13 Jan 2010   |   News

Multinational open innovation project launched to green the Internet

A global consortium has launched an open innovation project to make the world’s communications networks more energy efficient.

A global consortium of public and private research labs has launched an open innovation project to make the world’s communications networks more energy efficient.

The Green Touch consortium has been pulled together by Bell Labs, with the goal of developing the technologies needed to make communications networks 1,000 times more energy efficient than today.

Making computing environmentally friendly

See also: The greening of IT

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.

The consortium brings together leaders in industry, academia and government labs and has the support of luminaries including Steven Chu, US Secretary of Energy, who said Green Touch will bring together scientists from around the world and from many different disciplines in an environment of open innovation to attack the problem from many different directions. “Truly global challenges have always been best addressed by bringing together the brightest minds in an unconstrained, creative environment,” Chu said.

France’s Industry Minister, Christian Estrosi, said industry has to play a major role in the drive to increase global energy efficiency, both as matter of environmental responsibility, and of competitiveness. “This is a particularly crucial area of focus because of increasing usage of information and communications technologies and the Internet. The world-wide Green Touch consortium will open the way to generat[e] major technological breakthroughs. France supports this project, which is open to all and in which two major French labs are founding members.”

The adoption of the open innovation model was also welcomed by Jong-Soo Yoon, Director General, Ministry of Environment, South Korea, who said it would provide a model for the sort of initiatives that are needed to address global warming, “It is only through harnessing the best minds around the world, regardless of their mother companies, industry, or nationality, that we will make the difference we need to.”

Corporate founding members of Green Touch include the service providers AT&T, China Mobile, Portugal Telecom, Swisscom, and Telefonica.

The academic research labs involved are Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Research Laboratory for Electronics, Stanford University’s Wireless Systems Lab (WSL), the University of Melbourne’s Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society.

Government and non profit research institutions taking part are the CEA-LETI Applied Research Institute for Microelectronics in Grenoble, France, imec of Leuven, Belgium, and the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control. Apart from Bell Labs as the founder, other industrial labs are Samsung Advanced Institute of Technolog and Freescale Semiconductor.

The target of a 1,000-fold increase in energy efficiency is based on research by Bell Labs, which concluded that today’s information and communication technology networks have the potential to be 10,000 times more efficient then they are today. This conclusion is based on an analysis of the fundamental properties of ICT networks and the physical limits of the technologies and techniques on which they are based, including optical, wireless, electronics, processing, routing, and architecture.

The telecommunications industry likes to shroud itself in green, claiming that the ability it provides for people to communicate without travelling to be face-to-face reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But in fact, the boom in broadband usage means the amount of energy consumed by information and communications networks is rapidly increasing.

To support its objectives Green Touch says that within five years it will deliver a reference network architecture and demonstrations of the key components required to realise the 1,000-fold improvement. It claims the initiative also offers the potential to generate new technologies and new areas of industry.

The first meeting of the consortium, to take place in February will establish the five-year plan, first-year deliverables, and members’ roles and responsibilities.

More companies are invited to join: http://www.greentouch.org

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