The Internet of Environment: digitally twinning the planet
October 10, 2019
October 10, 2019
The Internet of Things is influencing our daily life, and it's only logical that the Internet of Environment will do the same thing
Data is being collected everywhere. The interconnection of computing and smart devices embedded in everyday objects, enables them to constantly send and receive data. The fourth industrial revolution through connecting the physical world to the digital is allowing reinvention of industry. Process improvements and increasing productivity, create customised solutions which ultimately provides a better client experience.
As Environmental Practitioners, we have a responsibility to embrace this fourth industrial revolution, and explore how these digital principles can be applied to gain an in-depth understanding of the interactions (natural and human) that impact the delicate ecosystem within which we live.
Whilst there is significant academic understanding of how the Earth’s ecosystems function, this largely remains based on traditional knowledge transfer protocols: learn, think, write, approve. It is a static understanding using the knowledge of ‘experts’; this has ultimately been the same for centuries, arguably since the Agricultural Revolution.
As an Environmental Consultant, I am all too conscious that we have not responded and moved the agenda forward. We need to change this governance structure in favour of a protocol that reflects the dynamism of the environments within which we live.
Running parallel to this dilemma is a solution.
Digital twinning is the mapping of a physical asset to a digital platform, using data from sensors on the physical asset to analyse its efficiency, condition and real-time status. Data collected by digital twins are predicting breakages before they happen and reporting them to human operators to save money and time during production. Before the faults occur, businesses can order parts from companies that source automation components, reducing the risk of downtime caused by broken machinery. Can we use the same approach to digitally twin our environmental ecosystems through establishing the Internet of Environment, to avoid a broken planet for future generations?
Technology exists through edge computing, connected devices, and geospatial data (satellites, aerial imagery) that replicate the natural environment in real-time; showing how it responds to natural and human interactions and influences. Automated and self-learning computational systems can draw on this immense digital resource, and can provide advocacy for our natural environment, through a far more integrated understanding of the interactions of the physical, natural and human parameters.
Here are five recommended actions to extract the value of the 4th Industrial Revolution, to preserve the precious environmental resources that civilisation depends upon:
The ability to digitally twin the natural environment and build the Internet of Environment exists now, and we need to be on the front foot. Ultimately collaboration between the environmental, computer science and finance sectors is required for it to happen effectively, and we need to speak a common language.
This Digital Wave cannot be stopped, so Environmental Practitioners need to learn to surf it.
Originally published by PBA, now Stantec.