How companies can utilise tech for good to help save the planet

By Marga Hoek

How companies can utilise tech for good to help save the planetAround the globe, companies – from conglomerates to start ups – are transforming to become more sustainable.

This is not only good for the planet, but good for business. Through the Coronavirus crash, we’ve seen sustainable businesses outperform their non-sustainable counterparts.

One of they key ways businesses can make this transition is by leveraging the power of technology. So what are the key technologies to watch out for and how can businesses utilise them?

Robotics

Robotics technology is revolutionising business models across industries – from healthcare to manufacturing – and is on the precipice of enabling economic growth on a global scale. While the primary goal for industries and companies has been utilising robots to improve processes and become more efficient and profitable, it’s also becoming more evident that robotics will be a key way to drive sustainability.

The Growbot, a tree planting robot created by SkyGrow, demonstrates how robots can help in the fight against climate change. It can plant trees 10 times faster than a human, thus reducing labour by around 40% and slashing the cost per tree by roughly half. SkyGrow plans to manufacture 4,500 Growbots to help recover forests around the globe.

Robotics has also proven critical in the recycling of waste from all sectors. Recycling robots have the potential to make approximately 2,000 correct material picks per hour in comparison with humans, who can make about 800 picks per hour. These are just two examples of the myriad ways robots can help us shift towards a circular economy. Watch this space!

AI and Data

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data have the potential to be catalysts in the global effort to address challenging social and environmental issues. Artificially intelligent machines are able to sift through and interpret massive amounts of data from various sources. The technology’s capability to create new insight, to learn and to automate tasks at scale can transform industries and business operations. For instance, AI's capability to analyse high-resolution images from satellites, drones and medical scans have the potential to benefit responses to challenges such as humanitarian emergencies, agricultural scarcity and climate change.[1]

The forest monitoring project Global Forest Watch[2] and the technology non-profit Rainforest Connection[3] are great examples of this. They use machine learning to identify factors that contribute to forest losses in the Congo and the Amazon.

VR and AR

Virtual reality (VR – a completely digital environment) and augmented reality (AR – where digital images are superimposed on the real world) are on the brink of being developed to be the next computing platform.[4] Augmented and virtual reality will influence the lives of millions of people. Most people's experiences of VR and AR today are likely to be in gaming and entertainment. But the development of enterprise extended reality (XR) solutions is overtaking this. In 2020, 65% of AR companies are working on industrial applications, while just 37% working on consumer products and software.[5]

The technology can be used to help build a more sustainable future. For example, Climaure is a project that aims to sensitize people towards climate change, thus triggering sustainable behaviours and providing people with ways to address environmental degradation. It plans to deploy augmented reality installations in public spaces with a high population density. The interactive installation will create a futuristic view, based on open source data available on climate change. It aims to promote a stronger sense of shared ownership towards the local environment in users, through personalized visualizations. The platform has the potential to predict the effects of climate change for the next 20 to 100 years.[6]

In the healthcare sector, Life-Saving Instruction for Emergences (LIFE) is a VR medical training platform developed by doctors, nurses and researchers at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) in Kenya and at Oxford University. Officially launched in November 2019, LIFE allows healthcare workers to practice life-saving skills via a realistic 3D virtual hospital using the Vive Focus mobile headset.

Businesses must adapt and thrive or deny and die. 2020 will be the decade of sustainability. Technology is improving and costs and lowering – meaning it will become easier for business, whatever their size and wherever they are, to transition to more sustainable models. And the good news is that business for good is good business.

Marga Hoek About the author

Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business, international speaker and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, in hardback and e-book. For more information go to www.margahoek.com

 

 


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