Computer Electronics

Outlook 2024: 6 ways tech will play a role in sustainability

26 December 2023
Technology may be a key to improving sustainability and 2024 will be a year where telecom and other sectors improve their global carbon footprint. Source: peach_adobe/Adobe Stock

Much like the other sectors globally, companies in the tech sector are working toward achieving carbon neutrality. While many of these moves are due to efforts to combat climate change, current and upcoming government regulations are also challenging these companies to meet specific deadlines.

While some moves are already happening, the year 2024 is expected to be a year when technology begins to play a specific role in sustainability and environmental issues.

1) Microgrids

Aging infrastructure including a power grid that hasn’t been updated in decades not just presents a national security risk but continues to be strained due to society requiring more power.

Nearly one-third of the world’s electricity use is from manufacturing. According to global distributor DigiKey, opportunities exist within manufacturing to push innovation while producing less waste and limit the carbon footprint.

Enter microgrids.

“With manufacturing being such a big area of power consumption, there is a lot of opportunity to generate power, store and use it within one system,” said Eric Halvorson, partnership marketing manager of strategic programs, automation and control at DigiKey. “By moving toward microgrids, it isn’t just equipment within the factory that benefits from this power. Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations can be connected to the microgrid for vehicle fleets, LED lighting and building environmental controls can benefit as well.”

2) Telecom’s reduction

According to market research firm Deloitte, 2024 will see telecom and semiconductor companies look to grow business without expanding their global carbon footprint.

Telecom companies are doing this by:

  • Switching from copper to fiber optics
  • Phasing out 3G networks
  • Adopting lower power 5G infrastructure

Deloitte forecasts that telecom alone will reduce its carbon footprint by 2% in 2024. This is equivalent to a decrease of 12 million tons of CO2. Similar reductions are also forecast to happen in 2025.

3) Less resource intensity

In the semiconductor industry, companies are working either together or alone to reduce resource intensity. This is happening despite these same companies using more energy and water due to the growth of semiconductors, Deloitte said.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the semiconductor industry will grow by 5% during this decade as more chips are added to the automotive and industrial sectors as well as the growth of the internet of things and wearables.

Reducing year-over-year resource intensity is thanks to eco-efficient manufacturing facilities and new technologies that are less resource hungry, Deloitte said. Additionally, AI can be used to optimize the energy consumption and emissions in data centers.

4) AgTech rising

Agricultural technology is projected to grow to $18 billion in 2024 with new farming practices helping to feed the planet.

Deloitte said these new AgTech will help in tackling both food security and environmental sustainability in 2024.

5) Intel and Siemens pact

In early December, Siemens AG and Intel signed an agreement to collaborate on developing sustainability for microelectronics manufacturing.

The focus would be to evolve factory operations and future manufacturing efforts across several initiatives like optimizing energy management and addressing carbon footprints across the value chain. This includes exploring how digital twins could help to standardize solutions for efficiency gains.

Some of the initiatives will include exploring product- and supply chain-related modeling solutions with Siemens that drive data-based insights to help accelerate reducing collective footprints and gain information on product-related emissions.

Intel said that technology could be used to accelerate how to reduce computing-related climate impacts across the tech industry and then to the global economy. Automation and digitalization could be keys to driving the industry to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Collaborations such as the Siemens and Intel initiative may be the future of how companies pave the way for making the electronics supply chain a greener sector for the world. We may see more initiatives such as this emerge in 2024 as companies find working together is easier than doing it solo.

6) AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most disruptive technologies happening in the world but holds the potential to help sustainability in the ICT industry.

Specifically, AI will be used to monitor, manage and reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions in data centers, big data and enterprises, according to Gartner. While this is still in its nascent stages, the company said that IT leaders should lay down roadmaps to invest in sustainable technologies like AI, which could be a boon to success in the future and drive innovation.

“For example, generative and other types of AI offer new opportunities and drive several trends,” said Chris Howard, distinguished VP analyst and chief of research at Gartner. “But deriving business value from the durable use of AI requires a disciplined approach to widespread adoption along with attention to the risks.”

AI’s predictive capabilities combined with its training and learning potential could allow for threats to systems being alerted quickly. Also, these technologies can optimize resource use and improve energy efficiency, which would be a significant boon for reducing emissions from data centers and other IT sectors.

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