How IoT can help the world be more sustainable

  • March 24, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

Frank Max Laursen from Micro Technic is on a mission to use IoT to make the world more sustainable. Steve Rogerson asked him how.

Frank Max Laursen.

Sustainability has become the buzz word of the decade. A lot of companies have jumped on this bandwagon and see it as good PR. But do some really mean it?

I must admit to a certain scepticism, well at least until I met Frank Max Laursen at last week’s Embedded World in Nuremberg. The CEO of Danish company Micro Technic struck me as someone who actually believes in his company’s goal of using technology to create a more sustainable planet.

The firm was showing how its latest generation of IoT sensor hubs could help create a more sustainable world through smarter data collection. Called Skylark, after one of the few birds that can fly and sing at the same time, the flexible IoT offering enables the monitoring and collection of data from any remote application.

Frank told me he hoped this would help increase IoT from ten to fifty per cent of the firm’s business by 2026. Most of the company’s business today is in electronic manufacturing services and contract-based electronics hardware and software development.

Simple to set up and connect to any sensor, Skylark comes with a device management platform. The resilient, stable and durable IoT offering ensures cyber-safe data transmission at the edge. Skylark is also a low-power, sustainable IoT gateway that can be powered by battery or solar energy and features multiple wireless options.

Although suitable for multiple IoT applications, Micro Technic is positioning Skylark for some specific sectors, starting with climate change.

“We think the IoT can make many processes around the world more sustainable,” said Frank. “We want it to be more ethical.”

For example, he said one company was using its IoT technology to save 1000 litres of diesel per truck per year. This includes solar panels on the truck that power the electronics. The lorries are also being used to collect weather data wherever they go to help monitor for unusual patterns.

As the Earth warms, increasingly extreme weather conditions are posing threats to cities, environments and infrastructure. Therefore, it is vital to have an early warning of when and where these changes are happening to take appropriate action before events become dangerous or worse.

“Our focus on green energy liberates our Skylark IoT datalogger from needing a traditional power supply, which means that devices can be deployed on the highest mountains, the stormiest coastal areas or the most remote regions in the world,” said Frank.

Micro Technic collaborated with Italian company Project Automation on an IoT project to provide alerts about flooding. And Norwegian firm Cautus Geo uses the technology to provide an early warning for avalanches and landslides.

“They take our box and have sensors monitoring underground on the mountains to check for rock falls and avalanches,” said Frank. “They have an algorithm that can detect what is happening underground.”

Skylark makes it possible to analyse traffic patterns by collecting critical data. This helps planners find smarter ways to manage and improve the infrastructure and traffic. By taking this approach, cities can be made smarter and more sustainable, and the number of deaths from road accidents can be reduced.

Austrian company Swarco, for example, is using this IoT technology to monitor traffic in Amsterdam. This uses a combination of NB-IoT and Bluetooth to collect and share data.

Making the most of resources and eliminating inefficient production processes is essential, both for sustainability and profitability. Inefficiency is caused by a lack of insight into the behaviour and performance of equipment. A faulty machine will produce output of lower quality, which can go unnoticed until the machine breaks down. Skylark helps manufactures monitor any process in the production line and make sustainable choices to improve productivity and reduce downtime.

Skylark can be retrofitted to existing equipment, adding Industry 4.0 functionality, thereby increasing machine lifetime and supporting circular business models.

“As well as ensuring product efficiency during its life, IoT can give manufactures insight as to when products are no longer being used, and can also tell the manufactures where their old hardware is located, via the internet-connectivity of the products,” said Frank. “This means we can assist in deploying a cradle-to-grave-to-cradle circular manufacturing capability where products are re-used.”

As the global population expands, the demand for food increases. Yet farmers and growers must deal with volatile and intense weather conditions, which impact the quality and quantity of crop production. Skylark can give insights on soil quality, weather conditions and crop status by measuring variables such as humidity, temperature and moisture. The low power and robustness mean the IoT dataloggers can be placed remotely in demanding environments with little maintenance.

“Our view is that the IoT will playing a vital role supporting the green transition and creating a more sustainable world,” said Frank. “We are playing our part by working on realising targets from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 9 and 12. We want to be an innovative partner for our customers. To facilitate this, we have created the Engineering Campfire, a creative IoT workshop where our engineers help transform our customers vision and great ideas into IoT that improves and adds value to their businesses.”

Founded in 1977,Micro Technic has been working on the IoT for more than 40 years, well before the term was invented. Its purpose is to retrieve data from any sensor in a simple and smarter way and give the power to help create a sustainable world.

“I insist that we must take our role in bringing the carbon footprint to a minimum by creating technology that helps all parts of the value chain comply with this goal,” said Frank.

So what about the products? Well, Skylark Pro is the most advanced model in the series. It lets users connect and monitor several sensor values and parameters at the same time, providing multi-functional data collection.

Skylark Secure+ offers an extra layer of security. Users can secure their data on the outer boundary of the network. Through encryption, this model protects high-security data from intrusion.

Skylark Go is the versatile option when there are a few parameters that need monitoring using either its internal sensors or up to two external sensors. This model is plug-and-play, with a quick and simple set-up.

“We also have a platform called Skylark Live for configuring the devices and making sure they are using the latest software,” said Frank.

I was impressed. As said, a lot of companies display their green credentials as a way to attract business; they see it as good PR. But Frank struck me as someone who really believes in this mission, someone who wants to use his company’s technical knowledge to help protect our planet. Good on him.