4 ways environmental technology is saving the planet

By Jonathan Crowl

As carbon emissions and resource consumption rise around the world, there is a greater need for environmental protection than ever before. Protection is being pursued on a variety of fronts, and the emerging field of environmental technology is no exception.

Mobile solutions are proving capable of addressing a wide range of problems that continue to undercut efforts to protect and preserve the environment, including carbon emission, species extinction and deforestation. While plenty of innovation remains on the horizon, here are four ways environmental technologies are already making a positive impact:

1. Self-driving cars and fleet management solutions

Carbon fuel emissions from automobiles are one of the leading contributors to rising global carbon levels. While many see alternative and all-electric vehicles as the future of automobiles, the use of smart technology in vehicles will also have an impact on curbing carbon contributions from the world’s vehicles.

Fuel consumption will be lowered through self-driving cars equipped with smart fuel economy technology. Meanwhile, fleet management solutions can better coordinate commercial vehicles to reduce the transit time and fuel consumption for a company’s vehicles. Businesses will be able to save money on fuel by encouraging adoption of these solutions over the next few years.

2. Improved awareness through environmental technology

Growing awareness of endangered and rare species offers multiple benefits to the environment. This awareness is an asset when attempting to advocate for endangered species and habitats, and increased attention can improve our collective understanding of these animals, making it easier to enact protective measures that preserve their well-being.

This desire to empower the average citizen with environmental education is why IBM partnered with The Australia Museum to gather data about Australia’s native frog species. The FrogID mobile app allows users to collect pictures, sounds and other information about frogs that may not be discovered by scientists. According to Reuters, Australian scientists believe there may be dozens of undiscovered frog species on the continent in addition to the 240 known species.

Since Australia’s frog species are considered particularly vulnerable to climate change, the presence of frogs in an environment is indicative of that habitat’s health. By studying frogs, scientists can help track environmental changes and protect the frogs’ native habitats.

3. Using IoT to build predictive anti-poaching practices

For certain endangered species, such as African rhino, poaching is one of the greatest threats to survival. In the last decade alone, poachers have been responsible for the slaughter of more than 7,000 African rhinos. Anti-poaching efforts are beginning to get a big boost from the use of data analytics. Researchers are currently using the IoT and predictive analytics solutions to combat poaching in innovative ways. Data analytics is making it possible to predict poachers’ habits and deploy deterrent measures before the poachers are able to kill their prey.

Predictive analytics works by tracking the behaviors of other prey-animals in habitats shared by rhinos. Researchers can watch how these animals move and use sudden shifts in behavior to identify the presence of poachers. Those researchers can then proactively work to stop poachers before they’re able to get to the rhinos.

The rhinos, meanwhile, are not tracked by the predictive solutions. The simple reason? By choosing not to track the rhinos, they remain invisible to this data, which protects them from being targeted by poachers if the data is ever hacked.

4. Drones to combat deforestation

Drones can help combat deforestation in two ways. First, drones make it possible to monitor forest-clearing activities in remote environments that aren’t regularly accessible or tracked by authorities. This is very valuable in places like the Amazon, where limited populations and even the lack of paved roads can make it tough to track unlawful activities related to forest clearing.

But drones can also be part of the rehabilitative process. As WIRED reports, drones are being designed to replant forests destroyed by clear-cutting. The drones work by taking an aerial survey of a territory, creating a seeding plan, hovering to plant seeds on the ground, then monitoring the regrowth of the forest over time.

WIRED notes that these drones can be extremely productive, planting up to 36,000 seed pods daily, which is 12 times the number of seeds a farmer can plant by hand. This replanting can take place in remote areas where it is difficult or costly to send humans on a regular basis. Over time, drones could have a central role in the regrowth of harvested forests.

With any luck, these mobile innovations will continue to effect positive change for the environment while inspiring other solutions to even more difficult problems.