Always-On Wireless Devices: a 30M Ton Carbon Problem

Wireless devices

by | Aug 22, 2013

Wireless devicesWireless networks with 24/7 access are becoming energy consuming monsters and wireless computing will lead to 30 million tons of carbon emissions by 2015, The Guardian reports.

Cloud-based applications from data centers managed by Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple help create more efficiency, but they also drive a paradigm shift from centralized power to distributed battery power. Collectively, these billions of low-powered devices and the energy consuming antennae that connect them wirelessly are detrimental to the environment, the newspaper says.

This will increase carbon emissions by 24 million tons in the next couple years, from 6 million tons in 2012 to 30 millions tons by 2015, according to a white paper, The Power of Wireless Cloud, from The Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) in Melbourne. According to the paper, the CO2 burden of building and maintaining mobile networks has not been taken into consideration for wireless cloud calculations, particularly for the antennae and wireless routers that provide connections to smartphones and tablets.

Typical sustainability assessments only focus on the energy consumption of specific applications and technology, but CEET’s paper calculates the carbon required to offer 24/7 access, The Guardian reports. The CEET paper also says carbon offsets don’t solve the problem of emissions. It’s solution: lowering the networks’ carbon footprint, which means evaluating the environmental cost and necessity of having 24/7 access to wireless networks.

The market for wireless power systems – encompassing mobile devices, consumer electronics, industrial applications, infrastructure devices and electric vehicles – will triple over the next eight years, growing from $4.9 billion in revenue in 2012 to $15.6 billion in 2020, according to a July report by Pike Research.




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