Visit your local dump and it’s likely you’ll see a small mountain of old and not-so-old technology – televisions, computers, stereos. At first glance, tech itself appears to be one of the most wasteful things we produce. The reality though is much more complex.
The latest technology can actually help cut down on waste, and is already doing so for many top businesses in the UK. As technology becomes smarter and more adaptable, we can see a dramatic impact – using fewer resources and making better use of those that we do.
One such example is with the most natural commodity of all – food. Steve King, CEO and co-founder at Black Swan Data, helped Tesco save £2m by forecasting the first barbecue weekend of the year.
“Historically there’s been an understandable public outcry about how much fresh food is thrown out by supermarkets. Technology is helping to stop this,” Mr King says.
“There’s an incredible amount of rich, public data that can be harnessed by businesses and this can make sure a company minimises waste by not overstocking.”
Cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) sensors are already making businesses cleaner and more efficient, whether that’s minimising waste on stock, or redistributing the air around your office rather than heating what’s already hot, and cooling what’s already cold.
Simply updating office technology can have enormous benefits for the environment, with analyst IDC saying that new devices cut energy consumption by 30 per cent.
Andy Johnson, head of product and solutions management at Brother UK, says that the latest printers have a host of waste-saving effects, all of which scale up to significant environmental impacts when viewed at a company, city, or nationwide level.
“New printer models are more energy-efficient, faster to use and less costly to run,” Mr Johnson says. “Business inkjets in particular are gaining ground on older models because of their eco savings, while managed print services can help organisations to be more sustainable with their printing by ensuring that nobody prints something and forgets about it, or prints something multiple times without thinking.”
It is this scale of technological change – from potatoes to printers – that encapsulates the “fourth industrial revolution” that many commentators feel we are now in.
Emanuele Angelidis, CEO of London-based IoT investor Breed Reply says this next generation of technology allows a level of refinement on almost every action a business takes – and a way to eke out greater efficiencies at every turn. “This is already making businesses more efficient,” he says. “One French start-up, Metron, uses AI-powered technology to virtually map where energy is being used in industrial processes, allowing companies to save money on their power costs.”
Mr Angelidis says a major efficiency innovation in recent years is predictive maintenance solutions, which can save costs, breakdowns and downtime by preemptively warning about upcoming servicing on machines, or a likely failure – useful on your car, but essential in a national power station.
Such features are increasingly common in so-called “smart buildings” which use sensors to monitor the heating and cooling, security and even how spaces are used. If businesses are able to make use of their building’s intelligence, they can work with it for a less wasteful workplace, says Mark Braund, CEO of smart building business RedstoneConnect.
Mr Braund says smart buildings “present a significant opportunity for businesses to reduce their environmental footprint by ensuring that space and resources are used efficiently”. With around 10pc of the world’s energy being consumed by resources such as air conditioning, “smart” solutions that can reduce unnecessary chilling can have a huge impact.
Remote working can help reduce businesses’ energy use, of course, but for Ingvar Gudmundsson, founder of the cloud-based scheduling software business SimplyBook.me, it is in the wider cloud environment and the sharing economy where we can expect to see the greatest efficiencies made.
“As we continue to digitise everything, our requirements for tangible possessions will continue to reduce,” says Mr Gudmundsson. “Filing cabinets move to the cloud and single smartphones serve the purpose of multiple devices. Our other needs can be met via the sharing economy, which apps give us access to.”
The result, says Mr Gudmundsson, is a hi-tech future with minimal waste, where systems and services are available on-demand, and less of them end up on the scrapheap.
Digital innovation continues to change every business. Understanding the threats and the opportunities is essential to stay ahead of your market.
To find out more about how you can use technology to drive efficiency and security, visit www.brother.co.uk/business-solutions
Brother UK is sponsoring The Telegraph Leaders of Transformation Conference, in central London on June 6, 2018. To learn more about the event, visit www.telegraph.co.uk