Energy use in the media cloud

Dec 03, 2010
Energy use in the media cloud

The increased availability and access of broadband around the world has meant a rise in global demand for online media services and this could have implications for a society that is living within environmental limits. New research has analysed the potential future demand for downloaded data worldwide, such as social networking sites and on-demand TV programs, and the resulting energy requirements.

Academics at Bristol University's Department of Computer Science have looked at the provision of media services to consumers, focusing on use in the infrastructure. They measured the scale of the challenge facing Green IT, considered its feasibility, and what approaches to behaviour change could be adopted to reduce the scale of the challenge.

Assuming that the average westerner's media consumption moves fully online but does not rise substantially beyond current levels, and the global middle class reach western levels of consumption, the researchers estimate the overall demand to be 3,200 megabyte (MB) a day per person, totalling 2,570 exabytes per year by the world population in 2030.

The academics found, based on two independent sources of data, the current energy demand for bandwidth to be four watt-hours (Wh) per MB. They conclude that the average power required to support this activity would be 1,175 at current levels of efficiency, and that a factor 60-performance improvement would be needed if infrastructure energy is to be provided by one per cent of renewable energy capacity in 2030. By looking at historical trends in , they observed that this would be reached around 2021 if these trends continue.

New applications were examined that might require bandwidth capacity beyond their estimate, such as high-definition online viewing and internet radio. The researchers also outlined behaviour change strategies that could be used to reduce the overall demand for bandwidth if historical performance improvements are not maintained. Example strategies suggested include techniques to reduce 'digital waste' – data downloaded but not actually viewed – and the 'persuasive' design of web pages to encourage people to opt for less data-intense options.

Dr Chris Preist, Reader in Sustainability and Computer Systems in the Department of Computer Science, said: "This research suggests that in a future which is increasingly environmentally constrained, there is still a good chance that broadband connectivity can be provided equitably to the majority of the world. This contrasts significantly with other aspects of western lifestyle, such as aviation, which could become increasingly the preserve of the wealthy."

Further work is required to expand this analysis to cover device and mobile network energy use, and the impacts of manufacturing on emissions, energy and resource use. Research is also needed to estimate the potential impact of the strategies outlined on consumption, and to develop means to apply them.

Explore further: Computerized emotion detector

More information: Paper: Energy use in the media cloud: behaviour change or technofix?, Chris Preist, Paul Shabajee. Dr Preist will present the paper remotely at the 2nd IEEE International Conference on Cloud Computing Technology and Science in Indianapolis, USA, today.

Related Stories

Global emissions to leap 39 percent by 2030: US

May 27, 2009

Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise 39 percent by 2030 as energy consumption surges in the developing world, notably in Asian giants China and India, the United States warned on Wednesday.

'Distributed energy' has power to save billions

Mar 03, 2010

Wide-scale adoption of low-emission distributed energy could reduce the cost of transitioning to a low-carbon future by as much a $130 billion by 2050, according to a new report released today by CSIRO.

Recommended for you

Computerized emotion detector

Sep 16, 2014

Face recognition software measures various parameters in a mug shot, such as the distance between the person's eyes, the height from lip to top of their nose and various other metrics and then compares it with photos of people ...

Cutting the cloud computing carbon cost

Sep 12, 2014

Cloud computing involves displacing data storage and processing from the user's computer on to remote servers. It can provide users with more storage space and computing power that they can then access from anywhere in the ...

Teaching computers the nuances of human conversation

Sep 12, 2014

Computer scientists have successfully developed programs to recognize spoken language, as in automated phone systems that respond to voice prompts and voice-activated assistants like Apple's Siri.

Mapping the connections between diverse sets of data

Sep 12, 2014

What is a map? Most often, it's a visual tool used to demonstrate the relationship between multiple places in geographic space. They're useful because you can look at one and very quickly pick up on the general ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dirk_bruere
not rated yet Dec 03, 2010
Eventually most Human interaction, activity and business wioll be in cyberspace. I would expect the Net, in its widest form, to eventually be the biggest energy consuming sector of all economies.