Future of the Internet & Cyber-Infrastructure – Reducing Global Warming
One of , if not, the greatest threats to mankind an our planet is global
warming. Around the world there is growing recognition that an
international “call to arms” is necessary if want to minimize economic
dislocation and suffering of unimaginable proportions due to global
At the same time as we wrestle with the challenges of global warming the
ICT research community is doing some serious soul searching on the Future
of the Internet and the future evolution of Cyber-Infrastructure (SOA,
Web 2.0, Grids etc). To date most of the discussion has been about
technology issues of IPv4 versus IPv6, NGI versus NGN, network neutrality,
Semantic web versus web services and so on
But I would argue that future of the Internet and Cyber-infrastructure
should be less about such technology debates, but more how we can use the
Future Internet and Cyber-Infrastructure to reduce global warming.
There are various estimates that ICT hardware in terms of computers,
routers and switches consumes upwards of 9% of the energy production in
North America. The first challenge for the ICT research community should
be, at least, to reduce this carbon footprint.
Fortunately there is a promising new concept of virtualization that may
considerably reduce the power consumption of ICT equipment. Researchers
and equipment vendors are now talking about building virtual computers,
networks, routers and switches as a key architectural feature of the
Future Internet and Cyber-Infrastructure. Initiatives such as NSF
CYBER-INFRASTRUCTURE, GENI, 4WARD, FREDERICA, MANTICORE and UCLP are all
based around the concept of representing physical resources such as
computers, networks and routers as independent virtual resources.
Large, centralized and extreme high efficiency ICT equipment using
renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power may be the future
physical architecture of the Internet and Cyber-infrastructure. But no
one wants to go back to the bad old days of large centralized mainframes
and carrier networks. Virtualization allows multiple independently
managed network and virtual organizations to exist on a common very high
energy efficiency network substrate and computational fabric. So all the
modern advantages of intelligence and control at the edge can be
maintained and new applications and service such as P2P, Web 2.0, etc can
be deployed by users without getting permission of the owners of the
Next Generation Internet, Global Warming and the Consumer
The second challenge for the ICT research community is to how use ICT
technologies to enable the average consumer reduce their carbon footprint.
Governments around the world are wrestling with ways to get their citizens
to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The current preferred approaches are
to impose “carbon” taxes and/or implement various forms of cap and trade
systems. However another approach to help reduce carbon emission is to
“reward” those who reduce their carbon footprint rather than imposing
draconian taxes or dubious cap and trade systems. Consumers will
generally change their behaviour and respond more positively to voluntary
reward mechanisms as opposed to mandatory solutions imposed by government
or other authorities.
But what reward mechanisms can we use that will encourage consumers to
reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and yet in themselves not also
create a significant carbon footprint?
As it turns out “bits” are almost costless in terms of their carbon
footprint. The carbon dioxide emissions of making one digital copy of a
piece of music or video is virtually no different than making one million
copies of the same material.
Perhaps digital information and knowledge in terms music, video and myriad
list of applications and services delivered over the Internet should be
the reward mechanism and new currency for reducing carbon emission.
So how do we effect a process of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in
transportation and heating in exchange for delivery of valuable carbon
free products and services over the Internet? What are the new economic
models, business arrangements and network architectures and services that
will be necessary to effect these transactions of reducing “carbon heavy”
energy products for “carbon light” virtual services and products?
One model that has been proposed (Green Broadband) is to provide consumers
with free high speed Internet in exchange for paying a higher premium on
their energy and gas bill – but with the added incentive of encouraging
the customer to reduce their energy consumption with no penalty. And as
we know from Economics 101 the surest way to reduce consumption of a
precious resource is to increase its price. So the additional premium
consumers would pay for on their energy bill would be an incentive to
reduce consumption, and yet if they do so be rewarded with their free high
Other models include consumers voluntarily paying a premium at the gas
pump when they fill up their car, in order to receive free cell phone
service, or download unlimited MP3 songs to their iPOD.
There endless number of creative possibilities.
For those who are interested information on this topic are welcome to
attend my talks at TRlabs in Edmonton on Friday November 9th or Canadian
Urban Institute on Friday Nov 23
TRLabs Building the Next Generation Internet
Canadian Urban Institute
Green Broadband and the Digital Divide
Energy Internet and eVehicles Overview
Governments around the world are wrestling with the challenge of how to prepare society for inevitable climate change. To date most people have been focused on how to reduce Green House Gas emissions, but now there is growing recognition that regardless of what we do to mitigate against climate change the planet is going to be significantly warmer in the coming years with all the attendant problems of more frequent droughts, flooding, sever storms, etc. As such we need to invest in solutions that provide a more robust and resilient infrastructure to withstand this environmental onslaught especially for our electrical and telecommunications systems.
Linking renewable energy with high speed Internet using fiber to the home combined with eVehicles and dynamic charging where vehicle's batteries are charged as it travels along the road, may provide for a whole new "energy Internet" infrastructure for linking small distributed renewable energy sources to users that is far more robust and resilient to survive climate change than today's centralized command and control infrastructure. For more details please see:
Free High Speed Internet to the Home or School Integrated with solar roof top: http://goo.gl/wGjVG
High level architecture of Internet Networks to survive Climate Change: http://goo.gl/juWdH
Architecture and routing protocols for Energy Internet http://goo.gl/niWy1g
Monday, November 12, 2007
Future of the Internet & Cyber-Infrastructure – Reduce Global Warming
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