Communications Turns Totally Green

The world took a big step closer today to a green and more sustainable communications future with the launch of Green Touch, a global consortium organized by Bell Labs whose goal is to create the technologies needed to make communications networks 1000 times more energy efficient than they are today.

A thousand-fold reduction is roughly equivalent to being able to power the world’s communications networks, including the Internet, for three years using the same amount of energy that it currently takes to run them for a single day.
Green Touch brings together leaders in industry, academia and government labs to invent and deliver radical new approaches to energy efficiency that will be at the heart of sustainable networks in the decades to come. With its launch, the consortium also has issued an open invitation to all members of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) community to join forces in reaching this ambitious target.

“The ICT sector is perfectly placed to bring its innovative and technological forces to bear in the low carbon transition as well as in curbing its own carbon footprint. The Green Touch Initiative shows how business can play its part in delivering the low carbon society we are working to achieve. With Government creating an environment in which innovation can flourish, we welcome industry coming together with academia to create the research, technology and solutions necessary to reduce carbon emissions,” said Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, UK.

“Truly global challenges have always been best addressed by bringing together the brightest minds in an unconstrained, creative environment. This was what we used when putting a man on the moon and is the same approach we need to implement to address the global climate crisis. The Green Touch initiative is an example of such a response – bringing together scientists and technologists from around the world and from many different disciplines in an environment of open innovation to attack the problem from many different directions,” said Dr. Steven Chu, US Secretary of Energy.

This 1000-fold efficiency target is based on research from Bell Labs that determined that today’s information and communication technology (ICT) networks have the potential to be 10,000 times more efficient then they are today. This conclusion comes from a Bell Labs’ analysis of the fundamental properties of ICT networks and technologies (optical, wireless, electronics, processing, routing, and architecture) and studying their physical limits by applying established formulas such as Shannon’s Law.

“With the boom in broadband usage, ICT energy consumption is rapidly increasing and immediate steps need to be taken to address this trend and mitigate its impact,” said Vernon Turner, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Enterprise Computing, Network, Consumer, Telecom and Sustainability at IDC, a leading industry analyst firm. “What distinguishes the Green Touch Initiative is its commitment to a hugely ambitious yet quantifiable goal that is rooted in hard science. Its global profile and multi-disciplinary approach will accelerate the necessary fundamental rethinking and development of new technologies.”

To support its objectives the Green Touch Initiative will deliver — within five years –– a reference network architecture and demonstrations of the key components required to realize this improvement. This initiative also offers the potential to generate new technologies and new areas of industry.

The first meeting of the consortium will take place in February.