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Wireless industry talks up green credentials

Report produced in conjunction with sustainability advisor firm points to environmental benefits of applications for transportation, agriculture and the smart grid.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

The wireless industry, like many other industries, is faced with a dilemma when it comes to talking about its green credentials. On the one hand, mobile phones and the explosion in wireless network infrastructure supporting them has exacerbated the energy management challenge not to mention the electronic waste problem (most of those handsets get chucked, not recycled). On the other hand, wireless technologies have a largely untapped potential to help businesses better manage their energy consumption and environmental footprints.

The latter theme is explored in a new report released this week by CTIA - The Wireless Association in partnership with BSR, a consulting organization that helps companies with sustainability and corporate social responsibility strategies. The report, "Wireless and the Environment: A Review of Opportunities and Challenges," hones in on the potential benefit or impact of wireless applications in four different industries: transportation, energy, agriculture and the public sector.

Here are some high-level "take aways" from the report:

  • Telematics, wireless logistics and other fleet management technologies could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 36 million metric tons because it will help reduce the number of empty or underutilized vehicles. Kind of the same way that virtualization consolidates underutilized server or storage hardware.
  • Wireless will be at the center of successful smart grid deployments. In fact, I think it is pretty safe to say, no two-way wireless, no smart grid for electricity or water. Various figures suggest that the smart grid will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 360 million metric tons by 2020.
  • Agriculturally speaking, the CTIA-BSR report looks at how applications for monitoring soil conditions, water and crop progress could reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • From a public perspective, the use of wireless technology for smart transportation and transit applications is seen as reducing urban fuel consumption by up to 30 percent (the report cites Siemens AG for that factual tidbit).

Commenting on the research, Vijay Kanal, director of BSR's information and communications technology practice, said:

"These examples of sustainability efforts made possible by wireless technology are just the tip of the iceberg. With breakthroughs in machine-to-machine communications, sensors and greater penetration of wireless broadband, BSR anticipates applications around these technologies will mushroom as commercial and public sector organizations continue to seek out efficiencies and cost savings that also benefit the environment. But the ICT industry needs to take a lead in helping other industries realize this potential, while also addressing some of the negative impacts."

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