The drive for sustainability in the economy is slowly but steadily moving from theory to practice as more and more businesses embrace the idea of maintaining steady growth that takes into account not just current profits but the possibility of continuous and theoretically never-ending development and progress. It is no wonder, then, that the idea finds traction not just in industrial circles but in more high-tech oriented businesses, even those that normally aren’t associated with issues of this kind – such as software development. Here are a few less-obvious ways in which tech can help us achieve sustainability – and in which it already does.
1. Exponential Technologies
Exponential technologies are the discoveries that don’t just improve the situation in an isolated area of application but change the entire scientific and societal paradigm, lead to qualitative changes. Examples of such breakthroughs over the last century are a green revolution, affordable computer processors, the Internet and mobile revolution. By definition, it is impossible to predict where the next leap will be made and to what consequences it will lead, but a few very promising areas include artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology. All of them can lead to potentially game-changing developments in industry, energy and natural resources.
2. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is one of the loudest buzzwords of this decade, but although all of us have heard it many times and many already actively use it in their daily lives, most people are still pretty vague on the idea of it being used to drive sustainability. Although the technology is still in its first stages of development and we can hardly expect how it will be used when fully developed, even today it seems like a very important tool in promoting circular economy – i.e., the economy in which products are designed in a way that makes provisions for their future reuse and repurposing. And even today a lot of work is done in the area of custom application development to prepare IoT solutions, such as IoT smart home, aimed at proactive equipment maintenance, pollution control, management of energy and water consumption and other initiatives aimed at conservation and more efficient utilization of resources.
3. Virtual Reality
Those who speak about sustainability often forget that this term refers not just to conservationist ecological enterprises but to the improvement of the human standard of living throughout the world – and it is an area where VR can have an impact that is not so much practical as it is emotional, but no less efficient because of that. Its power lies in helping us get into the shoes of other people, promoting empathy and providing more obvious feedback to our actions. Take Charity: Water, for example. This non-profit organization not just lets people easily give money to charity, not just tells them where their money is going, but shows it to them. It uses VR films to demonstrate how access to fresh water transforms the communities that receive it, providing satisfaction and encouraging contributors to spread the word and keep up the good work.
4. Energy Storage
An absolute majority of energy worldwide is still produced through the consumption of fossil fuels – the resource that is both non-renewable and detrimental for the overall state of ecology. We do already have the technology for more or less efficient production of energy using renewable sources (such as sun and wind), but the main problem with them is that they are intermittent: while it is possible to rely on them for some of our energy consumption, seasonal and even daily changes in their efficiency make them impossible to be used on large scale. However, recent developments in energy storage, if used universally, can alleviate this problem, making it possible to both improve the efficiency and gradually change our energy portfolio.
We live in exciting times when the next big leap that will change the world seems to be just around the corner – and the most satisfying thing is that everybody, including small businesses and individuals, can make their own, often small but nevertheless important contributions towards achieving sustainability. Using software aimed at conserving resources, opting in for renewable energy sources, promoting responsibility – all these things, even when done on a little scale, can go a long way in building a better world.