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Bell Labs Says Networks Can Be 1000 Times More Energy Efficient 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-easy-being-green dept.
judgecorp writes "Bell Labs believes that data networks can be more efficient and has launched a consortium which aims to develop technology that uses only a thousandth of current network energy requirements by 2015. The Green Touch initiative is going to focus in particular on wireless, seeking to reduce wasted energy in signal broadcasts. Cynics might say Alcatel-Lucent is using its research division to distract attention from its troubles — the Financial Times described it as 'a poster child for much that is wrong in the telecoms equipment industry' — but Bell Labs still commands respect and support, and the goal it has set is an interesting one."
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Bell Labs Says Networks Can Be 1000 Times More Energy Efficient

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  • And how much lower is the bandwidth going to be?

    Considering the push towards 4g and faster...

  • One does wonder. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:32PM (#30739686) Homepage Journal

    Just how much power is being used for Cell transmissions? What about Wifi?
    Think about it. Our appliances are getting more efficient all the time but how much power are our gadgets sucking up.
    WiFi, Game Consoles, DVD players, Home networks, Home NAS servers, cable boxes, and TVs.
    Way back when when you went to bed you turned off our TV and it was actually off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      You know what else? Those kids these days, they play their music so damn loud. How much power is that using?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        How much? Really people get bent over SUVs but how many of those Prius owners have two or more big HDTVs, multiple game consoles, routers, PCs, DVRs, Home NAS servers, and goodness knows what else sucking down watts 24/7 often doing nothing at all?

        • ...but how many of those Prius owners have two or more big HDTVs, multiple game consoles, routers, PCs, DVRs, Home NAS servers, and goodness knows what else sucking down watts 24/7 often doing nothing at all?

          Extremes aren't numerous. Generalizations always suck.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            How extreme is it for a household to have more than one HDTV? And odds are all of them are more than 32"s
            How extreme is it to have at least one and probably two game consoles?
            How extreme is it to have a router and or a Home NAS? I see those at the local BestBuy and WalMart everyday.
            DVRs?
            DVD players?
            CableBoxes?
            Cellphone chargers, iPod chargers?
            How many people turn them off when not in use with a power strip?
            Sorry it isn't that extreme of a gadget situation. Take a look at your own surroundings and think abou

            • Very when only Prius owners have all this.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by LWATCDR (28044)

                Not at all. But a lot of GREEN folks are at the same time really into tech and really like to bash people that drive SUVs. I do not own an SUV or even a pickup truck. I really want a pickup truck but frankly only the Ford Ranger is close to what I think of as a small truck and I don't need a big truck. Just point out that waste is everywhere and having a house full of power sucking tech but a small car isn't all that green.
                BTW I too have to many gadgets sucking power. I started to buy power strips to power

                • So you and SUV owners, unlike GREEN folks, are taking steps to reduce your power consumption?

                  • by LWATCDR (28044)

                    Just that one should look at yourself before looking down at others. As I said I know I have more work to do saving power. My next project is going to be a resource shed. I am going to build a garden shed that will house cisterns for rainwater collection for my garden and a solar panel to charge my cordless tools. I am not criticizing people that choose to own a prius but those that think that act makes them better than others.

                    • Okay, so the guys that make an expensive decision to reduce their emissions aren't actually doing anything better than SUV owners because their electric power use, which hasn't yet been established as 'distinct from SUV owners', is unchanged.

                      My next project is going to be a resource shed. I am going to build a garden shed that will house cisterns for rainwater collection for my garden and a solar panel to charge my cordless tools. I am not criticizing people that choose to own a prius but those that think that act makes them better than others.

                      You're doing all that, but you're still fouling up the air with a gas guzzler?

                      No, this isn't an attack. I'm illustrating how your own view applies to you. You're doing exactly what you're complaining about other people doing. Worse, you've invented behaviours for a

                    • by mwvdlee (775178)

                      Okay.

                      Reality check.

                      How much better for the environment are all your garden sheds, solar panels, cordless tool batteries and homegrown vegetables going to be?

                      Oh, and you WERE critizizing Prius-owners. You can admit you were wrong, you can continue critizing Prius-owners, but you can't deny the words you've written.

                    • by LWATCDR (28044)

                      So since when is a Mazda3 a gas guzzler? "What I drive and car pool with my wife to work in." I was commenting on the snotty attitude that many of the green folks have and the waste of energy in gadgets.

                    • You commented on it by using a comparison that actually justified their snottiness, then you went and did the exact same thing you were complaining about them doing. FAIL.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by TheRaven64 (641858)
              I don't think I know anyone who has more than half the stuff on that list. Maybe I just don't hang out with enough consumers...
            • by mwvdlee (775178)

              I know zero families that have more than one in each of those categories (except perhaps chargers). In fact, I know zero families that even have one of each of those categories.

              Obviously, the dozen or so families I know well enough aren't a typical average; they're mostly above-average income and working in technology related fields.

              Nonetheless, I think you are being just a tad extreme. Besides, so I sense a hint of jealousy at the people that can afford a Prius?

    • Re:One does wonder. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:52PM (#30740028) Journal

      I highly recommend this to everyone who has to pay an electricity bill: Unplug your appliances.

      I have saved over 60% of my electrical bill by following the simple process of unplugging everything when its not in use. The only 3 things that remains plugged in are the Fridge, Stove, and the alarm clock. The Television, sound system, game consoles, all that is on a power bar so its easy to just unplug the power bar. The laptop, computer, microwave, toaster, all that stuff can be left unplugged when I'm not using them. I even do it for the washer and dryer. It is only inconvencing yourself like 3 seconds max, and after a while you get used to it.

      I heard someone once say that your electronic devices still use 80% of their power consumption if plugged in, even while not in use. I think that number might be bogus, but I do believe that they still use power, even when not used.

      Point is, you can save alot of money by unplugging.

      • by volsung (378)

        For $26, you can measure the power of each device on and off and figure out who the actual power hogs are:

        http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882715001 [newegg.com]

        Then at least you'll save wear-and-tear on your plugs for devices that are really off when turned off. (Like your washer and dryer, for example. I would be surprised if they draw power when off.)

        • by cheesybagel (670288) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @03:33PM (#30741582)
          Remember when computers had a real power button on front? A power button you had to actually push with a moderate amount of strength to operate? That button is today in the back of the computer near the power supply.

          Now in these days of soft power buttons, nothing is ever really disabled. But rejoice! EPA Energy Star (TM) devices only use a minimum amount of power when in standby mode. Uhuh.

          • by Creepy (93888)

            Not on any of my computers... they all have buttons in front, though to shut them down without, say, shutting down through Windows you need to hold the button several seconds (and Windows and Linux don't really like that much, so better to use shutdown). One of my boxes does have a power supply switch, as well, which is useful because the computer leeches power if it isn't switched off at the power supply (like ethernet).

            As for data network efficiency, they could stop using ATM for data packets over fiber,

            • Ah! Well that makes sense as an approach to saving communications power. The press release was notoriously devoid of actual technical information and full of corporate speak crapola.
            • by adolf (21054)

              I think you missed his point.

              I believe he was referring to the old-school AT-style PC cases, which either had a large switch on the side of the computer near the back, or a remotely-located power switch (typically on the front). Unlike the front-panel switches these days (which don't actually turn anything all the way off), these things would turn off the 110/220V coming in from the power cord.

              The switches typically did require some meaningful force to operate. When you turn off an AT computer, it is REAL

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by AvitarX (172628)

            Don't computers only use a watt or two to sleep?

            200+ when booting?

            Waking from hibernate would then be worth over 2-hours of sleep (vs waking from sleep), and waking from shutdown even longer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScentCone (795499)
        toaster

        Are you using some sort of programmable, logic-controlled toaster? I've never seen one that wasn't electro-mechanical. I highly doubt that your toaster, your clothes dryer, or your washing machine use a single watt when you're not actually running them.

        Also: there are power strips/supplies with switches on them, so that you don't have to fuss over the wear and tear of actually unplugging things.
      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        True but how much power do all the cell towers use? I am not anti tech but the explosion of tech we have has got to be running up our power bills.
        I bet the my home as a child probably used about the same amount of power as my home does today.
        I fear our gadgets have wiped out our gains in efficiency and insulation.

        • Re:One does wonder. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by vlm (69642) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @03:27PM (#30741498)

          True but how much power do all the cell towers use? I am not anti tech but the explosion of tech we have has got to be running up our power bills.

          Thats a very amusing question, because a typical setup of 3G equipment draws about 3 KW, yet you're asking how much the tower itself draws, which is of course zero. The equipment draw at a site varies based on auxiliary gear, power level, multiple sites on multiple towers, multiple antennas on multiple gear, etc. Suffice it to say a cell site draws enough power to keep warm in the winter, but its not much compared to a steel mill or a retail establishment. The local power company is generally unimpressed in urban and suburban areas, although in rural areas the towers tend to be in the middle of nowhere resulting in some logistical difficulty, although the power required is no major thing. Local power companies do not install new substations just for a cellsite, for example, on the other hand when colocating in a building they will require a dedicated circuit or two, maybe a tiny subpanel, probably a separately billing power meter.

          On the other hand, the FAA requires substantial tower lighting, you're looking at about 1.5 KW of lighting on a big tower. See link to a typical supplier, note that light requires TWO 700 watt bulbs, pretty impressive. Then again a couple hundred watt light bulb is probably what you'd need to light up a couple hundred feet of street, it just makes sense.

          So, yes you could reduce the power used by the equipment. From 3KW to 3W to fit the pie in the sky 1:1000 ratio, probably not. Even if you could magically reduce the equipment power draw to zero, by using magic pixie dust and space alien technology, tower lighting requirements alone mean you'll never be able to reduce the total site power draw below about %33 of what is currently used.

          http://www.gordtelecom.com/Tower%20Lighting.htm [gordtelecom.com]

          and thats before you get into discussions about aluminum towers, what with aluminum being "liquid electricity".

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Well I was talking about a cell site. I would guess that there are a lot more cell sites than steel mills. So in round numbers you are talking about 4.5KW for the tower plus FAA lighting.

          • by mcrbids (148650)

            note that light requires TWO 700 watt bulbs, pretty impressive.

            So, replace the 700 Watt bulbs with 2 brighter, 60-watt Mercury Vapor lights. MV lights don't like to "blink" so put a rotating shield around them. Voila! Better performance at 1/10 the running cost....

      • by MiniMike (234881)

        It's called standby power. A recent report found on average 13% of home energy use is used by devices in a low power state (i.e. "off"). Some devices use power to watch for remote control signals, to maintain a clock, or to download info (i.e. tv downloads new schedules). Some of it is just wasted in the transformer. Unplugging is a good option, usually by keeping things plugged into a power bar- easier than unplugging and plugging back into a socket. I also look for Energy Star rated appliances, as I

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MaWeiTao (908546)

        I find that hard to believe. A few months ago I went from appliance to appliance with one of those Kill-a-watt devices measuring electricity consumption over a 24 hour period. Usage was insignificant for devices in standby mode, this included my PS3, television and other electronics. And by insignificant I mean a couple of dollars a year for everything in total and this is at roughly 22 cents per kWh in my area.

        Where I found heavy usage was from appliances used on a regular basis. The dryer, water heater (w

        • by barzok (26681)

          I've found that if you want to really cut utility costs you have to do a good bit of sacrificing. That means enduring the heat of the summer and not turning on air conditioning, running a dryer once a week, or better yet hanging your clothes out to dry

          If you live someplace where hanging your clothes out to dry is reasonable (warm, sunny, little chance of rain), that's really not a "sacrifice" - it's a better way to dry your clothes! Less wear, less shrinkage, and less energy usage.

          Maybe a little more work,

      • by Twinbee (767046)

        I'd rather pester the manufacturers or the government to make sure standyby power is decent. What are we - living in the stone age?

    • Get yourself a kill a watt meter [amazon.com] and find out. My Athlon64 computer with 7200 RPM 500 GB hard drive idles at 40 W. The TV, when off, still pulls 5 W! Now I just plug everything but the computer to a common surge protector and flip it's switch when I'm not watching TV or playing console games

  • There was an article a while back about a phone battery that is able to recharge itself by intercepting the various radio / wifi waves in its Antenna to generate a current. (Still in development, still not efficient)

    I'm not sure if they mean "Energy Wasted in signal broadcast" means they want to reduce the whole broadcast in every direction as far as you can idea - or if there is some other process they plan on using to reduce the energy usage. In any event, I don't think the issue is with too many radiowav

    • by mangu (126918) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:53PM (#30740036)

      The first radio receivers [wikipedia.org], about a hundred years ago, needed no batteries, they got all the power they needed from the antenna.

      • by afidel (530433)
        And every good science geek made one from his first electronics kit. That's one of the problems with everything going to digital signaling, high barrier of entry on learning the technology.
      • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @02:03PM (#30740192) Journal

        The first radio receivers, about a hundred years ago, needed no batteries, they got all the power they needed from the antenna.

        That's true, and you can still build one with a few feet of wire, a ten-cent diode and a set of headphones. It will still work, too, although not very well. You must remember that 100 years ago, there wasn't the plethora of transmitters that currently exist so a receiver did not have to be particularly selective. A simple set as described will generally be overwhelmed by a local station and that's all you'll receive.

        Oh, yeah--no FM either.

        • by Gramie2 (411713)
          And the last AM transmitter in my area closed down last year.
          • Check some of the links on the post that called me to task for saying that you can't receive FM on a crystal radio. Turns out you can.

        • by mangu (126918)

          A simple set as described will generally be overwhelmed by a local station and that's all you'll receive.

          It's much more selective in short waves. I grew up during the Cold War and transmissions in 25 meters were staggered due to time zones, long distance short waves only propagate at night.

          First was the Moscow Central Radio, then came the BBC from London, and later at night the Voice of America. I got to hear three different versions of every battle in Vietnam.

          All in my radio using a galena crystal that I p

        • Oh, yeah--no FM either.

          Are you sure about this? I have a pair of Sennheiser 280s, and at home, if they're plugged in but I'm not playing any sound through them, they actually pick up Star 94 through the wire, an obnoxious FM station here in Atlanta that, apparently, plays nothing but "Party in the USA" and "Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night" over and over and over and over which makes it really annoying when I'm trying to work on music production, which involves wearing the headphones without always playi
          • by adolf (21054)

            Ugh.

            That's got to be frustrating.

            It's got little to do with the headphones. They can't do that on their own.

            The demodulation is happening inside of whatever device you're using as a headphone amp, or perhaps further back in the audio chain.

            All the headphones provide some inductance to a circuit, which then decides that it's an FM radio, perhaps even using the headphone wire as a convenient antenna.

            It's a poor design, whatever it is -- it shouldn't do that. You could try replacing it, or supplementing it w

      • I'm absolutely no expert, but weren't many of those stations pumping 50,000 watts (with some short lived experiments with 250-500 kilowatts) through their antennas? So there was no power demands on the receiver side, but a significant demand from the transmitter. Is the more recent lower-power transmission model more efficient?
        • by vlm (69642)

          I'm absolutely no expert, but weren't many of those stations pumping 50,000 watts (with some short lived experiments with 250-500 kilowatts) through their antennas?

          http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/amq.html [fcc.gov]

          The standard daytime power level for the big ones is 50 KW, medium-ish stations run around 10 KW, and the smallest stations during the night might barely go 100 watts.

          Want high power, try old fashioned UHF TV superstations around a megawatt.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ei4anb (625481)
        Modern transceivers can work on low power too. Amateur radio QRP (low power) enthusiasts have achieved communication at startingly low power levels: "In the spring of 1994, Bob Moody and Bill Brown, WB8ELK shattered this 10-meter record by successfully using only 0.720 microwatts over a 1500-mile path for over 2 billion miles per watt" quoted from "ARRL's Low Power Communication: The Art and Science of Qrp"
    • by itsme1234 (199680)

      There was an article a while back about a phone battery that is able to recharge itself by intercepting the various radio / wifi waves in its Antenna to generate a current. (Still in development, still not efficient)

      ... and if you use that "wireless recharging battery" with a phone (or some other device with wifi) you can both USE your wifi and recharge your battery!

    • by CyberDong (137370)

      RCA has one at CES [ohgizmo.com].

  • On the Green Touch website from the synopsis, I read that one of their goals is: "Nothing less than the reinvention of today’s communications networks". Does this mean that the member organizations of Green Touch will hold the exclusive rights to the manufacture of the technology that they dream up?

    And, briefly setting aside the notion that energy consumption of our networks is an actual problem, why do we need to reinvent today's communication networks? What's really wrong with them?

    Begin ipv
    • OMG IPv6 Is bad cuz it uses more bits so more electricity has to flow through the wire which is not very green!!!!!

    • by psbrogna (611644)
      "Nothing less than the reinvention of today’s communications networks" may just be the Internet Era equivalent of "New & Improved !!" ie. marketing lingo. It might be more recognizable as such if it were in a garish colored star burst on their product packaging. Maybe after it graduates from the "good intentions phase" of their R&D to something more tangible we can discuss how revolutionary it actually is. I know I'll stay tuned. :-D
  • If we're using too much power now, that means that we're not getting our bandwidth's worth - right ?

  • Alcatel-Lucent's 802.11 wireless access points and controllers are OEM'd from Aruba Networks [techtarget.com]. This is interesting and relevant because Aruba also has a big "green island" [arubanetworks.com] initiative.
  • 1000 times (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:37PM (#30739772)
    Is that number just pulled out of their ass? Is there a base for it?
  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @02:01PM (#30740154)
    From TFA:

    Scientists addressed the problem over the summer of 2009, and concluded that the energy used in networks could be reduced by a factor of up to 10,000 without breaking fundamental laws such as the Shannon Limit, but it would require a fundamental rethink to achieve a massive reduction, said [Gee Rittenhouse, vice president and head of research at Bell Labs]: "Today's networks are optimised for performance and simplicity".

    ...

    The technology produced would be commercially viable and would naturally replace existing networks, as it will be backwards compatible, [consortium] members assured the audience.

    Emphasis mine. There's a lot more crap in there that I didn't bother copying and pasting.

    This "announcement" reads a lot like a snake-oil advertisement. This consortium will likely produce only one thing: An efficient mechanism for extracting money from investors (government or otherwise).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >This "announcement" reads a lot like a snake-oil advertisement.

      Why is this snake oil? Look at modern CPUs and all their power saving functions like speedstep. They make complete sense and save quite a bit of energy.

      Now look at your typical ethernet switch. Each port eats up like 5+ watts. Yes, watts, not mW. So you're looking at quite a bit of power usage here to maintain a network connection for 100mbps or 1gbps and to maintain the spec of 100 meters. Well, most computers rarely need that full band

      • by khallow (566160)

        and considering that we're in the middle of energy crisis (not enough uranium to switch to all nuclear and not enough oil for cheap prices)

        What? We'll have to pay slightly more for energy some point in the near future? Crisis!

        • by gad_zuki! (70830)

          Oil is a non-renewable resource and will peak and only become more and more expensive. Considering this is projected to happen in my lifetime I would say, that yes, this is a crisis. Cutting back, sane power settings, and renewables are really the only place to go from here until someone gets fusion going cheaply.

          • by khallow (566160)

            Considering this is projected to happen in my lifetime I would say, that yes, this is a crisis. Cutting back, sane power settings, and renewables are really the only place to go from here until someone gets fusion going cheaply.

            There's always uranium. Plenty of reserves. It's just nobody is willing to mine them while various countries are dumping on the market.

  • Unfortunately, any energy efficiency gains were immediately wiped out upon launching a consortium "which aims to develop technology". I'm guessing this will be mired in various committees and be over-engineered to the point their design for networks will use twice the energy now and cost four times as much as they do now.

  • ... to grow the network eliminating the benefits of energy efficiency by allowing us to expand the network and consume more energy!

  • you think your network energy levels are over 9000.

    thanks, im here all night. just throw money.
  • I say networks can be 1 MILLION times more energy efficient. Beat that, Bell Labs.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @03:29PM (#30741538)

    In the global human energy use game, the network energy use is close to noise level,
    and can be probably thought of as offset by the efficiencies the net brings to other
    business activities (like removing the need to fly to conferences, eliminating personal
    sales calls, coordinating supply-demand chains to reduce waste and idling production
    lines, allowing rapid global dissemination of technical and process best practices etc.)

    Perhaps its most important effect on energy use and environment will be that it
    provides a more efficient forum for discussion and dissemination of knowledge about
    environmental problems and solutions. Ambitious Google Earth visualisation projects
    and civilisation-strategy games which allow more and more people to be able to get their
    head around some of these large-scale, long-term issues that are hard to grok if
    you are not a math/science nerd. That and all the free public lectures on advanced
    topics, and of course the vast knowledge base of wikipedia, which can allow rapid
    but fairly precise communication and debate about important environmental and
    technology choice issues (e.g. are electric cars cool? practical? affordable? effective
    at reducing climate change? why or why not? How do I insulate my house properly in
    a cold but humid climate? etc.)

    Knowledge sharing and the rapid spreading of radical new cultural and technological
    memes and attitudes. That is the most important effect that the net will have on
    energy use and contribution to global warming or its solution.

    The electrically efficient net is a nice-to-have, but pales in comparison to these
    other factors.

    • by dbIII (701233)

      In the global human energy use game, the network energy use is close to noise level

      .
      Yes, but the real effect of reducing this is longer battery life for mobile devices. Don't write it off just because it isn't replacing every streetlight with an array of LEDs, it still sounds useful.

  • This is something we can't get working properly now! What the fuck greenies! This is like going after nuclear power, if you win this one humanity is fucked.
  • Sounds like bad news for these guys [ohgizmo.com]. :)
  • Obviously it's time to pull all those wasteful orange-clad fibers out and replace them with green-clad fibers.
  • That "wasted energy" is where the noise immunity comes from. Drop the signal to just above the noise level, and the error rate goes way up. I think most people would rather pay higher energy costs than drop more packets, but for mobile devices the inverse might be true.
  • No more PHP sending XML for AJAX.

    Assembly sending BER encoded ASN.1 for browsers written in Forth.

    Get crackin'.

  • With smarter solar rural base stations. Why can they do it?
    A smart person sat down and ***designed*** a new system.
    Stop hacking onto the US/NSA rustbelt revenue stream and start thinking.
    http://www.vnl.in/technology/cleantech/ [www.vnl.in]
    http://www.vnl.in/productsheets/worldgsm_village_site.pdf [www.vnl.in]
  • There's no more Western Electric [wikipedia.org] or Bell System [wikipedia.org], so it surprises me to hear that Bell Labs [wikipedia.org] is still around. That's good if it is the Bell Labs, the one that invented the transistor [wikipedia.org], laser [wikipedia.org], microwave communications [long-lines.net], the UNIX operating system [wikipedia.org], satellites [wikipedia.org], etc.

    Then again, AT&T is not the same AT&T that was around before Judge Greene broke it up in 1984 [wikipedia.org], so I hope it hasn't become some kind of "no Bell Labs left behind" that provides jobs for underachieving American Dilbertized engineers...

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