Intelligent Assets: Unlocking Circular Economy Potential
The exponential growth of digital connectivity has had a sweeping impact on our society in the last decade. It is widely understood that this increase in connectivity – and the technological innovation it spurs between people, products and systems can create significant new sources of value for citizens and economies, whilst also creating new challenges for regulators and policy makers. Understanding and harnessing the potential of this “Fourth Industrial Revolution” for society, the economy and the environment is the theme of the 2016 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum. This report on intelligent assets – a key feature of the fourth industrial revolution – and how they can be paired with Circular Economy principles is, consequently, both an important and a timely contribution to the new economics agenda.
Intelligent Assets: Enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT)
As we look to the next decade, the prevalence of connectivity, through the Internet of Things and the creation of ‘intelligent assets’, will accelerate. The question remains: how can these technological advances be harnessed to enable smarter economic growth, resource and food security, and an improved infrastructure? The Internet of Things is already increasing efficiency in our current linear ‘take, make, dispose’ economy. Could it also, however, enable a less resource-dependent circular economy that is restorative and regenerative by design? And, in turn, could embedding circular economy principles in smart connected systems and devices significantly bolster the opportunity? These are the questions we asked ourselves, and experts across the field, when writing this report.
Intelligent Assets: Redefining our Relationship with Resources
This report illustrates opportunities for innovation and creativity across a spectrum of industries and sectors: it looks at how we manufacture and use electronics and advanced equipment, how we create our energy infrastructure, how we build and transform our buildings, and how we produce food. It assesses how smart cities might evolve to become a focal point for the transitions to follow. There are profit opportunities for companies to play for but perhaps more importantly, there’s an opportunity for society to redefine its relationship with resources.
To date, reverse logistics and remanufacturing have been subject to several risks, including the fluctuating demand and supply of used products/components, and the widely varying condition of the returned components. Ideally an enterprise would choose the next use cycle for each returned product – e.g. sell for scrap value, recycle, recover components through parts harvesting, remanufacture, or reuse – by taking into consideration a combination of factors regarding the product’s condition as well as the current market situation. Only with the ability to collect large quantities of product and customer data, and an analytical model to make sense of it, does such a decision-making model become feasible.
The latest developments in sensor technology and connected IoT systems mean that companies can now track almost any kind of asset, almost anywhere in the world in real time. Even though asset tracking has been standard practice in the logistics sector for some decades, new technologies are now increasing asset and resource productivity by enabling reverse logistics programmes as well as real-time route optimisation. Similar developments are seen in waste management where, in addition to realtime waste collection route optimisation, new systems are able to precisely sort and recycle multiple types of materials as well as monitor and incentivise waste disposal behaviour. Such progress could potentially reshape the way assets and resources are reused and recycled across industries, unlocking material value by providing transparency in reverse logistics and materials separation operations.
ISB Global, SAP Business One, Waste & Recycling One & SmartWorld (ISB Global’s mobile and web innovation layer which The Resource Information Data Exchange [RiDx] is a part of) can facilitate the management and administration of reverse logistics, manufacturing, materials values, and inventory for parts hierarchies. The administration of recovering, repair, reuse or reprocessing for onward instruction and transaction to the partner in the circular supply loop.
Waste & Recycling One can also track lifecycle of assets, batches and serial numbers to administer through the circular supply loop and make details available to the organisation conducting the activity to continue or end the life of the asset, part or material and publish details via RiDx. RiDx, as an interface platform, can monitor sensors embedded in any asset type and prompt for an activity to occur through instruction and transaction within the RiDx web portal. Ensuring easy communication, prompt action and circular principles are applied to the asset, whether bin collection or refurbishment of large asset or equipment.
Recycled from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Intelligent Assets Report