New Report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Six Infographics Showing How ‘Intelligent Assets’ could Unlock the Circular Economy

The rapid rise of ‘intelligent assets’ could lead to facilitate the decoupling of resource consumption from economic development, according to a report published today by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

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Bild © The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The rapid rise of ‘intelligent assets’ could lead to facilitate the decoupling of resource consumption from economic development and accelerate the transition towards the circular economy, according to a report published today by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
 

The report, Intelligent Assets: Unlocking the circular economy potential, noted that with up to 50 billion connected devices predicted by 2020, a pervasive digital transformation is reshaping the economy.

“Digital technologies are driving a profound transformation of our economy,” explained Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “Guiding this wave of change by applying circular economy principles could create value, and generate wider benefits for society, as this report shows.”

 

“Intelligent assets are a key building block of a system capable of ushering in a new era of growth and development, increasingly decoupled from resource constraints,” she added.


The question of whether this will this ‘fourth industrial revolution’ lead to an acceleration
 of the extractive, ‘linear’ economy of today, or whether it enable the transition towards a society in which value creation is increasingly decoupled from finite resource consumption, is explored in the following six inforgraphics.

Hint: You can navigate through the slideshow by pressing the left resp. right arrow keys.
© The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The rapid rise of ‘intelligent assets’ could lead to facilitate the decoupling of resource consumption from economic development and accelerate the transition towards the circular economy, according to a report published today by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
 

The report, Intelligent Assets: Unlocking the circular economy potential, noted that with up to 50 billion connected devices predicted by 2020, a pervasive digital transformation is reshaping the economy.

“Digital technologies are driving a profound transformation of our economy,” explained Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “Guiding this wave of change by applying circular economy principles could create value, and generate wider benefits for society, as this report shows.”

 

“Intelligent assets are a key building block of a system capable of ushering in a new era of growth and development, increasingly decoupled from resource constraints,” she added.


The question of whether this will this ‘fourth industrial revolution’ lead to an acceleration
 of the extractive, ‘linear’ economy of today, or whether it enable the transition towards a society in which value creation is increasingly decoupled from finite resource consumption, is explored in the following six inforgraphics.

© The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

According to the report a surge in innovative and disruptive business models in the energy sector is currently
under way. Developed markets are seeing
a proliferation of intelligent assets to
optimise energy use in many settings, from homes to street lighting.

 

In addition, the report found thaht the Internet of Things (IoT) technology is enabling distributed energy systems, particularly in developing markets.

 

New businesses are emerging that enable off-grid renewable energy as a service at affordable prices. Such new business models could be crucial in giving broader access to renewable energy sources to many more end users.

 

Moreover, the authors said  that these models could make it increasingly viable for developing markets to build entirely distributed energy systems and avoid the significant resource and capital costs tied up in a centralised energy system. 

© The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Performance contracts, predictive maintenance, and remanufacturing are already well-established (circular) practices in some sectors of the manufacturing industry.

 

However, according to the report intelligent assets are helping these feedback-dependent operations perform better and with increased flexibility

– making them accessible to a broader range
of companies and consumers.

 

In addition,
authors noted that the unprecedented amount of information generated by connected assets is enabling designers to translate feedback data into product improvements.

 

Finally, the report found that complexity and material demand in various production processes is being drastically reduced through the ability to virtualise product features via cloud technology. 

© The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The report found that the latest developments in sensor technology and connected IoT systems mean that companies can now track almost any kind of asset, almost anywhere in the world in real time.

 

Even though asset tracking has been standard practice in the logistics sector for some decades, new technologies are now said to be increasing asset and resource productivity by enabling reverse logistics programmes as well as real-time route optimisation.

 

According to the authors similar developments are seen in waste management where, in addition to real- time waste collection route optimisation, new systems are able to precisely sort and recycle multiple types of materials as well as monitor and incentivise waste disposal behaviour.

Such progress, it was said, could potentially reshape the way assets and resources are reused and recycled across industries, unlocking material value by providing transparency in reverse logistics and materials separation operations. 

© The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

In this Infographic the report’s authors explain how intelligent assets are reshaping humans’ ability to manage the Earth’s natural capital.

 

IoT driven insights into the complex dynamics of natural resources are enabling conventional agricultural systems to significantly increase asset productivity while simultaneously enabling the regeneration of land, the report argued.

Crop production and wild catch fishing were two industries cited by the report as starting to develop new ways of unlocking the value created by combining circular economy and intelligent asset value drivers.

 

Further technological and system advancements have the potential to expand on these solutions and enable these sectors to increase global food production while minimising resource use and environmental damage. 

© The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

According to the report, the incorporation of intelligent assets into
the built environment goes beyond improving energy efficiency. It is reshaping both asset utilisation and material management within
the sector.

 

The authors noted that tonnected buildings and building components are already starting to enable the wider use of performance contracts and predictive maintenance schemes, while at the same
time dramatically increasing the potential for improved asset utilisation through sharing.

 

The future was said to likely entail a built environment that is flexible and modifiable and which, through its interconnectivity, can feed the wider system (the city or the traffic grid) with information that enhances both traffic management and urban planning. 

© The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

With 60% of the world’s population expected to be living in urban areas by 2030, the report said that cities are focal points for both consumption and (structural) waste.

 

Consequently, they were said to provide a fruitful ground for solutions that combine the design
and implementation of intelligent assets with key principles of the circular economy. These solutions are driven both by businesses and entrepreneurs – forming synergistic ecosystems of services that increase asset and resource productivity – and policymakers, who are in the position to make large-scale infrastructure investments, design regulation and use sensor-generated data to create incentives for more effective resource use.