The biggest trends in tech sustainability

We take a look at the biggest trends that are happening in tech sustainability

As technologies become more powerful, it’s become more important than ever for the tech sector to keep sustainability in mind from the design stage. With bodies such as the UN and EU setting sustainability goals for the next 30 years, organisations find themselves under pressure to keep environmental impact down. We take a look at the biggest trends that are happening in tech sustainability

Considering power consumption and Co2 emissions

A major part of being sustainable is paying mind to power consumption and the CO2 that’s being emitted.

Simon Bennett, CTO EMEA at Rackspace Technology, said: “Looking at ‘whole life’ impacts of technology, cost continues to be a big factor, but this focus is enhanced by looking at the impact of both power consumption and CO2 emissions. This is especially true in the public sector, however private sector organisations are increasingly taking note of their power output.

“An example is Bitcoin and its consumption of electricity. Stated as “green” or otherwise, either way it really is not sustainable.

“In general, measuring the CO2 footprint of technology must consider its entire lifespan or shelf life, including environmentally friendly disposal, especially recycling. A lot of companies are signing up to commitments and many produce their own Digital Impact and Sustainability reports, but these need to be followed through or the company will be called out.

“Supporting the UN’s Global Compact and Sustainable Development Goals is another approach commonly adopted, and the sustainability of a company in all aspects including tech is often now a significant session in annual reports.”

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The use of 5G networks

Bhushan Patil, senior vice-president EMEA at Tech Mahindra, explained how 5G technology has played its part in tech sustainability initiatives.

“The narrative on sustainability is moving beyond carbon emission to develop use cases that drive positive impact across society using new technologies,” said Patil.

“Digital transformations, specifically 5G networks, present us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to strike a better balance between sustainability and business profitability.

“While much of the narrative around 5G to date has been centred around the commercial advantages of 5G deployment, including increased productivity and streamlining supply chains, the impact of 5G on sustainability is getting clearer.

“It will not only reduce harmful emissions but its application in precision farming, remote healthcare, training and education will go a long way to drive positive change and inclusion at mass scale.”

Immersion cooling in data centres

The data centre space in particular has previously been known to emit a notable amount of CO2 emissions, but is working to increase sustainability within its operations. One way in which this is happening is through immersion cooling, according to David Craig, CEO of Iceotope.

“An important sustainability factor which is under reported is water use. The industry uses vast amounts of it,” said Craig.

“Immersion cooling consumes zero water, as opposed to billions of litres of water, with air cooling strategies used in the vast majority of data centres across the globe. Whilst globally, data centres are using vast amounts of water in the technical suite cooling processes, with precision cooling, there is a far small amount of water in the process. The water does not get consumed.

“Allowing for maintenance and water loop refreshes, you can very easily be saving 95% + water versus a similar sized and located site.

“What’s more, immersion cooling is less harsh on the electronics, hence getting better life out of them, which assists dramatically by lowering the carbon footprint of dealing with and managing electronics in remote and also traditional data centre applications, because we touch them less often and go to them less often.”

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Intelligent automation in manufacturing

Another way that tech has been increasing sustainability, particularly in the manufacturing industry, is through the use of intelligent automation.

“Within the manufacturing industry, adopting AI has made it realistic for supply chains to make recommendations and decisions without the need for human intervention,” said Alan Duncan, senior director of industry strategy (manufacturing), EMEA at Blue Yonder.

“The time and human brain power saved will enable manufacturers to focus on increasing sustainability, efficiency, productivity and accuracy of operations. It also helps to keep processes more robust in the event of staff turnover, so that supply chains can continue to operate efficiently if employees get sick or move onto new roles, retire or leave the business.

“The role intelligent automation plays in keeping one step ahead on customer buying behaviour, rather than simply responding to incidents as they occur, is crucial as manufacturers navigate their way through 2021. This will play a key role in ensuring supply chains are sustainable enough to cope with subsequent disruptive events that could occur in the future.”

Work management automation

Lastly, Andrew Conway, CTO at Proteus, developed by Xergy, explained how work management automation has been aiding tech sustainability efforts: “One of the biggest trends is work management automation. The pandemic has forced us to be innovative and limit our traditional structural dependency on the office to work from anywhere.

“Centralised technologies such as automation platforms enable companies to be distributive, maximising productivity without leaving their home. Automation through data capture, storage and utilisation are creating end-to-end visibility of projects. Companies can make evidence-based decisions resulting in better stewardship of resources, assets and emissions.

“This trend in automating our daily work processes through low carbon technology fosters connectivity to meet the demands of now, yet we’re starting to see the overhaul of legacy-driven systems that have powered our industries for decades.”

See also: Responsible technology – how can the tech industry become more ethical?

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.