Sustainability: How artificial intelligence protects the environment

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Hardly a day goes by without us being made aware of the consequences of climate change. Floods and droughts are increasing worldwide. At the same time, deforestation is advancing, while biodiversity is declining. And in Germany, too, the issue of air pollution is increasingly becoming a problem. Artificial intelligence has the potential to help us manage our planet sustainably – and in many areas.

Energy: In the course of the energy transition, it is not only necessary to switch to renewable energy sources, but also to use the available electricity more efficiently. Artificial intelligence is already being used today, for example, to optimize heating and cooling systems in buildings in real time, taking into account weather forecasts and current electricity prices. In single-family homes, energy management systems decide whether to use the electricity produced by the photovoltaic system to charge the electric car first, or whether it is better to switch on the dishwasher. In the near future, the combination of intelligent building control and forward-looking energy management will be standard in new private and commercial buildings.

Food: In Germany, several million tons of food end up in the garbage every year. This is due to a multitude of factors, including fluctuations in demand, low predictability in agriculture, and a multitude of regulations regarding the packaging and processing of food. AI-based solutions abound. From “optimizing the plannability and controllability of value creation in the food industry” to intelligent trash cans that document what is thrown away in restaurants and provide individual suggestions for better food handling via the cloud.

Species conservation: Thousands of species are threatened with extinction worldwide. Researchers and animal conservationists are now turning to machine learning and AI to help protect species. One possibility is “visual animal biometrics,” in which autonomously recorded image and video material is automatically analyzed. This allows individual animals to be classified and identified. Previously, this required volunteers to view and sort out millions of images. By using artificial intelligence, this process can be accelerated significantly, which in turn has a positive impact on animal welfare.

Waste separation: Efficient waste management and the associated waste separation are among the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Here, too, AI can help. The start-up Bin-e, for example, developed an intelligent waste container that automatically separates waste into different fractions and additionally compacts them. A fill level sensor informs the waste management company when the container needs to be emptied. Meanwhile, the Alba Group in Leipzig uses a sensor-based robotic gripper arm in its light packaging sorting plant in Leipzig. Crucially, sensor data is analyzed in real time and the system is capable of learning rather than simply following programmed routines.

Agriculture: Mankind needs more food every year. At the same time, however, agriculture is increasingly asking how production can be made more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The answer: better and more accurate data (soil quality, moisture, weather, etc.), which is evaluated in the cloud and subsequently made available to farmers in the form of recommendations for action. Already today, for example, there are irrigation solutions based on AI.

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