The Greening of Technology

E-mail Melanie Martella

Earlier this week, I sat in on a talk and panel session at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston entitled "Everything's Turning Green." And it was fascinating. The talk and panel session dealt with the growth potential in clean tech (environmentally conscious technology, including but not limited to alternative energy) which, according to Bruce Rayner of Tech Insights, has the potential to dwarf the impact of semiconductors.

Facts and Figures
According to Rayner, investments in Clean Tech (which he lists as alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, and wave power and biofuels; the Smart Grid; advanced battery and fuel cell technology; automotive; and infrastructure) for the third quarter of 2008 were $2.6 billion, up 37% from that for the third quarter in 2007. And that number is expected to go up. And up.

In terms of the electronics industries, a combination of government regulations and directives and pressure from retailers and stakeholders, is behind the pressure to go green. And the response covers everything from rethinking design methodologies (e.g., the Cradle to Cradle design movement), to increased recycling and waste reduction, using recycled and recyclable materials for packaging, and changing the approach to logistics, transport, and the supply chain itself.

Research endeavors abound. India is pouring lots of money and brain power into trying to achieve a major breakthrough in the efficiency of photovoltaics. Europe has been adopting wind power with enthusiasm and, according to the European Wind Association, the wind power industry will be worth € 109 billion by 2020. According to the article "'Carbon army' hopes to grab slice of New Deal cash", courtesy of Reuters UK, announcements of major spending in the U.S. and the U.K. is whetting the appetites of environmentalists, bankers, and investors who see green projects as a way to give the economy a helpful nudge while simultaneously promoting green energy.

The Future Looks Green
In terms of sensors, this spells opportunity. Increased need for more efficient production and transportation means more sensors to achieve those goals. To be more energy efficient, you need to know exactly how much you're using, when, and where. Sensors provide that information, whether it's to a utility or a consumer. Infrastructure projects demand sensors in both their construction and operation. If consumer products are being made to last longer then sensors can be a key element in ensuring that longer operational life.

What do you think? Are you changing the way you do business because of pressure to go green? If so, what kind of an impact is that having? Drop me an email or post a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

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