Green Touch Initiative Targets 1000 Times More Energy Efficient Communication by 2015

Green Touch is a consortium of leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, academic and non-governmental research experts dedicated to fundamentally transforming communications and data networks, including the Internet, and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of ICT devices, platforms and networks.

By 2015, our goal is to deliver the architecture, specifications and roadmap — and demonstrate key components — needed to reduce energy consumption per user by a factor of 1000 from current levels.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry currently accounts for only 2 percent of worldwide carbon emissions and that figure will at least double over the next decade as more people seek to connect with each other and with more content in new, richer ways.

The goal is bold, but achievable. Bell Labs research suggests that today’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) networks actually could be 10,000 times more energy efficient then they are today. This conclusion is based on a fundamental analysis of the underlying components of ITC networks and technologies (optical, wireless, processing, routing, architecture, etc.) and their known physical limits – using theorems such as Shannon’s Law

According to Shannon’s theory, network users could consume as little as 1 milliwatt each. That’s 25,000 times less than the 25 watts of energy consumed by the average network user today.

Analyst IDC suggests that within five years there will be some 15 billion devices connected to networks.

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Press release of the Green Touch Initiative


A paper that speculates on the quantum limits of communication (9 page pdf)

For a transmitter and receiver of one square meter each, a meter apart, with a power of P = 1 W, the information rate is 1.61 X 10^21 bits per second. Note that the information rate increases as P^3/4, slightly slower than linear. It also increases with the area of the transmitter and receiver, so that the best information rate for a given energy budget is achieved for large antennas and low apparent temperature.

It has been well known since the pioneering work of Claude Shannon in the 1940s that a message transmitted with optimal eciency over a channel of limited bandwidth is indistinguishable from random noise to a receiver who is unfamiliar with the language in which the message is written. We derive some similar results about electromagnetic transmissions. In particular, we show that if electromagnetic radiation is used as a transmission medium, the most information-ecient format for a given message is indistinguishable from black-body radiation. The characteristic temperature of the radiation is set by the amount of energy used to make the transmission. If information is not encoded in the direction of the radiation, but only in its timing, energy, and polarization, then the most ecient format has the form of a one-dimensional black-body spectrum.

Satellites are pushing towards some parts of Shannon’s limit

Noise driven computing

Fundamental studies indicate that even quantum computers cannot help, whenever they are used as general-purpose machines, because their Joule/bit energy dissipation limit is about 1000 times greater than that of classical computing. Neither processors built of single electron transistors can be expected to provide better results unless the quantum dot size goes to the sub-nanometer range which would be an extraordinarily heavy toll on reliability and lifetime.

In our system, the noise is used as information carrier and no effort is made to restore the energy dissipated in the communicator devices. Therefore, this communicator is not energy-free communication but it is free of emitted signal energy. Zero (signal) power classical communication can utilize the modulation of background thermal noise in the information channel and zero-quantum quantum communication can utilize the modulation of the zero-point fluctuations in the quantum channel