The Promise Of The IoT: Go Green With Greater Efficiency

Alfred Becker

The Internet of Things (IoT) has garnered significant media attention – and for good reason. The potential of connected devices using real-time analysis to improve processes and procedures seems nearly limitless. By at least one estimation, only about 10% of a company’s data is effectively used. As the IoT and other data-based technologies mature, that number should rise dramatically. Businesses leveraging the IoT should reap enormous benefits.

Wastewater treatment is one modern example of IoT-inspired improvements. Wastewater, admittedly, is not the most exciting of topics. Yet the advances enabled by IoT technology are fascinating. Even better, they’re also great for the environment.

They also can result in significant cost savings for businesses, as they go green with greater efficiency.

Using IoT tech to predict pollution levels

Dealing with regulatory oversight is a key aspect of operating in the pulp, paper, and packaging industries. These companies create significant amounts of wastewater during the production process. They must then control the amount of pollution released into this discharge.

Meeting these requirements requires some form of predictive technology. Businesses must determine how much pollution will be created by any given production process. Historically, these predictions required some educated guesswork. These estimations often relied on prior experience. A “feel” for the process (essentially informed intuition) was also helpful.

Today the process of calibrating wastewater treatment levels is on firmer analytical ground. This is thanks, in part, to the IoT. Businesses can deploy sensors that report real-time data. This data concerns variables such as pH value, temperature, and flow. This information is then relayed to a platform (such as SAP HANA) where regression techniques are applied. The end result equals accurate predictions of midterm chemical oxygen demand (COD) values.

Based on these predictions, companies can make the necessary adjustments to ensure regulatory compliance. For example, if predicted pollution levels are too high, activated oxygen may be added to lower the levels. Or a business may choose to offload some production to another facility. Production schedules may also be adjusted as needed. Armed with accurate information, businesses can react as needed.

The benefits of an IoT-assisted approach

The kind of flexibility outlined above is highly beneficial for businesses. By incorporating accurate predictive data into their processes, companies can ensure they stay within regulatory dictates. This, in turn, lowers exposure to fines and penalties. By using IoT technology, companies protect against the possibility of a major pollution event. Should projected pollution levels be too high, alerts are immediately issued. Mitigating steps can then be taken.

Process costs can also be lowered. If a pulp or paper plant has access to highly accurate pollution predictions, the margin for error decreases. Without accurate predictions, plants may run lower than capacity in an effort to limit pollution, even if such measures are not warranted. Plants may also take corrective action (such as releasing activated oxygen) in cases where it is not necessary. By knowing precisely where the regulatory line is, businesses can operate at peak efficiency.

Additionally, deployment of IoT technology can lower costs. Engineering and inspection are areas where cost savings are likely to be noticeable.

Financial benefits are only one side of the coin. By accurately gauging pollution levels – and making necessary adjustments – businesses help promote a cleaner environment. The IoT can reduce financial liability and keep businesses in good environmental standing. That’s a true win/win outcome.

Finally, the benefits of using the IoT in a water management context extend far beyond pollution control. Cities across the globe are using the IoT to manage water supplies. IoT-assisted systems are fighting droughts by saving billions of gallons of water. This water would otherwise be lost to leakage.

When these conservation effects are combined with equally powerful environmental benefits, the future of IoT-assisted water management seems highly promising.

The takeaway

The Internet of Things is transforming processes worldwide. Wastewater treatment is no exception. By making predictions vastly more accurate, IoT technology helps plants save money, mitigate risk, and protect the environment.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading “The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies.” Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

Alfred Becker

About Alfred Becker

Alfred Becker is the global lead for Paper & Packaging Industry and Manufacturing within Mill Products Industries at SAP.