Low carbon solutions

Our M2M business is helping enterprise customers to improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and cut costs by enabling them to monitor and manage their energy use

Low carbon solutions – Our approach

Communications technology can play a significant role in tackling the global climate challenge by enabling businesses and consumers to reduce their carbon footprints. Our machine-to-machine (M2M), smart working and access to energy solutions are helping customers achieve considerable carbon savings while bringing wider social and economic benefits.

Vodafone is a leading provider of M2M solutions which enable our enterprise customers to cut costs and carbon emissions by reducing their energy and fuel use and improving the efficiency of their operations. Other products and services, such as video conferencing, cloud hosting and collaboration technologies can also bring carbon savings by reducing the need for travel and office space (see Smart working).

In emerging markets, where our telecoms networks often extend beyond the electricity grid, we are developing solutions to bring reliable, renewable power to people in remote areas – supporting the growth of our business by enabling easier charging and use of mobile phones.

Read on to find out more about our approach and our performance in 2013/14. For more on how we are managing our own carbon footprint, see Environmental footprint.

Quantifying carbon savings from our solutions

Building on our Carbon Connections (pdf, 1.84 MB) research, we worked with the Carbon Trust in 2013 to quantify the carbon savings that Vodafone products and services can bring for our customers. We focused our analysis on four different types of solutions that enable carbon savings: smart metering, smart logistics and fleet management, call conferencing, and cloud and hosting services.

Based on this analysis, we estimate the total carbon savings of Vodafone’s solutions in these areas was 2.29 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent for contracted connections in 2012/13.

We aim to increase the carbon savings we can help our customers achieve by increasing uptake of existing carbon-saving products and services and developing new ones. We also plan to further develop the methodology for measuring these carbon savings and publish case studies demonstrating specific examples working with our customers.

In focus: M2M technology

Machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions connect physical objects, enabling them to send and receive real-time information which can then be acted upon. This offers significant potential to reduce carbon emissions by giving businesses the ability to monitor and control devices remotely, saving energy and fuel and increasing efficiencies. Watch our video to find out more.

Building our M2M business to bring cost and carbon savings for customers

By the end of 2020, there will be an estimated 2.6 billion mobile M2M connections worldwide1 as the ability to connect not just people but objects, including machinery and vehicles, via the ‘internet of things’ matures. As a market leader in M2M solutions, Vodafone has an opportunity to deliver significant efficiencies for enterprise customers using M2M connections and related services – many of which have the potential to reduce carbon emissions. This is an area where Vodafone is already seeing growth, as customers use M2M to reduce wastage and inefficiency.

Reducing operating costs is a clear selling point for M2M services, but the potential for carbon reductions is also an important motivation for many businesses to invest in this technology. Carbon-reducing applications for M2M technology are wide-ranging – from improving fleet operations and making utilities more efficient to enabling wider use of electric vehicles and monitoring stock levels in vending machines remotely.

We now have contracts in place to supply approximately 13.8 million M2M connections for smart metering, transport and logistics. Many of these will enable carbon reductions by reducing energy and fuel consumption (see below).

We offer these services through our dedicated M2M business, supported by a team of specialists and an in-house technology platform that enables us to offer customers centralised data collection and analysis. We work with enterprise customers to tailor our products and services to meet their needs in this area and increasingly offer them a ‘one-stop shop’ for M2M products and services.

In 2013/14, we strengthened partnerships with hardware and software companies like NetComm Wireless and Device Insight to offer customers an end-to-end service, making it simpler for them to implement M2M technology.

In focus: The role of M2M in electric vehicle charging

M2M technology plays an important part in the rollout of electric vehicles by offering the infrastructure needed for charging. In partnership with Bosch, we have produced a white paper on electric vehicles in commercial fleets and the role of M2M in achieving commercial ‘eMobility’. The paper considers the current state of the electric vehicle markets, and identifies the potential and the benefits of electric vehicle charging and monitoring. Download the white paper here.

Reliable M2M connectivity has also helped make electric vehicle manufacturer Mahindra Reva’s vision of a new breed of ‘connected’ car a reality. The new design enables owners and service teams to remotely access essential features and functions of their vehicle, such as battery charging and air-conditioning. Read more here.

Smart metering

Smart metering uses M2M technology to collect and analyse data about energy consumption. This data enables consumers and businesses to understand how they use energy, and helps them identify ways to save costs and carbon emissions through better energy management in homes and businesses. ASB Bank in New Zealand used real-time data on energy consumption – collected via our M2M connections – in its network of branches to target energy efficiency initiatives. These initiatives have enabled the bank to save over 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per year – equivalent to flying from London to New York over 1,700 times. See more on our support for ASB Bank.

By enabling excess power to be sold back to the grid, smart meters also promote small-scale generation of renewable power from, for example, rooftop wind turbines or solar panels. M2M-connected smart meters are also central to the development of more efficient ‘smart’ grids, enabling utilities to transform the way they deliver energy.

Vodafone is supporting the rollout of domestic smart meters in several countries, working with energy suppliers such as Enexis in the Netherlands. Enexis has rolled out over 320,000 smart meters to date, up from 100,000 in 2012/13. In India, utilities provider CESC has improved customer service and cut operational costs by achieving meter reading accuracy of over 99% using smart meters connected by Vodafone networks. See more on our work with CESC.

Using Vodafone M2M connections, Spillsure Solutions is enabling real-time remote monitoring of domestic oil use in the UK. Spillsure Solutions uses an ultra-sonic device to measure oil use every half hour. The device helps to improve householders’ understanding of their fuel use, enabling them to better manage its use, costs and related carbon emissions – cutting annual fuel bills by 15–20%. See more on our support for Spillsure Solutions.

In focus: The world’s smartest bin

With limited residential waste collections in Seoul, South Korea, many people resort to putting household rubbish in public bins. With support from Vodafone, Ecube Labs created a solution called the Clean Cube bin. The bin uses Vodafone M2M technology to communicate wirelessly when it needs to be emptied and includes a solar-powered compressor to compact rubbish, reducing the number of collections required. The Clean Cube has the potential to reduce the number of waste collections by 20% and therefore reduce the CO2 emissions associated with transporting waste. Find out more here.

Smart logistics

As part of our work with the Carbon Trust, we determined that our smart logistics products and services offer the biggest carbon saving potential for our customers. Tracking devices use M2M connections to communicate vehicle movements to fleet management systems, and central software responds with route revisions that save fuel costs and emissions. Information about vehicle loads means spare capacity can be used more efficiently, and vehicle condition reports can spot problems so they can implement preventative maintenance. Drivers are also encouraged to drive in a more fuel efficient way.

TomTom’s navigation technology, connected by Vodafone’s networks, allows companies to track vehicles and monitor driving habits – contributing to Zenith Hygiene Group cutting its average carbon emissions from 15kg to 11kg per day, thanks to more efficient driving techniques.

Around 1,500 buses in the Netherlands have been fitted with tracking devices provided by telematics solutions provider Sycada, which deliver real-time feedback on driver performance. These tracking devices, connected using Vodafone’s M2M technology, are expected to improve fuel efficiency by more than 5% over a year, saving the Connexxion transport group €3 million. Read case studies on how our M2M solutions are being used by Sycada, TomTom and Zenith Hygiene Group.

Improving access to energy in emerging markets

Globally, more than 1.3 billion people live without electricity. The 600 million mobile users living out of reach of the power grid spend around US$10 billion a year on charging their phones using diesel generators and car batteries. The telecoms infrastructure that we provide and our extensive reach in emerging markets offers significant opportunities for us to bring social and economic benefits by extending access to energy. By using renewable energy to do this, we can also bring environmental benefits. This also supports the growth of our business by enabling more people to use mobile phones, and to use them more often by making it easier to charge them.

Community power

As we expand our networks to more rural areas in emerging markets, we are exploring opportunities to use renewable power generated at our base stations to bring power to remote communities without electricity.

We have seen a number of benefits for both the local community and our business as a result of our Community Power pilot in South Africa (see case study). In 2013/14, we reviewed options for additional sites with the help of a replication guide we developed through the GSMA mobile operators' industry body (pdf, 4.29 MB) that builds on insights from the initial trial. We will extend this model to a second site in South Africa in 2014/15.

In focus: Powering communities through our networks in South Africa

In our Community Power pilot in the village of Emfihlweni, South Africa, we installed thin-film flexible solar panels to the roof of the school near our base station to generate up to 60kWh of energy from the sun daily, providing cleaner power to the base station, school and a community water pump, as well as a free mobile phone charging station.

The pilot brought substantial savings for Vodafone, cutting monthly diesel use by 90%, labour maintenance costs by 24% and CO2 emissions by 90% from the site. For the people of Emfihlweni, Community Power has provided access to lighting, computers, printing and internet services for the local school, helping teachers improve the standard of education – and a photocopier which members of the community are also able to use.

Less diesel is needed to pump water for the village and community members no longer need to travel more than 15km to the closest town to charge their mobile phone. The free phone charging service saves users around US$1 every time they charge their phone.

Solar charging solutions

Access to power remains a key issue for many of our customers in emerging markets. For example, of the 46 million people who live in Tanzania, only 14% are connected to an electricity grid. Solar-powered charging solutions can provide an efficient way of lighting and mobile phone charging for homes. We have now launched two solar-powered solutions:

ReadySet, a portable, solar-powered mobile phone charging system developed by Fenix International, is able to charge up to eight mobile phones a day. The system also powers the LED light that comes with it for up to three hours a day – all from a single solar charge. This offers a cleaner, greener and cheaper alternative to the kerosene lamps used in many remote regions. ReadySet was launched in Tanzania through Vodafone retail outlets in April 2013, and has already provided an estimated 1.2 million phone charges to people who live off the grid. Entrepreneurs, airtime sellers and M-Pesa agents can buy the ReadySet and set themselves up to offer phone charging services to their local community, earning an additional $44 a month, while increasing sales of other products and saving $5 to $10 per month on kerosene for lighting by using the in-built light (see video below).

We also offer a solar-powered home lighting kit in partnership with M-KOPA in Kenya, using our M-Pesa system to make payments (see Finance). M-KOPA, together with M-Pesa, offers modern, cleaner and cost-efficient lighting and mobile phone charging for homes.

Notes:

  1. Machina Research, M2M Global Forecast & Analysis 2011–22