Taking sustainable technology beyond the workplace
Phil Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Cisco UK & Ireland, a worldwide leader in networking for the internet, discusses how 2011 will see sustainable technology embraced at a corporate, domestic and community level.
Phil Smith will be speaking on sustainable technology at the BASE conference on business and a sustainable environment, on 16 February 2011.
Sustainability has been a key issue for businesses, consumers and governments for a number of years. However, as we enter 2011, all the signs are that the challenges of creating a smarter, more sustainable world will only grow more important and more urgent in this coming decade.
From my perspective, I’m seeing every day that the technology industry is now capable of making a significant impact on the way we use and consume energy. Much of the technology needed to effect this change is already prevalent in many businesses. For instance, collaboration technologies are already reducing the need for business travel, saving organisations millions of pounds a year and significantly lowering carbon footprints.
Furthermore, I am seeing increasing adoption of ‘smart metering’ technology. By carefully monitoring devices that use power – everything from phones to laptops and lighting systems – this smarter networking technology can give us the ability to manage energy consumption very precisely. This has the potential to dramatically impact energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions for businesses of all sizes and in all industries.
It therefore seems obvious that organisations should start to take advantage of these emerging technologies as key elements of their strategies to reduce their carbon footprint. However, often, the investment that these technologies require can often be a barrier to adoption.
96 Percent Believe Technology Can Help
Last year Cisco released The Smart Carbon Report, a piece of research investigating the attitudes of British businesses to impending environmental challenges. The report found that 96 percent of business people believe that technology can help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets, which is extremely encouraging. However, only a third thought that their organisation would be likely to invest some of its technology budget in innovative carbon-reducing technologies. These figures suggest that businesses are not yet putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to carbon reduction.
When asked about the key motivators for improving energy monitoring in our research, more than half business leaders say cost savings are the primary driver for improving energy monitoring and management.
The Business Case
Environmentalists sometimes shy away from using the economic benefits of ‘greening’ a business to promote their cause. However, this is probably counter-productive. Anyone who agrees with efforts to reduce carbon will have to sell their case in the language and imperatives that businesses value. Saving energy – whether through reducing travel or more efficient energy management – does bring cost savings, and it seems clear that those savings are what will really drive action among UK plc.
It isn’t just businesses that can use technology to become more sustainable. Increasingly, we are seeing green technologies being brought to market that are very much aimed at helping consumers become more sustainable. In 2010, Cisco launched the Home Energy Management Solution, an IP-based system that provides updated energy and budgeting information to help track and manage domestic energy use. The system combines networking capabilities with applications for energy management and with it consumers can view and control information on thermostats, intelligent sockets and power strips, as well as smart appliances such as refrigerators and water heaters. This kind of technology gives individual households far greater visibility into their energy usage than ever before, helping them to monitor, and therefore optimise, how they consume energy.
A Community Led Approach
Finally, I think that 2011 will bring a significant shift in the way that we think about sustainability and green issues. Up until now, the green agenda has been largely focused on individual businesses or households; on what each of us can do to reduce our environmental footprint. In 2011 the emphasis looks set to shift from a personal to a more community-led focus.
By implementing smarter networking and infrastructure technologies, it is possible to create cleaner, more energy efficient communities. This isn’t just limited to housing; we are already seeing developments across the world that are building these technologies into the very fabric of our urban environments: from schools to office buildings to retail and entertainment facilities.
The UK is really making progress in this area. Cisco is closely involved with the London 2012 regeneration projects that aim to ensure that the Games leave a legacy of a much smarter, greener East London. These projects really are leading the way in Britain and some of the fantastic work we are seeing there really will set the standard for a new generation of smart and sustainable communities across the country.
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