Optimising energy consumption in the digital world

The communications technologies ecosystem generates more than 2% of the world’s total carbon emissions.

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Ana Carolina Riekstin is a young Brazilian computer scientist who has developed a model to automate processes from a business level up to the network level. By doing so, she has ensured that technological infrastructures maintain their productivity, sustainability and efficiency.

An email, a message to say “hello”, some photos uploaded to social media, a document worked on in the cloud and a bitcoin deal… According to IBM, all of these daily actions generate up to 2.5 quintillion bytes, which are processed in huge data centres scattered around the world. Just in the United States, the energy consumption of these information stores represents around 1.8% of the country’s total usage, with the consequent environmental impact.

The communications technologies ecosystem generates more than 2% of the world’s total carbon emissions, which puts it on a par with the aviation industry, according to the journal Nature. Given that the digital economy will continue to expand and technological infrastructures will not stop working, it remains only to find efficiency.

Ana Carolina Riekstin, a 33 year old Brazilian computer scientist, has worked towards this goal. She has designed a set of tools to calculate and optimise the energy consumption of these facilities, up to the point of achieving process automation that allows them to save around 50% of their electricity consumption.

One of the key aspects of this breakthrough, which she developed while she was a researcher at the Synchromedia laboratory of the Montreal Higher School of Technology (Canada), is identifying when it is more convenient to concentrate all the load on a single server at times when they are not all performing at maximum capacity.

Thanks to this, these infrastructures operate in a more energy efficient way. In addition, Riekstin studied the location and operation of data centres, which vary both in terms of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“If the only thing we worried about was reducing consumption, it would be enough to shut down the systems. However, what we are looking to do is to maintain a global goal for productive efficiency, but with lower power consumption and the lowest possible emissions”,

explains Riekstin, who collaborated with the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE) to adapt her proposal to an industry standard model.

This Brazilian researcher, who has written 23 scientific publications on sustainability and efficiency in computer networks and smart homes, was one of the winners of the Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2018 organised by MIT Technology Review in Spanish. Her contribution is key in the short-term in a world in which 90% of existing data on the Internet have been generated in the last two years.


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