Computing/Consumer electronics

Ebay, Kindle and Skype rule among the greenest apps

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Ebay, Skype and Kindle now have more in common than being three of the most widely used smartphone apps. They are also the best apps for promoting sustainable behavior, according to a recent study by the WSP Group, a U.K. environmental consultancy firm.

Live Long and Phosphor: Blue LED Breakthrough for Efficient Electronics

Read the full story from the University of Michigan.

In a step that could lead to longer battery life in smartphones and lower power consumption for large-screen televisions, researchers at the University of Michigan have extended the lifetime of blue organic light emitting diodes by a factor of 10…

This research is described in a study titled “Ten-Fold Increase in the Lifetime of Blue Phosphorescent Organic Light Emitting Diodes,” appearing in Nature Communications.

Hacking the way to 7 stages of eco-innovation

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Eco-innovation is the practice of developing and shaping ideas into useful forms to create business value and benefit the environment at the same time. Eco-innovating with apps also bolsters brand awareness, engagement and optimization.

Modeled after successful eco-friendly app development programs in New York City and San Diego, the NTx Apps Challenge generates software-based solutions to make North Texas more livable and sustainable. The three-month app development competition — the first of its scale in Texas — covers five major verticals: water, waste, energy, transportation and the Internet of Things.

In this techy subculture, I discovered a gateway to unraveling the mysterious process of innovation. Here are some insights gleaned from project managers, developers and marketers into the universal method by which teams bring great ideas to life.

Personalising climate change through open data and apps

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Government-released open data is fuelling a whole new level of innovation in sustainability. Moving beyond hackathons, today’s climate data partnerships are creating unique ventures that cross boundaries between business, government and academia.

In the US, “datapaloozas” – gatherings focused on creating open data innovations in the areas of health, education, energy and safety across sectors – are popping up all over the place.

Recently, the geographic information system technology (GIS) company Esri held the Esri Climate Resilience App Challenge in conjunction with the White House’s Climate Data Initiative. The challenge’s winner, the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Solar Suitability Analysis app, identified the best sites for solar panel installations across the state.

The Carbon Footprint of Games Distribution

Mayers, K., Koomey, J., Hall, R., Bauer, M., France, C. and Webb, A. (2014), The Carbon Footprint of Games Distribution. Journal of Industrial Ecology. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12181

Abstract: This research investigates the carbon footprint of the lifecycle of console games, using the example of PlayStation®3 distribution in the UK. We estimate total carbon equivalent emissions for an average 8.8-gigabyte (GB) game based on data for 2010. The bulk of emissions are accounted for by game play, followed by production and distribution. Two delivery scenarios are compared: The first examines Blu-ray discs (BDs) delivered by retail stores, and the second, games files downloaded over broadband Internet. Contrary to findings in previous research on music distribution, distribution of games by physical BDs results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than by Internet download. The estimated carbon emissions from downloading only fall definitively below that of BDs for games smaller than 1.3 GB. Sensitivity analysis indicates that as average game file sizes increase, and the energy intensity of the Internet falls, the file size at which BDs would result in lower emissions than downloads could shift either up- or downward over the next few years. Overall, the results appear to be broadly applicable to title games within the European Union (EU), and for larger-than-average sized games in the United States. Further research would be needed to confirm whether similar findings would apply in future years with changes in game size and Internet efficiency. The study findings serve to illustrate why it is not always true that digital distribution of media will have lower carbon emissions than distribution by physical means when file sizes are large.

America’s Data Centers Consuming Massive and Growing Amounts of Electricity

Via the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Much of the massive amounts of electricity that America’s data centers devour to support our business and online activity is being wasted running computer servers doing little or no work most of the time, according to a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Improved energy efficiency practices could cut energy waste by at least 40 percent, saving over $3 billion annually.

“Most of the attention is focused on the highly visible hyperscale ‘cloud’ data centers like Google’s and Facebook’s, but they already are very efficient and represent less than 5 percent of U.S. data center electricity consumption. Our small, medium, corporate, and multi-tenant data centers are still squandering huge amounts of energy,” said Pierre Delforge, NRDC director of high-tech energy efficiency.

Developed in partnership with Anthesis, “Scaling Up Energy Efficiency Across the Data Center Industry: Evaluating Key Drivers and Barriers” notes that while huge “cloud” server farms have made significant efficiency improvements, progress has been much slower and uneven across the nearly 3 million other data centers in businesses and organizations that house 95 percent of servers across the country, costing them billions of dollars and kilowatt hours. In fact, up to one-third of servers are no longer needed but are still consuming large amounts of electricity while many others are grossly underutilized, operating at no more than18 percent of capacity, the report said.

On the whole, U.S. data centers guzzled an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013 —enough to power all of New York City’s households twice over and growing. And data center power needs are estimated to grow significantly. By 2020, annual data center energy consumption is expected to reach 140 billion kilowatt hours in the nation. This could cost business $13 billion annually for electricity equivalent to that generated by 50 large coal-fired power plants emitting nearly 150 million tons of carbon pollution.

Although the full extent of energy waste is unknown due to a lack of consistent metrics, the report estimates that if just half of the potential savings from cost-effective energy efficiency best practices were realized, electricity use could be cut by 40 percent. In 2014, that would equal $3.8 billion in savings for businesses and cut 39 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, equivalent to the electicity generated by 34 large, coal-fired power plants and enough to power all of Michigan’s homes for a year.

“New practices and policies are needed to accelerate the pace and scale of the adoption of energy efficiency best-practices throughout the industry,” Delforge said. “Nearly one-third of all leased data center space will come up for renewal over the next year, so the time to act is now.”

Key findings from the NRDC-Anthesis report include:

  • Up to 30 percent of servers are “comatose” and no longer needed because projects have ended or business processes changed, but are still plugged in and consuming electricity.
  • Much of the energy consumed by U.S. data centers powers servers operating at 12 to 18 percent of capacity. Even sitting virtually idle, servers use significant amounts of power 24/7.
  • In 80 percent of organizations, the department responsible for data center management is separate from the one paying the electric bills. This “split incentive” reduces the likelihood of implementation of commonsense efficiency measures.

The report makes a number of  recommendations, including: aligning incentives for decision makers, developing simple metrics for measuring server utilization, public disclosure of data center energy and carbon performance, and establishing “green leases” for multi-tenant data centers.

Short and long versions of the report can be found at http://www.nrdc.org/energy/data-center-efficiency-assessment.asp. Delforge’s blog is at  http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/pdelforge/new_study_americas_data_center.html. An infographic and graphs are available.