Printing the Internet of Things to Save the Environment

The Internet of Things (IoT) is looking forward to an exciting future. Although it is going to entail many advantages, some experts are concerned about its environmental impact. After all, it will comprise more than 200 billion connected devices by 2021 resulting in a huge amount of e-waste due to the batteries needed in order to power them. But Finnish researchers are already searching for a solution.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is looking forward to an exciting future. Although it is going to entail many advantages, some experts are concerned about its environmental impact. After all, it will comprise more than 200 billion connected devices by 2021 resulting in a huge amount of e-waste due to the batteries needed in order to power them. But Finnish researchers are already searching for a solution.

How the Finnish Cleantech Strategy Affects the Internet of Things

In general, Finland is among the front-runners when it comes to sustainability and wireless technology. The Finnish Government pursues a Cleantech Strategy, which also includes the Internet of Things. Therefore they are boosting green innovations in every sector of cleantech, especially in the Tampere Region. This area plays a key role for the Cleantech Strategy because it has a wide network developing eco-friendly technologies.

One example is a project called “Printed, energy-Autonomous UniversaL platform for multifunctional wireless sensors and devices” (PAUL) that is conducted by Tampere University of Technology (TUT) and funded by innovation agency Tekes. Their aim is to enable harvesting energy from various sources such as light or radio waves and store it in printed, non-toxic supercapacitors.

Transforming the Internet of Things into the Internet of Everything

In short, PAUL shall “enable printing the Internet of Everything,” as TUT Professor Donald Lupo sums up. The project’s main objectives are to improve energy harvesting, produce high-speed electronic devices, pave the way for hybrid integration technology and fully integrate roll-to-roll atomic layer deposition.

Within the project, a team around Professor Donald Lupo and Professor Paul Berger of Ohio State University is currently working on printed electronic components, for the Internet of Things, able to communicate wirelessly. Additionally, these parts will be energy independent and can be printed on many substrates like paper, plastics or cloth.

“Usually, it’s assumed that all Internet-enabled devices will be equipped with a battery but we don’t think that’s a sustainable approach. Everything is going to 4G, 5G, 10G, bigger, faster, better. But the higher the frequency band, the more energy you need. However, once you think of IoT as a sustainable, energy-autonomous system, you also have to think of how to minimize the energy,” Lupo describes their concept.

Research and Industry Join Forces to Boost the Internet of Things and Green Technology

In order to drive projects like PAUL, cooperating with the industry is very important, Berger notes. “In the future, we will emphasize even more the exploitation of research results and concrete cooperation with companies,” adds Tekes’ Director Kimmo Kanto.

What do you think: Is Finland a role model for innovative energy and other green technology solutions? Leave us your opinion in the comment section below.