Ghosts in the Machines

In the June issue of American Liquid Waste, we gave you “10 Ways to Make Your Business Greener.” Number eight on that list was “Turn it Off: make sure computers, fax machines, and printers are turned off or are in power save mode when people leave.” To piggy-back off that wonderfully efficient idea, artificial intelligence is helping make business and industry as efficient as ever.

The Future Is Now

Machines are talking to each other. That might sound a little “1984” or “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but the truth of the matter is: it’s happening, and it’s happening through machine to machine (M2M) technology that allows communication between connected devices through a wireless connection. Think smart phone and attach the word “smart” to pretty much any other machine or appliance currently in your home or business.

Through M2M technology, machines talk to each other through embedded sensors, which allows them to make decisions—like automatically turning on or off depending on the level of activity. In terms of sustainability, the results are huge. According to, “M2M has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 9.1 gigatons annually.

That’s equivalent to the 2010 emissions of India and the United States combined.”

“Investments in M2M could produce carbon dioxide reductions equal to all renewable energy sources combined. Savings in resources like water and fertilizer could be equally significant,” said AT&T Director of Sustainability Operations John Schultz during a panel discussion at this year’s VERGE Boston conference, an event committed to the merging of technology and sustainability for a more efficient future.

“Eye” Spy

M2M technology has increased energy efficiency in building operations in that it allows building engineers and managers to essentially have eyes in the back of their heads. They are able to see beyond what is right in front of them, whether it be something breaking down or declining in performance. Installed M2M technology communicates when there’s a problem and where, allowing engineers and managers to figure out ways to make their buildings perform with the utmost energy efficiency while reducing energy consumption by ever-increasing numbers.

M2M technology is being used in a number of other industries beyond construction, including energy, agriculture, septic, transportation and customer service. For those in the septic industry, M2M communication can be applied and alert of an underground leaking pipe. Verizon’s NetworkFleet M2M technology is being used to let commercial truck drivers know when they need to take a break, as well as send information from jobs back to the main office, eliminating reporting and auditing wait time for fleet managers. This is done through a small transmitter under the driver’s seat that then communicates information either to the driver’s smart phone or back to the head office. The technology also lets drivers know the most efficient route to a job, therefore, reducing fuel costs.

Office equipment with M2M capabilities can detect degradation or problems in real time and alert a repair person to come out and fix it. With equipment like a printer, M2M applications can detect when ink is low and automatically place an order for more. The result goes beyond efficiency and is actually creating better business relationships between service users and service providers.

Interested in trying M2M technology? The best way is to take it for a test run. Start with a small area of waste in your business, apply the technology and see if M2M increases efficiency in some way. Chances are good that it will, but don’t panic that employees will be obsolete as a result. A human being needs to enter the process and potentially fix the problem at some point. M2M technology helps increase awareness through better insight, as well as reduces the reaction time and severity of an issue, allowing businesses to solve a small problem before it becomes a massive catastrophe.

Story by Megan McClure

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