IoT: A powerful tool for a sustainable future

The GigaGreen strategy from Vodafone has set ambitious targets for active environmental protection. Innovative IoT solutions allow the group to function as an enabler, making a key contribution to a green future.

Setting a green course

Sustainability is rapidly gaining in importance, and not just for consumers. Companies are also joining the fight against climate change. As a future-oriented digitalisation company, Vodafone is aware of its responsibility to society and the environment and has committed to reaching a critical objective with its GigaGreen strategy: The group is aiming to be climate-neutral by 2025 and completely emission-free by 2040. 

Vodafone has already taken extensive measures to ensure the success of this initiative. These include converting Vodafone networks to 100 % green energy across Europe, the increased application of energy-efficient cellular technologies such as 5G, programs for waste reduction, establishing a recycling economy for devices sold, initiatives to extend device lifespans by repairing, refurbishing and reselling, and even the green SIM card.

Minor measure with major impact

Environmental protection means making more efficient use of available resources. Vodafone halved the size of its SIM cardholder in 2020 to save material. And although SIM cards are very small, this makes a huge difference in mass production. This was followed in late 2021 by the Eco-SIM made from recycled plastic, saving 320 tonnes of plastic each year: Another sensible intermediate step towards replacing the traditional SIM card with a fixed eSIM fitted in terminal devices.

“GigaBee Protect uses cellular communications to determine the positioning of the beehive. The main advantage of the solution lies in the low-power technology that saves far more energy than GPS.”

Tim Schaerfke, IoT Innovation Specialist at Vodafone

Smart connectivity for increased sustainability 

Vodafone is aiming to use smart connectivity to help companies reduce their CO2 footprint and contribute to environmental protection. The Carbon Trust has calculated that Vodafone customers were able to avoid an estimated 7.1 million tonnes of CO2 thanks to IoT technologies in the fiscal year 2020/21. The global target for the Vodafone Group is a fifty-fold increase in this number over the next eight years. By 2030, Vodafone intends to help its customers save around 350 million tonnes of CO2. A large portion of these savings will be achieved with IoT services from Vodafone Business. There is a diverse range of application areas.

More biodiversity with smart bee protection

Meticulous work is taking place on innovative applications at the Vodafone Innovation Park, the group’s development department. GigaBee Protect is one of these projects. The aim: Protecting bees for intact biodiversity.

Vodafone developed an all-in-one solution for the project, which is installed on the beehive itself to support beekeepers on a daily basis. Part of the solution is reliable anti-theft protection. Beekeepers are faced not just with bee mortality but must also often deal with theft or deliberate destruction of their hives. The team led by project manager Małgorzata Gawlik and innovations specialist Tim Schaerfke turned to IoT to combat this. “The module transmits information if the beehive topples over or is stolen. The installed positioning technology uses cellular data, without GPS, to save energy,” says Tim Schaerfke. “We expect that the devices can work for up to 18 months without replacing the battery, which makes it very handy for beekeepers,” adds Małgorzata Gawlik when explaining why no GPS-based positioning system was used.

Success with smart cooperation 

In cooperation with cXc GmbH, a high-precision weighing device to determine the weight of the honey produced by the bees has been included in the solution. This enables conclusions to be drawn about the available food sources and the general health of the bees. Beekeepers can use an online dashboard to refer to this information and other useful data at any time. 

Another cooperation partner for the project is, a specialist for data-driven insect behaviour analysis. integrates a monitoring system in the solutions to collect and evaluate additional data about bee colonies with AI analyses. The gathered data is shared with a research project subsidised by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Germany. A bee colony fitted with GigaBee Protect technology is now located on the roof of Vodafone headquarters in Düsseldorf.

Grasswand mit Haus und Wassertropfen

Fully functional pre-series models of both the Wasserheld and the GigaBee Protect modules were available for interested parties to experience at the OMR Festival.

Grasswand mit Haus und Wassertropfen

Fully functional pre-series models of both the Wasserheld and the GigaBee Protect modules were available for interested parties to experience at the OMR Festival.

Giga Bee Protect Technologie
Giga Bee Protect Technologie

Saving resources with smart water meters

Water is one of the most valuable resources, not least because of climate change. Potential savings are practically everywhere, as a water pipe bursts every 30 seconds in Germany. In 2020, this led to losses totalling 3.4 billion Euro.

That is why Vodafone has joined E.ON to develop a solution for early recognition of potential slow leaks, thereby avoiding burst pipes and severe water damage. The Water Hero is a retrofitted solution that can be installed on water meters. The Water Hero checks and monitors water usage. The system recognises the smallest anomaly at an early stage. This enables a sustainable lifestyle and swift reactions, as pipe leaks often go unnoticed for a long time, thus increasing the severity of the damage caused.  

Superb connectivity with narrowband IoT

“The difficult aspect was achieving reliable connectivity deep within the building. Using a narrowband IoT gateway was the only way to overcome so much steel, concrete and screening,” explains Matthias Kahmann, who was involved in Water Hero development as Strategic Global Account Manager Utilities & Manufacturing for Vodafone. The solution, completely developed by Vodafone, is responsible for collecting the data and transmitting it securely to the E.ON Cloud. Customers can read and monitor their meter status easily in the Water Hero app at any time. A warning SMS is sent to users as soon as any anomalies are noted. 

“It is very easy to retrofit current water meters with the solution. Installation takes less than 60 seconds and is suitable for private and industrial customers,” says IoT Vertical Solution Consultant Anna Friedrich. The partnership between E.ON and Vodafone also includes future planned adaptation of the technology for electricity and gas meters. Leonhard Birnbaum, Chairman of the Board of Management of E.ON, emphasises that the aim here is also to save resources, recognise damage early and thereby make a contribution to a green future: “Sustainability and digitalisation must go hand in hand to achieve climate neutrality. New, intelligent solutions, strong partnerships and shared visions across industry boundaries are all required to make decisive progress.”

“We have chosen the best solutions to fulfil our requirements: Energy-saving operation, high range, bi-directional data transfer and robustness.”

Andreas Heckmann, Agvolution co-founder

Environmental monitoring for climate-smart agriculture

Optimal use of water, pesticides and fertilisers are decisive factors in agriculture, making the difference between a good harvest and a poor one. The correct and responsible application of these resources is also essential to guaranteeing environmental protection. That is why the start-up Agvolution is aiming to simplify climate-friendly and efficient crop cultivation. Agricultural land is monitored with sensors: These record temperature, precipitation and soil moisture and send the information to a central data platform. The heart of the start-up is the algorithm that calculates forecasts and recommends decisions on the basis of sensor and satellite data.

The climate sensors developed by Agvolution are equipped with an IoT communications module from Vodafone to allow continuous transmission of measured values to the evaluation platform. The extremely precise climate sensors have been patented and combine a number of connectivity standards. They communicate via narrowband IoT, as well as traditional 4G and 5G mobile networks – and remain sustainable thanks to the built-in solar module. “We made the decision to cover as wide a technological range as possible. This gives us more concrete use-case options and also makes our solution future-proof,” explains Agvolution co-founder Andreas Heckmann. Designed for agricultural use, the yield and stress forecasts from the ground sensors also enable efficient and sustainable irrigation of urban green spaces.

Designing a green future with IoT

All of these application examples reveal that GreenIT technologies like IoT are not just optional for sustainable projects of the future: They play a central role. Initial prototypes have developed into effective everyday aids within a short space of time. However, there is still plenty of potential to be realised for IoT applications.

Problem-oriented focus, the use of green solutions and an end-to-end approach will enable Vodafone Business and its customers and partners to create new, green business models for a more sustainable future.


Set all switches to green