The ICT industry – whose share of the world’s carbon footprint at 2pc matches the airline industry and is in danger of exceeding this – has set itself a bold target of improving its energy efficiency by a factor of 1,0000, the chairman of the board of GreenTouch Thierry Van Landegem told this morning’s Green Growth Forum in Dublin.
GreenTouch is a major consortium of technology and communications firms who have banded together to focus on decreasing ICT’s impact on the environment and pave a sustainable path to the future.
GREEN GROWTH FORUM 2013
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In 2010, Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs group led a four-fold expansion of its Dublin operation as part of a multi-million euro, five-year programme to focus on advanced research in a number of domains including support for Bell Labs’ contribution to the GreenTouch programme.
Van Landegem said a 2pc impact on the world’s carbon footprint equates to around 50m cars on the road. “If you look at the internet as a country and make a listing of the energy consumption of the countries, the internet would be ranked in fifth position between Japan and Russia.
“The consumption of ICT is going to increase by 27pc in the coming years. Why? Because you and I want that to happen. When you make a phone call you don’t just want to do a voice call, but you want to do a video call in HD. Tablet computers and PCs are driving huge internet traffic growth. The evolution of data traffic in recent years has grown exponentially.
“The problem we face is that the network technologies don’t accommodate that,” Van Landegem said, and pointed out that an energy gap has emerged between the growth of ICT and the infrastructure to support it.
“Up to 2010 it was on par but since then these have grown apart. We have a real issue, this is not sustainable.”
Van Landegem said the realisation prompted the technology and comms industries to look at how energy efficient communications networks actually are. “They are very inefficient.
“From a scientific perspective, we can be 1,000 times more efficient than we are today. That is huge. So let’s get on with it.”
He said the ICT industry is made up of a vast array of stakeholders, from the equipment manufacturers to the people who make the components for the boxes. “And if that’s not enough you need the co-operation of the companies that use those boxes – companies like BT and AT&T.
“And we need the academic world involved, the researchers, the stakeholders, and we need to energise these folks to get to better energy efficiency.”
Van Landegem said that since GreenTouch was founded, more than 60 industry members have come on board, as well as 300 industry-leading scientists from around the world.
The super-fast, super energy-efficient networks of the future
The challenge to boost energy efficiency by a factor of 1,000, Van Landegem said, could prove to be disruptive for the ICT industry worldwide as we move to fibre-to-the-home technologies, 4G, the internet of things and beyond.
“We want to be able to demonstrate new technologies in 2015. Energy efficiency is about delivering better traffic per user in a more efficient way. What we try to do is increase energy efficiency by reducing the power required to bring the bits to the end user. We want to deliver this information to you at the lowest cost possible. If the energy consumption is lower, the utility bill will be lower.
“Therefore, we are not only reducing the cost for the consumer but also the carbon footprint. The more efficient we can make this we can think about using more and more renewable energy sources and provide more services that will be good for the economy and the environment.
“We are two years into this now and we have done lots of research and are focusing on disruptive actions to build architectures and road maps for the technologies and networks of the future,” Van Landegem said.
“We are confident that we will get there.”
Watch Thierry Van Landegem tell delegates at the Green Growth Forum about tech innovation for a sustainable future:
In his keynote address, Van Landegem also spoke about how the comms industry is preparing for a green future: