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A new white paper by MIT Technology Review Insights explores how the use of 5G and other digital cellular technologies can enable the decarbonization of three sectors: energy, manufacturing, and transportation.
The white paper, "Decarbonizing industries with connectivity and 5G," is produced in association with Ericsson and draws on in-depth interviews with senior executives and subject matter experts from organizations including Scania, Einride, and Emerson. The key findings are as follows:
- Some of the biggest emitting sectors are interconnected. Organizations in the energy, manufacturing, and transportation sectors extract value from digital cellular networking technology because their operational models and business ecosystems are also based on interdependent networks and use connectivity to increase operational efficiencies. In so doing, they create virtuous cycles of shared data and insights that are already enabling a range of climate-friendly outcomes.
- Cellular digital transformation increases efficiency—and sustainability. Digital transformation strategies enable organizations in the energy, manufacturing, and transportation sectors to use energy and materials more efficiently, advance circular economy ambitions, and enhance the traceability of their products and services. 5G and other digital cellular technologies are a key part of these strategies: their speed of deployment, lower latency, and their ability to help organizations connect and manage disparate and remote assets are particularly useful capabilities for solving challenges common to all, including reducing costs, improving outputs, and lowering carbon emissions.
- Data-based decarbonization. Digital channels are essential to business operations today, and while efficiency gains are usually the most important motivation for their adoption, the increased data and insights that they deliver also make businesses more environmentally and operationally sustainable. Carbon neutrality pledges and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting make it essential that businesses prove their bona fides with analytics that verify their low-carbon operations—perhaps even resulting in formal "no carbon" certification of their products and services. Increasingly, these capabilities are delivered over cellular networks.
- Systems empowering systems for radically lowered emissions. Cellular-based technology allows firms to achieve considerable sustainability gains by increasing energy efficiency through better monitoring or reducing waste and material costs through optimized management practices. But the real step-change in reducing emissions globally will come when 5G infrastructure facilitates interconnected systems to allow vast amounts of data sharing across supply chains, logistics networks, and energy grids.
"Sectors like energy, manufacturing, and transportation are some of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters globally," says Francesca Fanshawe, editor of the white paper. "But they are also increasingly interconnected. 5G has the potential to make industries more data-driven and more efficient, helping to reduce carbon emissions."
"Through connected technologies, the private and public sectors can harness all manner of uses and solutions to combat climate change. Efficient logistics and manufacturing, renewable energy systems, and low carbon transportation are just some of the known uses. With a clear challenge in global energy consumption, effects of CO2 pollution, and inefficient use of resources we need to turn to those enabling technologies that can drive change fastest and we believe that 5G is one of our most powerful and scalable tools available to do so," says Erik Ekudden, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Ericsson.