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Digitalization, connectivity and analytics can help us to adapt

Digitalization, connectivity and analytics can help us to adapt

As recent environmental reports have made clear, the issue before us is stark – our atmosphere is “clogged with warming gases (and) is triggering increasingly severe climate impacts around the globe1”.  One of the key questions at the UN’s Climate Change Conference, COP 27, will be the critical role that we can all play in mitigating climate change. This issue cannot – and must not - be ignored. It is also important to spend time examining the role that we can play in adaptation – managing the effects of climate change that are already here and will continue to develop, even as we work towards a net zero world.

Changes in processes, practices, and structures

For the UN, adaptation refers to “changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change2.” Here we are seeing some progress, as “84 percent of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have established adaptation plans, strategies, laws and policies – up 5 per cent from the previous year3.”

Managing the complexity of this topic is not straightforward though. As the World Resources Institute have noted, “where mitigation has clear metrics in emissions levels, adaptation is context-specific, and metrics of progress are difficult to aggregate globally4”. It is therefore crucial that discussions progress on this important issue in Sharm El Sheikh, especially given that progress during COP 27 will “pave the way for the first Global Stocktake at COP28, which in 2023 will assess the global collective progress on mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation of the Paris Agreement5.”

At Nokia, sustainability is being embedded as a fundamental part of how we develop technology and make business decisions. The solutions we provide can help industries decarbonize and dematerialize, reducing waste, limiting the use of natural resources and driving the reuse of materials to combat climate change. Our solutions can also help restore failing productivity through digitalization of those industries – as well as society - and can bring more inclusive access to opportunity and basic social services.

Enhanced connectivity, digitalization and analytics can play a critical enabling role

We believe that enhanced connectivity, digitalization and analytics can play a critical enabling role as we adapt, giving us real-time insights and instant and consistent predictive capabilities. To take this one step further, effective large scale, low maintenance outdoor environmental sensing and monitoring solutions can play a key role in early detection, warning and prevention of natural disasters. Nokia is working with domain experts, and partner organizations to validate use cases and run real world proofs of concept for environmental monitoring. These solutions use solar powered universal multi-modal sensors with direct cloud connectivity via cellular IoT to remotely monitor outdoor environmental conditions. This is as well as providing customizable cloud analytics to help understand the environmental conditions, plus intuitive user interfaces with actionable insights in areas like forest fire identification and management.

If we are to minimize the economic, social and environmental impact of these events then there is a need for effective large scale, low maintenance real-time, outdoor environmental sensing and monitoring solutions for early detection, warning and prevention. We may not always be able to prevent disasters from happening, but we can deploy intelligent technologies to help early detection and prevent them from spiraling out of control.

More granular actionable insights

As the UN has noted “beyond doing everything we can to cut emissions and slow the pace of global warming, countries must also adapt to climate consequences so that they can protect their economies and their citizens. The fallout varies depending on location. It might mean the risk of more fires or floods, droughts, …  or sea-level rise6.” Let me take just one of those examples – drought - with enhanced connectivity, digitalization and analytics we can get more granular actionable insights as we tackle this challenge. Digitalization via Industrial IoT is enabling the development of smart water applications across the operations lifecycle including leakage control, pressure management, water efficiency, water re-use (grey water, rainwater and effluent), water conservation and demand management.

In Australia, the government describes drought as a part of the Australian landscape noting that it “will become more frequent, severe and longer lasting in many regions as the climate changes7”.  In these circumstances, how we prepare and adapt is critical. Australian water utility, “Water Group” for instance, has been able to undertake a massive smart meter rollout in Australia which allows for the fast detection of water leakage and proactive usage tracking by utilities & end users. Using this technology gives them better insights into how to marshal the water that they have. This is through more active leakage detection, continuous monitoring of consumption patterns, and accurate and cost-efficient meter readings.

The benefits of enhanced connectivity, digitalization and analytics are not just limited to water management, however. The ability to generate insights and act on them is one that can be applicable in other industries that are needing to adapt. Increasing the efficiency of our food production through smart agriculture for example could help us feed more people more sustainably as the climate introduces more uncertainty into farming with more extreme weather conditions. One element of that is precision farming - using technology such as wireless remote monitoring, private networks, digital sensors, and AI-based analytics to minimize dependence upon pesticide, fertilizer, and water usage.  And maximize yields.

Bell Labs Consulting predicts that if 25 percent of all farms adopted precision farming by 2030, it would lead to yield increases of up to 300 million tonnes per year and a reduction of wastewater by up to 150 billion cubic meters per year. In this instance, real-time, instant and constant predictive tools could play a critical role in adaptation in agriculture8. In conjunction with Nokia, Vodafone Idea has launched Smart Agriculture-as-a-Service to improve the livelihood of 50,000 farmers across 10 districts in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in India. More than 400 sensors have been deployed over 100,000 hectares of farmland to collect data for analysis by the solution’s cloud-based and localized smart agriculture app. Sensors include soil probes, weather stations, insect traps and crop cameras. Insights from the data will help farmers to improve yields, as well as reduce their impact on the environment9.

Collectively we need to accelerate

There are many use cases with real-world validation of the positive impact that enhanced connectivity, digitalization and analytics can provide, but we aren’t moving fast enough.  We need to accelerate and see innovations adopted at scale if we are to tackle these challenges as quickly as we need to. This means accelerating connectivity and digitalization, and working together across companies, industries, and governments to collaborate.

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1 COP27: Climate warnings highlight the urgent need for action ahead of summit | New Scientist 
2 What do adaptation to climate change and climate resilience mean? | UNFCCC

Nicole Robertson

About Nicole Robertson

Nicole is Vice President of Environment, Social & Governance (ESG) at Nokia. She has spent 20 years working in global ICT. She is passionate about sustainability and the role that ESG can play as a driver of value creation and positive impact.

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