Data, AI and the Circular Economy – CE-Hub Lunchtime Webinar



The latest CE-Hub Lunchtime Webinar took place on May 11th 2023 on the subject of Data, AI and the Circular Economy. A highly requested topic, the session was chaired by Peter Hopkinson (CE-Hub) with two speakers, Fiona Charnley (CE-Hub) presenting the Digital World 2050 report and Hamid Badri (Circunomics) discussing how artificial intelligence is utilised in their work at Circunomics.

Fiona began by providing an overview of the role of the digital economy and its potential to enable the circular economy. She emphasized that while digital technology is rapidly advancing, caution should be exercised to avoid creating complex products that are difficult to disassemble and recycle.

Fiona discussed the alignment of digital technology with circular economy principles, highlighting three key areas. First, she mentioned the importance of eliminating waste through technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and blockchain. For example, she cited the possibility of repairing a plane immediately upon landing instead of waiting for days for replacement parts.

Second, Fiona emphasized the significance of circulating materials at their highest value. She explained that technologies like IoT, smart robotics, RFID tags, and data can optimize the use of resources. Smart factories equipped with smart robotics can efficiently manage inventory in and out of warehouses, contributing to circularity.

Lastly, Fiona addressed the regeneration of nature through digital technology. IoT, data, and satellite technologies can enable circular economy business models, such as the reuse of cotton clothing. Additionally, she mentioned the use of technology, such as no-fence collars, to confine livestock to specific areas, minimizing their impact on the environment.

Fiona concluded by discussing the Digital World 2050 study conducted with the Connected Everything network. This study explores the potential of digital technology in achieving a net-zero manufacturing sector. She also highlighted the work being done in the CE-Hub, including the development of a data observatory, a dashboard, and a Knowledge Platform.

Next, Hamid Badri introduced himself as a presenter from Germany and discussed how Circunomics utilises artificial intelligence. He explained that Circunomics has two main components: analytics and a marketplace for batteries. Using AI, they detect anomalies by fitting normal data with an auto-encoder, allowing them to identify deviations from the norm.

Hamid provided a demonstration of how Circunomics leverages data and AI to test and detect anomalies, giving an in-depth explanation of a specific application of AI in the context of circular economy.

The following audience question and answer session brought up inciteful views on the uses of data and AI and the challenges and pitfalls people have experienced.

Overall, the webinar provided insights into the intersection of digital technology and the circular economy, showcasing examples and discussing the challenges and opportunities associated with their integration.