The net energy impact of an enterprise’s products and services on the community far outweighs the benefits of any savings in its computer processing operations.
Saving energy in the 21st century’s computing ecosystem is a vital component in achieving the goal of a sustainable society and is currently being addressed within the context of numerous emerging technologies including- flexible cloud processing, low-energy mobile and sensor communications, outsourcing of services, infrastructure virtualisation, application integration, embedded electronics and low energy processor design.
But of far more significance is the potential role of information and computing technology in reducing carbon emissions in most of today’s service processes- whether relating to power generation, manufacturing, transport, service delivery etc.
This revolution, using the computer as the most effective green machine ever designed, is rapidly taking shape with the emergence of the ‘smarter planet’ mantra. This has already been adopted by every major systems and software provider including- IBM, Cisco, Google, SAP, Apple, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle and promises the optimisation of the planet’s infrastructure.
This will presage more efficient healthcare, education, communication, utility and government services, as well as higher quality industry outcomes in construction, mining, travel, engineering, agriculture etc, by applying the latest advances in artificial intelligence, design, materials, electronics, computing and control sciences.
As well as the enormous energy reduction payoffs of smarter infrastructure, the ‘smarter planet’ will manifest in a limitless number of areas including-
Simulation-based Engineering- solving previously intractable design problems and achieving significant cost and energy reductions by applying computer simulated models and prototypes for testing purposes:
Transportation Systems- managing major traffic flows and supply chains, which will demand increasingly complex integration and scheduling via multi-modal transport networks:
Developing Nations Environments - allowing the populations of these countries to join the developed networked knowledge world and gain leverage through the application of cheap sensors and low cost intelligent mobile devices to help solve complex environmental and resource allocation problems.
Such global energy reduction potential, gained by using the computer to generate overall outcome savings are indisputable and in fact totally dwarf the benefits gained from optimising computer processing as an end in itself.
But greater sustainability benefits are also conditional on the performance and effectiveness of computer processing, with real-time, event-driven applications becoming increasingly common. Computer processing energy gains must therefore evolve within the constraints of process performance needs. Higher performance processing may be more energy intensive, but still deliver far greater benefits in terms of outcome energy savings; so that deriving an optimum trade-off between energy input efficiency and performance output efficiency will be critical.
But an even more significant energy paradigm is emerging, which encompasses the capacity of the enterprise to deliver the sustainable benefits of its services to the wider community.
In the final analysis it is the enterprise that is the primary implementer of services to its customers- whether individuals or businesses. These are the beneficiaries or otherwise of its products and services.
A General Motors that keeps churning out gas-guzzling vehicles, totally unsuited to a greener environment and its customer’s needs, may do major harm to the planet no matter how efficient or sophisticated its computerised operational systems.
What this boils down to is the role of the future enterprise as the most relevant greening system in relation to the communities it services. It is the enterprise- small, large, public or private, which is the key enabling system to achieving a greener world.
Tomorrow’s enterprise will be the primary harnesser of human mind power, amplified by expanding computational intelligence in our world. Its potential therefore to create a greener future through its impact on the wellbeing of the wider community is what ultimately should be assessed as its true value to society.