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AT&T, Carbon War Room Say ‘Internet of Things' Can Cut Emissions by 19%

Global greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 9.1 billion metric tons by 2020, or 18.6 percent of all emissions in 2011, through the widespread adoption of machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies, according to a recent report by AT&T and the Carbon War Room.

M2M technologies make possible the connectivity of physical infrastructure and gadgets — what has been dubbed the "Internet of things." This reduces the amount of expended energy and fuel needed to execute tasks, shrinking carbon footprints while maintaining productivity and business growth.

According to the report, M2M applications could make society more efficient and profitable, generating cost savings and new revenues adding $10 to $15 trillion to the global GDP. The report, Machine-to-Machine Technologies: Unlocking the Potential of a $1 Trillion Industry, says worldwide M2M adoption will skyrocket over the next several years and by 2020 could expand from 1.3 billion to 12.5 billion devices. 

“One of the largest causes of global GHG emissions is the process of power generation, followed by the burning of fuel for transportation,” the report’s authors said. “It is, therefore, not surprising that the biggest role M2M could play in ameliorating the threat of climate change is by helping to improve the efficiency of the transmission, distribution and use of power.”

The report identifies four sectors most likely to benefit from the rise of M2M applications: Energy, Transportation, Agriculture and the built-in environment. 

M2M could save billions of dollars across all of these sectors through increased efficiency but must first overcome the barriers of a lack of universal applications and hardware standards and insufficient performance data. The report suggests these barriers can be overcome if companies offering M2M technologies build data collection and analytics into their platform and develop new business strategies.

In a separate report, engineers at the University of Arkansas and Virginia Tech University earlier this year said that applying Internet concepts to the physical world of logistics could boost the profits of U.S. businesses by $100 billion while drastically reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant. @mikehower contributed.

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