Connected and mobile devices putting a strain on the environment
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
The always-on, internet-of-everything age of productivity in which we live actually has a down side (other than our constantly being connected to a device). These electronics cause a lot of emissions to be produced and might eventually stress the planet's power grid.
According to a new research, the billions and billions of internet-connected devices could produce up to 3.5 percent of global emissions within 10 years and a whopping 14 percent by 2040.
Additionally, these devices could use up to 20 percent of the world's electricity by 2025, hampering attempts to meet climate change targets and straining grids as demand by power-hungry server farms storing digital data from billions of smartphones, tablets and internet-connected devices grows exponentially.
Per a report by Climate Home News, global computing power demand from internet-connected devices, high-resolution video streaming, emails and even smart TVs is increasing 20 percent per year, consuming roughly 5 percent of the world's electricity in 2015.
Researchers say the industry's emissions could produce more pollution than any other country except the U.S., China and India, and industry power demand could increase from between 200 and 300 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity a year now to 1,200 or even 3,000 TWh by 2025.
The digitalization of nearly everything — from watches and phones to TVs and home appliances – is pushing us to a point unseen in human history, and there is no end in sight as new technology generations continue to evolve (fifth generation mobile technology is coming soon). The data avalanche is bearing down on us with increasing intensity.
U.S. researchers "expect power consumption to triple in the next five years as 1 billion more people come online in developing countries, and the internet-of-things, driverless cars, robots, video surveillance and artificial intelligence grows exponentially in rich countries."
Estimates were 8.4 billion connected things in 2017, setting the stage for 20.4 billion internet-of-things devices to be deployed by 2020, according to analysts at Gartner. Also, global internet traffic could increase up to threefold in the next five years, the Cisco Visual Networking Index reports.
A 2016 Berkeley laboratory report for the U.S. government says the country's data centers, which held about 350 million terabytes of data in 2015, may need more than 100 TWh of electricity a year by 2020 — the equivalent of 10 large nuclear power stations. Data center growth has been on the rise in Europe, too.
"More than 1 billion new internet users are expected, growing from 3 billion in 2015 to 4.1 billion by 2020. Over the next five years global IP networks will support up to 10 billion new devices and connections, increasing from 16.3 billion in 2015 to 26 billion by 2020," says Cisco.
Even Greenpeace is concerned, where analysts there say only about 20 percent of the electricity used in the world's data centers is renewable; 80 percent of the power comes from fossil fuels. Massive power savings in future generations of the technology could help curb energy use, but it's no guarantee that consumers would use their devices any more carefully or responsibly.
But demand being what it is, use of resources to power these devices will likely only increase, putting even more pressure on the world's power grid — and the environment.
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