Between 3 and 7 percent of the world’s electricity production is used to power the Internet and peripheral equipment connected to the web.

Between 3 and 7 percent of the world’s electricity production is used to power the Internet and peripheral equipment connected to the web.

Green IT is often associated with making more energy efficient computers and TVs, removing environmentally hazardous components, and properly handling junked electronics. From an environmental standpoint, software doesn’t get the same attention as hardware. But innovative applications can cut down requirements for processing power and memory consumption, reducing energy consumption and increasing information storage capacity.

Oricane AB, based in the northern Swedish city of Luleå, develops software that makes web surfing more energy efficient. The company’s technology is aimed at telecom product manufacturers looking to reduce resource use and energy consumption from web traffic.

The Internet is a significant energy hog

Between 3 and 7 percent of the world’s electricity production is used to power the Internet and peripheral equipment connected to the web. The USA and Europe devour the largest amounts of energy, and a benchmark figure is that about 5 percent of electricity consumption is the global average. This would produce an estimated 900 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to the pollution from more than 90 coal-powered power plants.

So it comes as no surprise that many players in the IT industry are showing an increasing interest in the connection between energy consumption and emissions of climate changing gases. For example, Google is building solar power plants, Sun Microsystems is staking billions of dollars per year on the development of energy-efficient technology, and IBM is producing a system that takes care of the surplus heat generated by servers. The focus usually lies on improving the energy efficiency of hardware, and relatively few companies have taken a closer look at software code.

The founder and CEO of Oricane, Mikael Sundström, believes that the power used by computers to perform calculations is often much more than necessary, and he sees significant potential for environmental improvement in making software processes more effective.

Computer software tells the microprocessor how to perform calculations, simulations, and everything else the user asks it to do. These processes demand energy, of course. In addition, the computer is busy forwarding packets (packaging and sending information) online, controlling incoming activities via the firewall, allowing search engine access and contacting other computer data centers. In short, a massive number of resource demanding processes are constantly eating up computing power and energy. Oricane targets these processes by writing effective programs. According to the company, more effective program coding could reduce the Internet’s energy consumption by as much as 20 percent.

BioCAM and BioDex

BioDEX mobile is a patented technology for compressing, storing, and seeking information.

BioDEX mobile is a patented technology for compressing, storing, and seeking information.

Oricane’s research is built upon the basic ideas of effective program algorithms, optimized data centers, non-fragmented storage and other concepts. The result is a product portfolio containing a wide array of patented technology solutions. For example, the BioCAM product addresses questions regarding the transportation of information via the Internet. BioCAM is based on the further development of a technique used for quick controls (lookups) of IP addresses in routers. BioCAM can perform the same job as traditional TCAM chips but with a fraction of the energy, and the technology can also be used for energy-efficient packet classification in routers and firewalls. BioCAM mobile is an application for mobile surfers that both reduces energy use online and reduces drain on the cell phone’s battery.

The products in the BioDEX family aim to increase energy efficiency for online storage and searching. Energy consumption for applications such as search engines is reduced by as much as 95 percent. BioDEX has a patented technology to compress, store, and seek information for small electronic products such as cell phones. Oricane’s contact database makes it possible to store more than 200 million names and numbers in a cell phone. You could actually put the entire Swedish phone book in your cell, with plenty of room to spare.

The Internet continues to grow

The internet continues to grow, with the number of internet users currently amounting to roughly 1.4 billion. By 2012 this number will grow to 1.9 billion, or about 30 percent of the global population. About a half billion people presently have access to a mobile Internet connection, and that number is rapidly increasing. If Oricane’s energy-efficient technology were to be globally implemented, the result would be an energy savings equal to 12 million households while emissions of carbon dioxide would be reduced by approximately 200,000 tons.

Article published in September 2009