Thursday, 23 July 2009

Quantifying mobile's role in tackling climate change

In a joint report entitled Carbon Connections, Vodafone and Accenture have concluded that wireless telecommunications have the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 113 Mt CO2e a year and cut associated energy costs by €43bn across the 25 EU countries in 2020. These carbon savings represent 2.4% of expected EU emissions for 2020.

The savings come from 13 specific opportunities that the report identified in five areas, which are:

• Dematerialisation – For example, mobile telepresence, virtual office, mobile delivery notifications for e-commerce.

• Smart grids - Improving efficiency through active monitoring of the grid, remote monitoring of micro-generators and feed-back to consumers on grid use and variable pricing.

• Smart logistics - Vehicle tracking to optimise routes, decentralised tracking to adjust speed and routing, loading optimisation to maximise capacity, onboard telematics to encourage efficient driving and predictive maintenance, and remote supply control for more efficient deliveries.

• Smart cities - Synchronising traffic lights to maximise traffic flow.

• Smart manufacturing - High-value product remote monitoring systems to transmit its status for predictive maintenance.

There is no doubt that mobile communications (in some form) will be an essential part of the smart infrastructure that we'll need to help fight climate change, particularly around smart logistics, for example. But I have a problem with some of the other assumed savings which will certainly rely on communications, but not necessarily mobile.

With the current talk of an 'Internet of Things' i.e. a world where many common devices will be connected over the web, it seems more than likely that quite a lot of the devices mentioned above will be online. We know communications will be required but it seems to me to be tempting fate to assume it will all be by wireless telecommunications. It also means that the savings outlined could be double counting with other assessments of the impact of telecommunications.

The other point is that some of these are opportunities to reduce carbon emissions which will have little benefit over existing solutions. For example, does predicting maintenance require a direct wireless communications module? I guess if the asset is expensive and the module cheap then why not, but there may be minimal incentive.

Anyway, I hope to get the chance to discuss the report with Vodafone sometime soon, so I'll let you know what they say.

© The Green IT Review

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