April 04, 2023

Can IT reduce energy consumption and make us all better environmental citizens?

Kingsley McGarrigle
General Manager for WA at Data#3 Limited
Even before the federal government announced an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030, before energy costs rose sharply due to a perfect storm of supply issues and global political factors, reducing consumption was on the radar of most business leaders. Over the last few years, I have noticed the conversation turn increasingly to the role technology solutions play in an organisation’s overall environmental impact.

It has not been one single factor that has put energy consumption firmly on the agenda. The guidance issued by key financial regulators including ASIC and the ASX, emphasises the importance of climate considerations in business activities and promotes inclusion of environmental measures in annual reports. Investors, staff and customers alike are placing greater importance on dealing with organisations they see as good corporate citizens – and yes, sustainable IT practices can absolutely offer side benefits such as reducing energy costs.

Sustainability in a post-pandemic world

Coming out of the pandemic, much thought has gone into reimagining the future of work, and most executives expect hybrid work to become the standard model. Indeed, this flexibility is seen as necessary for companies to attract and retain the brightest talent from a generation that could operate mobile devices before they could walk.

While navigating a newly hybrid remote or hybrid workforce scenario, there are clear opportunities to reduce your carbon footprint. Buildings, traditionally big contributors to environmental impact, are under-occupied. Modern technologies can enable better use of space. Smart booking systems for rooms and even desks help enormously – we see wide adoption in organisations of the Cisco Collaboration platform to reserve a spot for a meeting or just a few hours of office-based work.

Pushing further, smart space technologies, including connected sensors and cameras can be used to monitor environments, automate air quality and temperature control measures. When an employee walks into the office, sensors trigger a response in lighting systems and heating and ventilation systems, for example, so that they are activated when needed. Resource usage is lowered, while working conditions are optimised for staff wellbeing. When launching its new range of sensors and cameras, Cisco Meraki cited a reduction of up to 70% in energy costs achieved by organisations when they created smart spaces. The network better controls the building’s environment, via centralised controls that harness AI to make a sizeable dent in energy consumption.

Energy efficiency in hybrid collaboration

Before the pandemic, collaboration technologies were already getting a fair bit of attention, but apps like Microsoft Teams really went mainstream when people found themselves suddenly working from their dining tables. Although everyone can now get back to the office, there are environmental benefits to keeping people off the roads and prioritising online meetings where possible. Now that we have hit the hybrid phase, and this looks like being the usual model going forwards, we are seeing businesses investing in upgrading meeting rooms to give a better user experience. Gone are the days of huddling round a single device to try to get everyone on camera, and the disembodied voices from those outside the frame. Vendors are now incorporating AI to modify frame and lighting, with a wide angle automatically adjusting the picture to prevent distortion at the edges. Cameras follow the speaker as they walk around or present using a smart board, for a far more dynamic effect.

It would be wrong to talk about reducing energy consumption without mentioning cloud.

Traditional data centres are known for high power consumption, especially where infrastructure is under-utilised. When moving workloads off-premises, it is possible to reduce energy use. Many cloud providers are investing in sustainable practices and technologies, and it is worth asking them to demonstrate their credentials before signing a contract.

Even those workloads that need to stay on-premises have not been forgotten – major vendors have placed a higher priority on environmentally friendly design. Cisco, for example, employs circular economy principles where they recycle wherever possible, both in construction of their equipment and disposal at end-of-life. Likewise, HP has increasingly used ocean plastics in its laptop construction. Both use recycled packaging. As a technology partner, Data#3 addresses sustainability considerations in every solution design, and we assess each vendor we work with to ensure we understand their impact. We are seeing customers ask this of us more frequently; with them placing a high priority on sustainability indicators.

Looking ahead to a sustainable digital future

From conversations I have had with vendor partners and customers, it is clear that organisations in all enterprise and government sectors are keen to play a part in reducing energy consumption and meeting that 43%1 emissions target.

Data#3 has helped many customers navigate a rapidly changing landscape by ensuring our solutions and services deliver real innovation for our customers with careful consideration to environmentally responsible practices that will benefit generations to come.

Data#3’s commitment to sustainability

Throughout our long history, we have made many decisions that support our community and environment. Our vision is to harness the power of people and technology for a better future. We commit to a sustainable environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework that supports our business, people and stakeholders.