IoT in Environmental Monitoring: A Breath of Fresh Air

Eseye author


IoT Hardware and Connectivity Specialists


Pollution is the greatest environmental contributor to premature death and disease on a global scale.

According to The Lancet Commission on pollution and health first released in 2017 and updated in 2022, diseases caused by pollution are responsible for over 9 million premature deaths annually, and in the most severely affected countries, pollution-related disease is responsible for more than one death in four.

As governments, regulators, and subsequently, enterprises, look for new ways to manage our impact on the environment, reduce pollution, and conserve resources, environmental monitoring powered by IoT is becoming more important.

IoT sensors are able to feed accurate and real-time data on the environment back into complex analytical models to help organizations understand how they affect the environment and take actions to improve quality of life for inhabitants, not just in cities, but rural and developing regions as well.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the direct consequences of environmental pollution we have to contend with. The changing climate is also affecting the spread of infectious diseases, putting populations at higher risk of new pandemics, while polluted coastal waters are becoming more suitable for the transmission of Vibrio pathogens and expanding the window of transmission for diseases like malaria.

During 2021 and 2022, extreme weather events caused devastation across every continent, and the planet’s rapidly increasing temperatures are exposing vulnerable populations, such as the old and very young, to more heatwaves, driving heat-related deaths up by 68% over a three year period, the Lancet Commission states.

Heat-related deaths, combined with new pathogen outbreaks, and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to significant pressure on health services and difficulties in management of diseases in many regions in the developing and developed world.

As activists and regulators push for wide scale action to be taken by businesses and authorities for the benefit of humanity, enterprises are looking to technologies such as IoT to help unlock environmental sustainability and climate-related business resilience.

Water testing

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), environmental monitoring refers to the tools and techniques deployed to assess environmental conditions and trends. For the UNECE specifically, the outputs of this support policy development and its implementation.

For enterprises, environmental monitoring encompasses the system of measures designed to observe an environment, establish parameters to understand its quality, and measure that quality in order to accurately quantify the impact of an activity on that environment.

IoT-enabled sensors are becoming key to the observation and measurement phases, while data analytical tools are essential to establishing parameters and understanding impact. Connectivity is the final part of the puzzle, getting the data from the IoT devices into the analytical application.

After results are gathered and analyzed, the ultimate output might be an environmental monitoring and risk of impact assessment report.

The main driver for strengthening enterprise environmental monitoring and reporting capabilities is to improve monitoring of compliance with environmental regulations.

As authorities and pressure groups increase the quantity and quality of environmental information gathered, and improve public access to it, pressure is building on enterprise polluters to reduce their environmental impact.

IoT is becoming a critical component of the enterprise’s own process to increase the quantity and quality of environmental information gathered, due to its ability to collate real-time data from various sensors, enabling comprehensive and continuous surveillance of environmental conditions.

This data empowers ESG and Ethics & Compliance stakeholders, or other decision-makers with insights into environmental conditions such as air and water quality, energy consumption, climate patterns, wildlife behavior, and more.

Environmental monitoring reporting can then inform conservation efforts by directing resources where they are most needed to help protect and preserve the environment and its resources.

Environmental monitoring of soil

Connected IoT sensors can be deployed in both city and countryside environments as part of an environmental monitoring initiative to look at air and water quality, weather, noise, pollen, smoke, and even disaster forecasting using seismic and flood sensors.

In city environments monitoring air quality is particularly important, with emissions from vehicles and industry leading to chronic health problems. IoT sensors can help the city understand where the pollution hotspots are and how the pollution is generated.

This information can help city planners and authorities target emission-emitting industries, or redesign road layouts to flow traffic away from sensitive areas.

In more rural areas both in North America and Europe, recent headlines have drawn the focus to industrial polluters of the water supply. Chemical dumping from manufacturing and mismanagement of water utilities have created several high-profile incidents where towns have suffered outbreaks of water-borne parasites or been left without drinkable water for extended periods of time. In all cases, IoT sensors would be relevant for quality monitoring and control. 

Universal standardization around environmental data modeling remains something of a challenge however, with nascent efforts making it difficult to establish global parameters.

The GSMA and its members have agreed on harmonized data models for environmental monitoring, however. The application of common data formats for IoT sensors and analytics mean that data can be more easily synthesized across a range of devices and partners.

This allows enterprises to better establish, or comply with, KPIs that include, but are not limited to these environmental and environmental management parameters.

  • Gaseous (NOx, O3, CO and more)
  • Water (O2 levels and pollutants)
  • Pollen
  • Air-borne particulates
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Noise (dB)
  • Resource usage
  • Environmental performance of products and services
  • Clean air zone management
  • Industrial emissions management
  • Transport emissions management
environmental monitoring of the air

Air pollutants are known for their detrimental effects on human health and ecosystems, with industrial processes like burning fuel, car exhausts, or even herds of cattle, emitting compounds that can negatively impact the environment.

Indoor spaces are also subject to pollutants, such as excessive dust and airborne particles from man-made fibers, which can impact respiratory health.

Furthermore, the variance between indoor and outdoor air quality is also important. We frequently hear from Asian cities how opening a window can increase indoor problems because outdoor air quality pollution is considered more harmful.

IoT sensors can be used to identify areas with poor air quality and inform decisions around emissions reduction.

Environmental monitoring water - tap cleaning apple

Water quality is an important factor in determining the overall health of aquatic ecosystems and human health for those who rely on this limited resource.

IoT-based water quality monitoring systems can be used in municipal water treatment, monitoring water flow rates and even the presence and distribution of water leaks.

We have a more complete guide on smart water monitoring here.

Environmental monitoring soil on farm

Soil monitoring can be used to set baselines and detect risks such as biodiversity impact, compaction, contamination, erosion, and even slope instability for risk-prone coastal areas.

Furthermore, the agricultural sector is one of the most energy-intensive industries today, so IoT-based systems can be used to monitor soil health and crop conditions to inform decisions about pest control, fertilization, irrigation and land management.

We have a complete guide on AgriTech and Smart Farming available here.

IoT-based energy monitoring systems can be used to track energy usage through national utilities and energy distribution systems through smart meters.

The combination of IoT sensors and their data can help prevent spikes in energy usage and ultimately reduce reliance on fossil fuels usage in homes and businesses.

We have a more comprehensive guide on smart metering in the energy sector here.

Waste heaps

The treatment and disposal of waste from both consumer and commercial activities are a key contributor to environmental pollution.

Waste generation is closely linked to the level of economic activity in a country and represents a considerable loss of resources in the form of materials and energy. Furthermore, urban areas face a growing issue with waste management.

IoT-enabled waste indicators can help measure the impact of waste on the environment, and have the potential to enhance waste management practices, boost efficiency, and minimize environmental impact.

Endangered black turtle

According to UNECE, sustainable development depends on ecosystem diversity. Protected conservation areas are essential for biodiversity and contributing to sustainable development.

National parks can make use of IoT-based environmental monitoring to intelligently track the animals and their behavior, detect potential threats, and inform decisions around wildlife protection.

Not only can these systems help protect endangered species, they can also be used to monitor the impact of humans on wildlife as well as feature in seasonal risk monitoring such as prediction and response to wildfires.

Regulation is increasingly driving the need to deploy environmental monitoring services on both a global and local level, to monitor the impact of enterprise and consumer consumption on environmental resources such as air and water.

Many governments are setting targets that municipalities and individual businesses need to comply with, and it’s possible for a city or an organization to be fined if they do not meet standards set down by national governments and regulators.

IoT sensors can help authorities and businesses better understand the indoor and outdoor environment and make informed decisions about how to reduce our impact, protecting employees, inhabitants, and the community at large.

Traditionally, widespread environmental monitoring solutions have been hindered by connectivity limitations, but now there is a wide range of LPWA and cellular technologies delivering close to 100% connectivity for IoT devices to choose from.

Integration of IoT in smart buildings plays a crucial role in the management of properties and transforms traditional buildings into intelligent structures capable of dynamically and efficiently meeting occupancy needs and environmental challenges.

Eseye’s AnyNet SMARTconnect gives IoT devices the intelligence to swap to another network if connectivity drops, and future-proofs the device by allowing new networks and operators to be easily introduced. It also provides the building blocks to enable connectivity applets with access to multiple RATs – for example cellular, Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth, LoRaWAN and satellite.

Hera – our range of specialist IoT edge hardware – meets your evolving IoT needs for ruggedness and reliability.

Hardware and software is underpinned by Eseye’s Infinity IoT Platform, connectivity management software that gives operators oversight and control of the entire smart building estate from a single pane of glass. This makes it possible to optimize connectivity for each device, as well provide full-lifecycle management.

Environmental monitoring innovations

Discover how our customers are using IoT to observe, understand, and measure environmental factors.

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Eseye author


IoT Hardware and Connectivity Specialists


Eseye brings decades of end-to-end expertise to integrate and optimise IoT connectivity delivering near 100% uptime. From idea to implementation and beyond, we deliver lasting value from IoT. Nobody does IoT better.