What is IoT and how can it lead to improved energy saving behaviours?

IoT, or Internet of Things, can seem like a baffling concept that needs a computer science degree to wrap your head around. Most people are just coming around to the idea of everything and anything being ‘smart’, and some still cannot confidently explain simply what the ‘cloud’ actually is. You may feel as though you are at capacity with all the tech jargon and cannot reasonably add another concept to the ever-growing pile but take a couple of minutes (and a few deep breaths) and let us give you the whistle-stop tour. We will also give valuable insight into how IoT can help you improve energy saving behaviours in your organisation.

What is IoT then?

For clarities sake before we go into the finer details, we will start with the T, or Things. A thing in the context of IoT can refer to any wearable technology, source of data or machine. Examples can include your Fitbit or Apple Watch, a smart meter or even an aircraft. All these items, regardless of size, can be made to communicate or become ‘smart’.

Okay, so now we have that straight we can move on to the broader definition. You might be reading this blog post on your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, correct? Regardless of device type it is connected to the internet. Connecting to the internet has progressed in the past two decades beyond a benefit and has moved into necessity. What the Internet of Things is trying to achieve is take everything in the world, yes everything, and connect it all to the internet. It is human nature to want simple and straightforward definitions, and this is where the confusion arises with IoT, it’s so broad and loosely defined. It can be hard to nail down the concept when there are so many examples and possibilities in IoT.

Why does it matter?

When a phone is connected to the internet it makes it easier to send and receive information. This ability to send and receive information is what makes a device smart, and as technology advancements are happening so rapidly, the smarter something is the better. If your phone is connected to the internet, via Wi-Fi or a cellular network, you can watch any video you want from any corner of the world. That’s not because these videos are stored on your phone, they are stored in the cloud, but your phone can request a video and receive information to stream it.

IoT means we can connect more objects to gain a deeper insight into environments that are currently beyond the reach of the internet. By doing so, IoT helps businesses and people to be more connected to the world around them and to do more meaningful, higher-level work.

What does IoT have to do with Energy?

So how can IoT help your organisation be more sustainable and save money while you’re at it?

If you’ve flicked on the news, scrolled through Facebook, or even just had a conversation with co-worker recently, there’s a chance the topic of energy came up. We aren’t here to add to the chaos and fearmonger with phrases like ‘energy crisis’, ‘prices soaring’, and ‘supply chain disruption’. Instead, we want to tell you that the energy sector is going through a transformation, and while solar, wind, storage and other technologies are all doing their part, IoT is helping drive this transformation, and here’s how:

  • Remote Asset Monitoring

Affixing IoT sensors to generation, transmission and distribution equipment can enable companies to monitor it remotely. These sensors monitor usage and energy outputs, and with the cost of sensors falling dramatically in recent years, it has become much more commercially viable for companies to adopt IoT. With sensors across your site, you can make decisions at a more granular level – for example, selecting which individual assets you can afford to turn down during peak periods.

  • Better Information

IoT technology can help customers to be more informed about their energy usage. Internet-connected smart meters collect usage data and send it to both utilities and customers remotely. Thanks to smart meter technology, many energy companies now send their customers detailed reports about their energy usage. Customers can also install IoT devices across their commercial estates that measure the power consumed by each appliance and device. They can use this information to identify waste and especially power-hungry appliances to save on their energy bills.

  • A More Distributed Grid

The rise in popularity of more renewable energy sources has seen both residential and commercial properties adopt a wide range of energy sources to reduce energy spend and contribute to sustainability efforts. We have seen a rise in the number of solar panels on roofs, and with some even building small wind turbines on their properties. This increasingly distributed power system represents a major change for energy companies. In addition to managing a few large generators, they must also now manage a growing number of small generation resources located across the grid. While this is a challenge, IoT and smart grid technology is helping to enable this distributed energy transformation. A smart grid uses IoT technology to detect changes in electricity supply and demand. It can react to these changes autonomously or provide operators with the information they need to manage demand more precisely.

How can IoT Improve Energy Saving Behaviours in My Organisation?

Okay so now you know what IoT is (mostly), and you know how it can relate to energy, but how can you implement it in a way that it improves individuals’ energy saving behaviours within your organisation? Well lucky for you we’ve done the research.

We have found that the lack of direct consequence means that employees are less likely to turn of a light, monitor air conditioning unit or time the start-up of machinery than they would be at home. They are not responsible for the cost and, being part of a large organisation, they fail to see how their actions can make a difference. This can vary based on industry. Looking at healthcare and educational settings, employees will go out of their way but mostly for the comfort of those in their care. In busy public facing sectors such as retail, hospitality, and food and beverage the good intentions are there but energy saving behaviours fall far down the list when other tasks start to pile up.

Our Research

Our research collected data from over 1,600 employees and we found two main motivations for taking on energy saving behaviours at work. One motivation was from those employees who were already concerned with climate change. They are more likely to take energy saving actions as they feel experience a sense of guilt when they do not act in a way that positively affects the environment. The second motivating factor was from those employees who are more engaged in and dedicated to their work. Their energy saving behaviours were driven by their want to do the right thing for the company and finding satisfaction in doing so. This gives us a better understanding in how to frame energy saving messages to employees.

Looking at how to integrate IoT with energy saving behaviours in the workplace, we can learn from the rollout of smart metering in homes. These smart meters have had a mixed reaction from the public, with arguments for centring around better visibility and more accurate billing. These arguments have been countered with talks of privacy concerns and mistrust of energy suppliers. As companies start to roll out IoT solutions we would expect to see similar reactions from employees as we have seen from the public. This is where one of the key benefits of the Mindsett product comes into play, we understand the importance of proving an energy solution that is not only easy use, but also provides actionable and trustworthy data.

Going back to smart meters in the home, the best results in terms of behaviour change have come from meters that relate energy consumption to the two main motivators of cost and climate. At Mindsett, or research and experience all pint to these two motivators being equally important in driving workplace behaviours.

Do you want to know more about IoT and how it can be used to change energy saving behaviours in your organisation, and contribute to it’s net zero journey? Download our whitepaper compiled in conjunction with the University of Essex here.

Want to know more about our product and create more visibility around energy consumption and billing data? Contact us here: info@mindsett.co.uk.