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Published on January 19th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


Internet to Become 1,000 Times Greener by 2015?

January 19th, 2010 by  


Yeah, that’s what I said — What?!

Apparently, Bell Labs has launched a global effort to overhaul the internet and other communication networks to make them 1,000 times greener by the year 2015!

Bell Labs is the research arm of telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent. In this effort they are coordinating with 15 other initial members from industry, academia, science labs, and NGOs, including AT&T, China Mobile, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, and MIT’s Research Laboratory for Electronics. “Green Touch” is the name being given to the consortium.

How much energy do the internet and other communication networks use? They emit about the same amount of greenhouse gas pollution as 50 million cars — 300 million tons each year.

This consortium, along with anyone else who joins it (more on this below), is looking to make yearly emissions in 2015 a few times less than what the current daily emissions are.

The system for producing this green internet and communications revolution is quite unique.

Open Invitation and Open Sharing of Intellectual Property

Bell Labs has given an “open invitation” to any members of the global information and communication technology (ICT) sector who want to join them. And the system will not have each individual entity fighting for intellectual property rights but will have an open, “shared” system of intellectual property rights that will help to facilitate and streamline international technology transfer on this issue.

Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen says, “It’s an open environment within the consortium to build on each other’s successes.”

History of Radical Innovation at Bell Labs

Bell Labs does have success with a similarly large effort in 1951. Although the members of that earlier communications transformation may not be involved in this one, it can still give us hope. This earlier research effort resulted in the touch-tone telephone and about 90 other phone features that are still used today, including caller ID, voice mail and the mobile phone. Reportedly, every single invention from this research effort was eventually deployed.

Basically, Bell Labs President Jeong Kim says that everything that is part of today’s communication technologies other than the internet and video came out of that effort.

Transforming the System

Whereas the current system is “optimized around performance” and “simplicity of operation,” according to Gee Rittenhouse, head of Research Bell Labs, she says this new system will be completely different and optimized around saving watts.

Bottom line — Verwaayen says, “Will [Green Touch] be a game changer? The answer is yes.”

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in strong support of the initiative, says: “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.”

Some conclude that information and communication technology is the most important sector in the world for combatting climate change. Stacy Feldman of Solve Climate says: “Greening ICT would cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020, according to a report by industry group McKinsey for the Global eSustainability Initiative and the Climate Group, a UK-based NGO.”

Hamadoun Touré, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the lead telecom arm of the UN, says: “Put simply, ICT is the single most powerful tool humankind has at its disposal to avoid potential climate catastrophe.”

Will Green Touch be able to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1,000 times in five years? That is the goal and this is the big question.

h/t Solve Climate

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Image Credits: NeighyacuriousleeAna Carmen 

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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