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Can Digital Technology help reduce environmental impacts?

The omnipresence of digital technology in all sectors of activity (transportation, construction, agriculture, energy, industry, etc.) is indisputable. According to some studies, this makes it possible to reduce the environmental impact of these sectors, with the implementation of "smart" solutions, based on networks of sensors, the inter-connection of systems, or even artificial intelligence.

One can question the real potential of digital solutions but also the associated risks, including that of favoring the technological option to the detriment of more " low tech ", and possibly more efficient, solutions. In this research theme, the objective is to provide scientific bases to help decide whether a technology should be developed and deployed in view of its efficiency, cost, the time needed to implement it and the associated uncertainties. In particular, we will seek to answer the following questions.

  • What are the potential benefits, from a purely technological point of view, of these digital solutions?

This quantification of benefits will also have to take into account the direct impacts of implementing these solutions (production and deployment of hardware infrastructures, power supply) in the form of a life-cycle analysis.

  • What are the indirect effects of these solutions, i.e. how are our societies likely to respond to the introduction of these solutions?

Such effects can limit or even reverse the expected benefits, for example through a rebound effect. This question is multidisciplinary in nature, but we plan to use numerical models to quantify the magnitude of the effects. For example, we could use LUTI (Land Use and Transport Integrated) type models to study the effect of "smart-mobility" on greenhouse gas emissions.

Particular attention will be paid to assessing the uncertainties in the results, as well as to studying the hypotheses (technological, economic, regulatory, societal, etc.) under which the solutions studied are beneficial from an environmental point of view.

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