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4 Ways Industry 4.0 Has Influenced Emissions Monitoring and Reduction

Industry 4.0 has caused significant changes throughout sectors by giving leaders more ways to verify what’s happening in their facilities at any given time. That’s one of the major reasons the associated technologies have been instrumental in monitoring and reducing emissions.

Decision-makers could invest in emissions monitoring solutions for entire fleets or single machines. Industry 4.0 advancements also aid leaders in changing processes to meet sustainability goals. Here’s a closer look at what’s possible.

1. Monitoring and Reducing Emissions With Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence algorithms can process gigantic quantities of data much faster than humans without help. That’s why people are continually interested in investigating how they might help companies meet or exceed emissions goals.

Construction company Skanska is participating in a multiyear project to determine how algorithms might improve construction equipment utilization and cut emissions. People involved with the initiative hope the algorithms could provide site managers with decision support, helping them eliminate process bottlenecks that could raise emissions. Eventually, the goal is to facilitate the operation of a partially or fully automated construction site with help from AI.

An often-cited issue in the construction sector is that heavy machinery often spends too much time idling. However, AI could assist with route planning or process prioritization to reduce that unproductive time.

Elsewhere, researchers at MIT developed a solution that uses AI to reduce autonomous-car idling at junctions. More specifically, they showed how machine learning algorithms could learn to control a vehicle’s speed, letting them travel through intersections without stopping.

Some people familiar with AI also assert that swapping short-haul flights for autonomous electric cars could meaningfully impact emissions. Self-driving cars use AI and other advanced technologies to operate safely and efficiently. Society is not yet at a point where substantial numbers of people can make that switch. However, as Industry 4.0 keeps improving, that’ll likely become possible.

2. Giving Better Asset and Facility Visibility to Support Emissions Monitoring

Thanks to the continuing evolution of Industry 4.0, it’s easier than ever for managers and others in positions of authority to get details about a particular location or a specific asset. People in industries ranging from aerospace to gas processing use pressure vessels in their operations.

However, individuals must select the appropriate vessels for their needs. For example, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Division Three pressure vessels must withstand pressures of more than 10,000 psi to qualify for that categorization. Proper upkeep of these vessels is essential, too. Researchers have demonstrated that smart sensors could monitor the structural health of pressure vessels and prevent bursting incidents. Depending on a pressure vessel’s contents, that application could support emissions reductions by minimizing the chances of accidents.

Using digital twins can also help leaders determine the likely impacts of changes before implementing them. Using them can make it easier to justify expenses associated with newer equipment, process changes or other aspects that could improve emissions. Seeing a digitized representation of plans and their effects often makes people feel more confident about enacting those changes in real life.

Better visibility into what’s happening at a company also supports preventive maintenance, which could improve emissions-monitoring efforts. Many fleet managers now deploy vehicle telematics systems to spot maintenance needs before they cause component failures.

Vehicular issues that raise emissions go beyond what comes out of the exhaust. One study revealed that tire-related pollution could be 2,000 times worse than tailpipe fumes. The researchers said these so-called non-exhaust emissions could be even worse due to rough road surfaces or underinflated or budget-grade tires.

3. Helping People Grasp the Problem of Uncontrolled Emissions

Some individuals aren’t immediately on board with the need for monitoring and reducing emissions. After all, people have many responsibilities to juggle and matters that compete for their attention. However, Industry 4.0 can illuminate the need to make positive changes.

Researchers at Stanford were among the early adopters of this approach when they introduced a virtual reality emissions simulator in 2016. The interactive project allowed people to stand in heavy traffic and follow tailpipe emissions from the roadway into the ocean, which absorbed them.

A more recent VR project represented a person’s carbon footprint as a giant orange ball of gas. The simulation showed participants how various daily activities could elevate the emissions they created. Next, it showed the link between a carbon footprint and sea-level rise.

The lead artist who worked on the project felt VR was the perfect medium for explaining climate change impacts in a rich storytelling format. He said virtual reality helped people envision the accurate scale of their climate impacts, even if the realization was frightening at times.

Even people interested in emissions monitoring can find it hard to perceive the immediacy required when making decisions that will help the environment. Despite the availability of tools like carbon footprint calculators, many individuals remain somewhat detached from their emissions contributions. However, virtual reality can shed light on the matter for them, encouraging them to do things differently in their business and personal lives.

4. Enabling Remote Support to Reduce Emissions

During parts of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees whose jobs required visiting clients in person drastically cut down on those face-to-face interactions in the interest of public health. However, some company representatives learned that many of the same Industry 4.0 technologies they used during those times were just as beneficial for monitoring and reducing emissions.

For example, many companies that offer robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) solutions have machines connected to smart sensors to aid in accurate per-use billing. However, those sensors also help technicians troubleshoot problems without physical site visits. That improvement eliminates the associated vehicle emissions.

Remote technology also supports emissions monitoring by giving current data about machine issues that could grow a company’s carbon footprint if it does not address them. Similarly, it enables off-site tech-support experts to walk clients through troubleshooting to determine if a new part would solve an identified problem.

Practices like ordering components contribute to emissions unless the purchasers can walk or bike to pick them up. Fortunately, Industry 4.0 technologies make it easier to diagnose issues and determine the most appropriate ways to resolve them.

How Will You Use Industry 4.0 Advancements to Cut Emissions?

This overview shows you have plenty of avenues to pursue when relying on Industry 4.0 to monitor and reduce emissions. However, remember that selecting the right technologies or seeing sustained progress may take a while. The road ahead will be easier when decision-makers have clear goals they want to achieve and iron out the plans for reaching them.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at
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