I’ve been learning a lot about ‘The Internet of Things’ recently. Sounds like something that I’d hear about in an episode of Tomorrow’s World. Remember that? I loved that show…
Actually, The Internet of Things–in a nutshell–is the technology (electronics, sensors, software and networks) that allows machines to talk to each other. Which still sounds like the future, but is actually real. Right now, your technology can talk with each other. I mean, my laptop and my mobile phone seamlessly integrate via the cloud, and I think nothing of it. I wonder what Tomorrow’s World would make of that?
But what’s really fascinated me is the possibilities of the Internet of Things when it comes to environmental gains on a really big scale. Think of street lights with sensors that can detect movement meaning that lights can go off when there’s no-one around to need them. Agricultural technologies that know whether watering is needed or not. Resources that are allocated against need, big scale community and environmental data sharing and projects that could really be a force for good. No wonder people and companies alike are excited about the potential in ‘the fourth industrial revolution’.
But how does that translate into what’s happening now? What about ways The Internet of Things will be of benefit to you on an individual level? Well, the people at Nest have made a smoke and Co2 alarm that connects to your mobile phone. They’ve also developed a thermostat that can be controlled by your phone or tablet, that automatically turns off when there’s no-one at home. Hive, from British Gas, works in a similar way. There are other similar tools out there and it won’t be long before we see more technologies emerging across our other home electrical goods helping us to do everything from reduce our household carbon footprint by collecting data about out hot water usage to telling us when we’re running out of food in the fridge.
Away from the Internet of Things, but still technology-led, there are already lots of mobile phone apps and websites that can help you ‘green’ your home and your life. Most of them are really useful but also very serious. I like a bit of playfulness to encourage people to improve their environmental behaviours. Optimism is important, I think.
One of my favourite eco-apps is Eco Action Trumps, and not just for the giggles that name gives me. Based on the Top Trumps game, this is a fun way of being accountable for taking environmental actions and beating other players. I even get the kids involved in this one, as the actions start at levels like basic recycling and turning lights off. There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition to stop the house looking like the Blackpool Illuminations…
Another useful and not too serious app is Love Food, Hate Waste, from the project of the same name which will help you to reduce your food waste at home by managing your food planning and shopping. It’s got a handy list of recipes by ingredient to help you use up those leftovers too. Being greener by reducing food waste is a great way to get started with reducing your environmental impacts at home.
Another site Ive just discovered is Ecosphere. This is a community web-based network and another playful way of helping you set green intentions–and then, with the help of the community there–carry them out. There’s a section especially devoted to ‘home’, which includes ideas from recycling to adding solar panels. There are a whole range of things you can do to green your home right now, from changing your lightbulbs to much bigger projects like adding solar panels that will have a really positive impact on your environmental footprint – and help you win those eco-games!
As I make my plans to move in the next year, I’ll be looking at what I can do in my new home to make it as environmentally friendly, within my budget, as I can. Pleasingly, many of the things that will help me cut my environmental impact will also help cut my household bills. I call that a win-win situation.
But right now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play Eco Action Trumps…
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