This article first appeared in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 13, 2023 - November 19, 2023
Environmental impact has been increasingly influencing consumer behaviour and purchases, from screwing low-energy bulbs into their light fixtures and bathing beneath low-flow shower heads to laundering their clothes with energy-efficient washers and dryers.
But these measures pale in comparison to the potential sustainability of a smart home. Smart home sustainability may be vital in optimising and protecting our environment, natural resources and quality of life.
Alongside rapid technological advances, the Malaysian government seeks to move industries forward with Industry 4.0, capitalising on digital transformations to accelerate the local services sectors. This would eventually contribute to the growth of smart homes, cities, grids and smart services.
According to the Malaysian Investment Development Authority, an area of impact would be in the current construction methods of automation and mechanisation and mandatory compliance to use the Industrialised Building System, which forms the first step in encouraging the adoption of smart home technologies.
Jabil’s Smart Home Technology Trends 2023 report — a global survey of Internet of Things device decision-makers, including the Asia-Pacific — reveals several exciting findings in sustainability. Some 82% of respondents cited that reducing energy consumption in manufacturing and device operations is the top sustainability priority for smart home solution providers.
Developing sustainable home devices in Malaysia requires a systematic approach by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to ensure the incorporation of eco-friendly practices throughout the product life cycle.
Here are some critical steps for OEMs to consider:
Analyse the materials used: Developers, owners or operators must adapt to the digital, electric world with sustainable, resilient, efficient and people-friendly buildings. The future of environmentally-friendly products relies on sustainable designs that minimise environmental harm while prioritising occupant health and comfort and enhancing building performance. This involves reducing non-renewable resource consumption and waste and creating healthy living spaces.
Integrating intelligent electrical distribution systems has revolutionised cost control and reduced carbon emissions. While the initial investment is small compared to the overall project budget (10%-15%), digitisation and software are crucial for lower operating costs and energy consumption.
The emphasis should be on reducing the use of environmentally harmful materials such as non-recyclable plastics. Eco-friendly alternatives like glass, ceramics, stainless steel and bioplastics should be considered.
● Measure sustainable criteria throughout production: OEMs can establish clear sustainability metrics and goals to track their performance in energy efficiency, use of renewable materials and waste reduction. Secondly, they can conduct regular audits and assessments to monitor adherence to sustainable practices and identify areas for improvement. They can also collaborate with third-party certification bodies to obtain eco-labels or certifications that validate their sustainability efforts.
● Prioritise product durability: Smart home devices in Malaysia should be designed to be durable and long-lasting. Unlike most modern smart devices with two years of lifespan, appliances with innovative capabilities should last 10 to 15 years.
This can be achieved by embedding connectivity in firmware and ensuring high-quality construction. Prolonging the lifespan of products reduces energy consumption, costs and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacturing and disposal of appliances.
● Consider eco-friendly distribution and delivery: OEMs can adopt eco-friendly distribution and delivery practices to reduce the environmental impact of smart home products in Malaysia. They can optimise packaging materials to minimise waste and utilise recyclable or biodegradable packaging options. Implementing efficient logistics and transportation systems can help reduce carbon emissions by optimising routes, utilising electric vehicles and promoting shared transportation.
Collaborating with local distribution partners can help reduce the distance travelled for deliveries. Additionally, OEMs can explore last-mile delivery alternatives like smart lockers or delivery consolidation centres to reduce individual trips and improve efficiency.
● Support responsible end-of-life management: Implement strategies to manage product disposal responsibly. Establish collection points for electronic waste and collaborate with authorised recycling agencies to ensure proper recycling and resource recovery. For instance, an OEM developing televisions can partner with e-waste management companies to offer take-back programmes and promote recycling initiatives.
As Malaysia moves forward in embracing sustainability and adopting smart homes, it is crucial to address the pressing issue of e-waste management. The accumulation of e-waste from smart homes poses risks to human health and the environment.
To accelerate e-waste management, the shift from informal to formal recycling processes is essential. Currently, only a small percentage of e-waste is recycled safely. Collaborative efforts between the government, industry associations and the public will help to increase awareness and promote responsible e-waste disposal.
In a world where sustainability has become an urgent call, intelligent home solutions emerge as a beacon of hope, offering people ease, comfort and the opportunity to reduce their environmental footprint. It’s time to embrace the transformative potential of this technology and embark on a journey towards a more sustainable future.
V Y Lai is senior director of operations at Jabil (Batu Kawan and Sungai Petani), a manufacturing services company that offers design, production and product management services
Save by subscribing to us for your print and/or digital copy.