Quantifying the Net Environmental Impact of Using IoT to Support Circular Strategies—The Case of Heavy-Duty Truck Tires in Sweden
The idea of leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) to support strategies in line with the circular economy (CE) has been gaining traction in literature. However, previous work has predominantly focused on the opportunities that these technologies can bring, and few studies have critically assessed the environmental viability of the proposed strategies. In this study, we assess the net environmental impact of IoT-enabled circular strategies in the specific case of truck tires in the Swedish context, in order to gain insight into when and how it makes environmental sense to embed IoT hardware into products to support circular strategies. We quantify (1) the potential environmental savings in the different life cycle phases made possible through access to sensor data, and (2) the environmental impact from the added technology needed to provide and process the data. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used to evaluate the difference in impact between the current state and an ‘IoT scenario’. We find that the IoT scenario gives a 4% lower weighted life cycle impact than the current state. Through sensitivity analysis, we show that the conclusions are sensitive to assumptions made about the expected benefits of adding IoT, which depend on the technological context as well as the current and IoT-induced behavior of stakeholders along the product life cycle. The results are also sensitive to assumptions about the environmental impact of the IoT hardware components, implying that design decisions at this level can be important for ensuring a net environmental impact reduction from IoT-enabled circular strategies.