1 October 2012
As the internet continues to revolutionise most things in our lives and also grows in developing parts if the world, the question obviously arises about how this network of global information is kept up and running. An estimate in 2011 suggested that the internet accounted for 1-2% of global energy consumption; this is in some circles seen as relatively small. The search giant Google compares this figure to transportation which accounts for 25% of global energy consumption. There is clearly a debate going on about the payoff we make, with the growth of the internet and the benefits it gives to our daily lives are we willing to accept the impact on the environment?
It is not a static question also; some estimates put the growth of the internet in the near future at a break neck speed. So this is not an issue that is going be going away anytime soon. Like any question of consumption, it always has to come down to opportunity cost, on reflection are we getting a good deal? This question has been around for a number of years; with the constant drive for us to treat the environment better and the drive for better metrics to understand the data out there it is often asked how much are you /your industry cutting energy consumption?
The use of data in smart cities and smart grids (as well as many other initiatives) is aimed at making the consumption of energy and daily lives more efficient through better management of resources. To make the amount of data resources available for this task, it is clear that the consumption of energy on the side of those that provide that service will increase. It is not about just working for better energy consumption but also the massive socio-economic benefit which comes as a result of being a connected society.
I think on balance the trade-off seems to be worth it, the benefits from a connected society outweigh what is in some circles seen as a relatively small increase in energy consumption. I also have confidence in those working to reduce the impact and make the energy that is consumed work harder for us. A large sector is emerging that is looking at creating better energy solutions for global internet infrastructure, if the advancement in the internet and connected technologies is in anyway an indication of the development then hopefully we will see some great advancement soon.