In this day and age, a lot of our electronic devices are wirelessly connected. I need many of these gadgets around me to get through my day, like my laptop or phone to check my schedule and email, the printer to do my homework, or my Playstation to enjoy myself, and these things probably aren’t uncommon in other households. But what these electronics around us have in common is a network connectivity that carries out their function. And that perpetual connection is a problem for energy costs.
In 2013, approximately $80 billion was wasted on power for online devices. But wait, what’s so special about online devices? Why aren’t our desk-lamps or calculators part of the problem? Well, devices that use a wireless connection are in “standby mode” when we are not using them, and the wording of “standby mode” does seem to imply that the device is completely inactive and using minimal power. But even though they may not be in use, they still maintain network connection in standby mode and continue to draw power to do so. As of 2013, 600 Terawatts (1 Kilowatt=103 watts; 1 Terawatt=1012 watts) were drawn from online devices. And to produce what? Nothing. What a waste.
Unfortunately, the problem seems likely to exacerbate. Figure 1 shows the past and projected growth of global Internet traffic and clearly, more people seem to become increasingly dependent on the Internet. Additionally, figure 2 shows the projected sales of networked devices. It isn’t hard to see that the energy demand will skyrocket in order to power those networked devices. Are we going to have to go through the trouble of satisfying their standby mode hunger too?
The International Energy Agency is addressing policy makers, software designers, or service providers to cut this 600 TWt waste, but the issue nagged me as I read an article about a plausible futuristic fantasy called the “Internet of Things”. Imagine everything, and I mean everything including trees, lampposts and other everyday entities, being wirelessly connected. Agricultural conditions can be perpetually tracked, traffic better regulated, and communication more immediate than ever; the ideas are endless! But of course, there’s a catch: the energy to back that connectivity is colossal. How can we expect to be energy efficient and advance ourselves in network connectivity when our current connectivity is having energy issues? All I could think at the end of the Internet of Things article was, “We might have to wait a little bit longer.”