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Where the circular economy and the Internet of things meet

A team of EU-funded industrial partners and academic research institutions is exploring how to develop a framework for a circular economy (CE) enhanced by the Internet of things (IoT).

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With the concept of CE increasingly seen as key to the new sustainability paradigm, efforts have intensified for the transition towards such a system. Unlike the traditional linear economy that is based on the take-make-dispose pattern involving the using up of resources, the CE model promotes reparability, durability and recyclability. In practice, a CE aims to minimise waste through reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products. It focuses on long-lasting design. IoT is considered a crucial element of this system, offering new opportunities in various sectors like manufacturing, energy and utilities, infrastructure, logistics, waste management, agriculture and fishing. The development of a framework facilitating the interaction between IoT and the CE will help realise the EU’s vision of creating an innovative CE where natural resources are managed sustainably without waste and biodiversity is protected. The EU-funded CE-IOT project has already made significant progress in addressing such challenges. Academic and research institutions have teamed up with companies in Belgium, Cyprus and Poland, and offered a secondment opportunity to students of the University of Cambridge’s business school (Cambridge Judge Business School). As noted in a news feature by the Cambridge Judge Business School, 40 students were seconded to the 3 industry partners involved with CE-IOT, with more students expected to participate over the next 24 months of the project. Quoted in the same news feature, Dr Khaled Soufani, Director of the Circular Economy Centre at Cambridge Judge Business School, says: “The project marries circular economy principles to the tangible issues faced by companies every day, and our students have already provided useful and cost-efficient recommendations to those partner organisations.” The industry partners of CE-IOT highlighted in the news feature include Cablenet Communication Systems (Cyprus), Deloitte (Brussels) and BlueSoft (Poland). For Cablenet, the recommendations of Cambridge Judge students focus on “providing customers [with] an application that runs on hardware devices they already own; using built-in monitoring devices to enable technicians to pinpoint fibre optic cable breaks remotely; and installing solar panels on Cablenet amplifiers to generate power that is then stored in batteries.” The news feature adds: “For Deloitte, the Cambridge Judge students were able to apply their previous work experience on various projects ranging from circularity in the utility sector to alternative finance to industrial construction, often addressing cybersecurity risks in these various sectors.” The ongoing CE-IOT (A Framework for Pairing Circular Economy and IoT: IoT as an enabler of the Circular Economy circularity-by-design as an enabler for IoT (CE-IoT)) project was launched to examine new ways in which the interaction between the CE and IoT “can drastically change the nature of products, services, business models and ecosystems,” as stated on the project website. “CE-IoT will carry out comprehensive evaluation of the CE-IoT framework covering business, technical and legal aspects through two demonstrators in the domains of telecommunication and cloud services and will create conditions for effectuating circular economy principles through seamless integration with IoT technology and to broaden the use of the CE-IoT framework.” For more information, please see: CE-IOT project website

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