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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge


Weijia Shi

Sustainability Implications of the Internet of Things (IoT): Towards a Framework for Embedding Sustainability in IoT Systems Design

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a convergence of multiple information and communication technologies. It is a global infrastructure of interconnecting things offering advanced services for consumers, businesses, and public sectors in diverse application contexts. IoT is recognized as one of the most important emerging technologies. Increasing demand for IoT hardware and software will pose significant weight on environmental and social sustainability. Yet, literature on sustainable IoT is scarce and primarily  takes a reductionist approach by optimizing constituent technologies.

The aim of this study was to develop a framework that facilitates the identification, prioritisation, and mitigation of sustainability implications associated with IoT in a structured and holistic manner. The framework was developed through critical literature review and through modification of standard practices to incorporate sustainability principles. The framework facilitates problem exploration and stakeholder analysis, and promotes a systemic, lifecycle view in the early-phase design of IoT systems. The framework was tested on a hypothetical case study, and it was shown to be a potentially useful tool for uncovering hidden sources of value. In the future, cases based on real-life projects should be constructed to evaluate the utility of the framework in greater detail.