionize road safety. It may even shift the transportation paradigm.

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Juggling Your “Agency” During COVID

Paul Napper, co-author, “The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, & Create a Life on Your Own Terms,” talks with Peggy and defines agency. He explains why it matters and how it is different. They also explore how having a higher agency will make you a better leader, how one increases their personal agency, and how agency is declining in the U.S.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. To hear the entire interview on The Peggy Smedley Show, visit, and select 4/29/2020 from the archives.

Peggy Smedley:

Paul, just before the show, you and I were talking about so many things. And I’m really delighted to have you on here. And one of the most important is getting us back into gear I think, emotionally, and prepared with just so much in life right now. I mean, not only do we have to think about what’s been going on around us with COVID-19 and everything else… but while we’ve got this time to be alone, we have time to read….And I guess my question to you is, when you were sitting and thinking about writing a book, did you sit down and think, maybe this is the time I can sit down and write a book, or is this time I want to read a book? What gets people right now? Should they be thinking about all these things that are overwhelming them? Or maybe just think about writing thoughts or reading a book. What do people want to think about right now? Their minds are filled with all kinds of things.

Paul Napper:

Yeah, it’s a great question. I think a lot of people right now are feeling overwhelmed at the scope of the current crisis. And this comes on the heels of a lot of folks feeling overwhelmed just by the increased pace of life, of American life. One of the things that got us to, my writing coauthor and I, to write this book was what we were observing in the people we work with. He works with children and families, as a psychologist. And I work with business leaders, as a psychologist. And we were both noticing that in our respective populations, people feeling a lot more overwhelmed by life. And that has a lot to do with the fact that things have sped up so much over the last 20 to 30 years. Now you add in the current crisis and it’s literally like out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The old cliché, but what does it entail, requires us to adapt. And so as human beings, we’re pretty adaptable beings, right? We have good brains and we’re always trying to find ways to adapt successfully to the environment that we’re in. Whatever environments we put ourselves in or find ourselves in. And what happened again over the last 20, 30 years, is because the environment has changed so quickly and so much that it’s produced a bit of a crisis in people’s ability, their capacity to adapt. Some people have been obviously adapting a bit better than others, but today, with the COVID crisis, we see more people, because of the acute nature of this crisis, struggling to adapt. How do I adapt? How do I learn what to do? How do I?

And so, this is an important area of interest for me and my coauthor. As psychologists, we think a lot about how humans adapt. And to your question on writing, what should people be doing? Ideally, right now people should be slowing down as much as they can, trying to keep their thoughts more in the present moment. Try not to project too far out into the future and worry about next month or the month after. Let’s think about this week, let’s think about today. It’s a good time to be reading and reflecting and just being quiet with yourself and whoever else in your life you’re hunkered down with. It’s a good time to kind of engage in more quiet animal analog type activities. Getting outdoors, moving around, walking, running, any of those kinds of things. Really restorative things that help us to adapt, to help kind of recharge our batteries so that we’re better able to learn and make adaptive changes to our behaviors.

And a lot of writers, back to your question again is, they keep journals. And I’m not a journal keeper personally, but many if not most people who want to write something, they keep journals. They don’t necessarily write in them every day, but they write some of their thoughts, some of their musings, some of their ideas. And that’s a nice thing for people to be doing right now, also. Just some way of capturing their thoughts because in the midst of a crisis, there’s always a bit of an opportunity. And that opportunity is to learn new skills, develop some new creative ways to live your life, creative ways to solve problems. There can be a silver lining in this, also. But I do think it requires people to try and not get so overwhelmed by it, by exposing themselves to just way too much stimulation. Get quiet with yourself, read, think, talk with people about it. And so that, that’s really what I would recommend people try to do right now.


You describe an agency, is that the personal side of things that people are? You’re describing what is an agency and why does it matter. Help us understand that because I think you want people to get better in what they do in both their own work, their work life, and in their home life?


Yeah, absolutely. Agency, I like to say to people is probably the most important thing you’ve never heard of, because most people don’t really know specifically what the word agency, meaning human agency, what it actually refers to. Most people when they hear the word agency think advertising agency or government agency. Agency has to do with our capacity as people to make choices, our capacity to use our faculties, our mental faculties, to make choices in our lives, and take our lives in a desired direction. It does have a lot to do with decision making, our capacity to make decisions and sure enough, one of the things we talk about in our book is for all of us, we really are, in many ways, the sum total of all the decisions we make over the course of our lifetimes.

Big decisions, small decisions. Obviously, bigger decisions are much more crucial. But one of the consequences of this sort of sped up lifestyle that I talked about a few minutes ago is that people are carrying around more anxiety and worry. And they’re experiencing more episodes of what they describe as is overwhelm. And this gets in the way of people being effective decision makers in their own lives. And so we wanted to write this book about what is it that’s within your own power to become better at handling your life, managing your life, making decisions for yourself, and trying to keep some of this overwhelm and anxiety at bay. A lot of people don’t realize that we actually have a silent epidemic of anxiety in the United States. 20% of Americans actually are diagnosed with a clinical anxiety disorder, at this point. It’s 20%.


I would bet you right now with COVID, it’s much higher right now. I’m just saying.


And yeah, you would probably be right. And so we are a very anxious nation. In fact, the World Health Organization, a couple of years back, did a ranking and ranked the United States as the most anxious nation on earth. This is a surprise to a lot of people, but we do have some issues here in our country that require us to focus on them, to find solutions. And we wanted to write this book for people to give them the power to have more agency, more personal agency that is, to help them build the capacity to make good choices for themselves, to create the lives they want to create for themselves.


So increasing, not to interrupt, I apologize, but to increasing that personal agency that you described is really important. If we think about what’s happening in the world around us today, that’s important to be able to calm down, in some ways. And yet, to be able to do what you need to do. …We’d say a high agency, what does that look like? Or where are we kind of in that scheme of things that you need to be, to be able to overcome this anxiety that you’re describing?


Yeah. Well, one way to think about it that can help is to think about anxiety and confidence as being in a seesaw relationship. If you have a higher level of agency in your life, meaning that you’re better, you feel a sense of confidence that you’re equipped to kind of handle what comes your way and to make good choices in your life. If you have that confidence, that in and of itself keeps the anxiety at bay. It’s impossible to be confident and anxious at the same time. There is a seesaw relationship between the two. When you start becoming much more anxious, your confidence level declines. We wrote this book and we decided to frame it, not as in clinical terms, as in we’ve got a big problem with worry and anxiety and it’s a clinical problem.

We decided to frame it in agency terms, which is that we have a crisis in agency, in human agency. People are feeling stuck, they’re feeling adrift, they’re feeling that something’s getting in their way from, from living the life they most want to live. And that’s agency. And when people do that, when they feel more confident in their ability to make these choices and take their lives in the desired direction, the anxiety is kept at bay. So, we thought rather than be another symptom management book about how do you manage anxiety symptoms, let’s get underneath this thing and talk about what’s really going on. And if people again, have more confidence to express themselves, to do what, in their lives, what matters most to them, and learn how to make better quality decisions, that’s what inoculates them from all this anxiety and overwhelm.

And so instead of, as you know, as you would expect, many people are simply go to the doctor, get medication. They manage the symptoms of anxiety and it works. Antianxiety medications actually lower anxiety. But in our view, for most people, it is not really addressing the core of the problems. That’s really kind of how we’re looking at it. And what we’re trying to give people is sort of teach them, how to develop more agency in their own lives. And your question about people with high levels of agency, what do they look like? Well, they have more confidence in general. They’re learners. They seek to learn. They work on their emotional and social awareness, and so they tend to work on having more emotional intelligence.

They also, interestingly enough, they control stimuli in their lives. They’re not followers of technology. They use technology, they don’t let technology use them. So that’s to say they don’t spend six hours a day on social media as a rule. They tend to be know more judicious consumers of digital information. And again, they use it rather than allowing it to use them. These high agency people, we studied them and we wrote the book, you know, but a lot of examples about how these people actually demonstrate and real life exhibit agency.

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COVID-19 Will Force Future Supply Chains to Become More Resilient

Late last year and early this year, research was coming out about the supply chain market, and it all looked relatively straightforward. For instance, last summer, Grand View Research predicted that one slice of the global supply-chain market, supply-chain analytics, would exceed $9.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 16.4% from 2019 to 2025. The top factor thought to restrict growth during this timeframe was concerns over data security. And while, at the time, this analysis was solid, it didn’t—and, in fact, couldn’t—take into account what was coming just around the bend.

In the U.S., and worldwide, a curveball in the form of COVID-19 is now complicating the supply-chain picture. In some cases, it’s shedding light on how disjointed supply chains really are. In other cases, it’s throwing into sharp relief how critical flexibility can be within the supply chain. What lessons will this pandemic force the supply chain industry to learn, and will technology play more, less, or roughly the same role in future supply chains as it did pre-COVID-19? What will it take to jumpstart supply chains post-COVID-19? These are some of the questions the industry will be asking for years to come as part of the extensive ripple effects the 2020 coronavirus pandemic will cause in the next decade and, possibly, beyond.

A supply chain is a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in supplying a product or service to a consumer. In industries like food and food service, the supply chain includes players as varied as the farmer who’s growing or producing the food products themselves to the transportation company that’s bringing things like milk and eggs to grocery stores and restaurants that ultimately cater to end users: consumers. Several trends during the past several years have been shifting how supply-chains operate, including an overall diversification of consumer preferences, consumer demand for traceability (especially in food and food-service supply chains), consumer and regulatory demand for sustainability in the production and transportation of all kinds of goods, and the use of technology to manage supply chain operations.

Since COVID-19 began to hit the U.S. hard in March, some supply chains were immediately and directly affected by the illness as workers became sick and were quarantined. Many more were affected as supply and demand began to shift in topsy-turvy ways as the economy underwent a major and swift transition. Restaurants and retail stores shut down, and consumers flooded grocery stores for essential items like canned goods and paper products. As businesses were forced to lay off workers, consumers closed their pocket books to entire categories of products and services.

The apocalyptic sense felt upon entering grocery stores with empty shelves left many wondering what was going on in the supply chain. While on the surface, it looked like food shortages, the problem really was and is with the supply chain. On one hand, demand from restaurants has plummeted, and on the other, consumers stockpiling food to avoid coming back to the store as often as usual (or, in worse-case scenarios, hoarding food), are throwing historic data and trends’ value out the window. And yet, technology will be key to both managing this rough spot and jumpstarting supply chains once economies begin to go back to “normal”—whatever the new normal will be.

Supply-chain players prepared to offer transparency, communication, and flexibility are best positioned to limit the disruption to operations during times like the current COVID-19 outbreak. Lessons learned during these hard times will hopefully encourage more supply chains to adopt practices and technologies that will make their link in the chain more resilient next time around.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #IoT #sustainability #AI #5G #cloud #edge #digitaltransformation #machinelearning #supplychain #foodservice #analytics #COVID19 #coronavirus #retail

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10 Tech Tips for Remote Collaboration

With everyone scrambling to collaborate remotely perhaps now more than ever we need to think about the way we work. So for this article, I thought it might be helpful to put together some practical advice that outlines the tips that can guide your business, and your teams, to prosper …

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5G and Cybersecurity Risk: Two Opposing Trends in Manufacturing

In just a few years, by 2023, the IoT (Internet of Things) in the manufacturing market is expected to reach $994 billion, according to Allied Market Research. Emerging technologies will encourage this growth, including in areas like AI (artificial intelligence), AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), and, importantly, 5G. However, cybersecurity …

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March: An Eye on Smart Manufacturing

Galem Kayo, product manager at Canonical, says 5G eliminates the need for cabling infrastructure in a factory. As a result, a new class of mobile production assets will be introduced and wirelessly connected to factory networks. “The result will be a transformation of factory internal logistics with autonomous mobile units …

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The Fight Against COVID-19 Is a War: Companies Adopting Military Principles to Defeat the Virus

War and conflict have been a ceaseless part of human history. The battle against the COVID-19 virus is an enemy no nation has ever met. COVID-19 never tires, COVID-19 ceaselessly attacks, and COVID-19 is a survivor. COVID-19 is an awesome enemy, but like all enemies in all wars, COVID-19 will …

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