By Thierry E. Klein, Head of Green Research at Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent
On January 16th, representatives from companies and universities from across the state gathered at the Bell Labs headquarters in Murray Hill, NJ for the first New Jersey Green ICT Summit. Organized in collaboration with Verizon (check out their blog post) and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), the event was intended to bring together participants in the varied and increasingly rich community of companies and researchers throughout the state that are contributing to the greening of the information and communications technology (ICT) industry.
Why? Green and sustainable communication and computing are increasingly important to the ICT industry, and are quickly becoming key growth drivers for 21st century economies. Here at Bell Labs we have of course long recognized the importance of, and associated business opportunities offered by the greening of ICT. In keeping with that realization, we have made energy efficiency a key attribute of our innovation programs. More and more organizations in the ICT industry are making the same decisions – including a large and growing number right here in New Jersey.
The origins of this gathering were surprisingly organic. Last summer I got together with Mike Wiley, Senior Venture Officer at NJEDA to talk about our green research program at Bell Labs and an associated industry initiative we helped establish, called GreenTouch. As part of that conversation, Mike spoke about a number of companies he was working with, as well as several other related green activities that were happening in New Jersey. I was quite surprised – in a positive way; here I was working with companies and universities from Europe, Australia, China, Korea and other parts of the US as part of GreenTouch, but I had little idea about what was going on in my own backyard. Maybe others in New Jersey would be in a similar situation? Maybe they did not know about our green research program, or about GreenTouch? Most likely we would all benefit from knowing about each other, I thought. Perhaps through collaboration we could help put New Jersey on the green ICT map.
Mike and I continued brainstorming about a Green ICT Summit – in New Jersey, for New Jersey, by New Jersey – that would bring together leading experts from industry and academia to discuss and exchange ideas, concepts, and solutions for green and energy efficient technologies, all geared toward enabling sustainable lifestyles for the benefit of society. We also had a clear eye toward finding collaboration opportunities. It turns out that Alan Scott and Doug Schoenberger at Verizon were interested in similar goals and it was not difficult to convince them to join us to organize this event.
Hence the NJ Green ICT Summit was born. Despite some snowy weather conditions, we had 57 registered participants from 29 organizations spanning small and large enterprise, academia, government and green advocacy groups as well as some local reporters and a very broad and diverse audience. The event program included three sessions and panel discussions focused on data centers and enterprise; cities and infrastructure; and consumer and residential that featured invited speakers from Verizon, NJ EDA, IBM, GE, Princeton University, Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Bloom Energy, Fieldview Solutions, Princeton Power, NRG, WattVision, Locus Energy and Bell Labs.
Of course we at Bell Labs were happy to share our perspectives. My colleague Tom Okrasinski gave a keynote presentation on the GeSI (Global e-Sustainability Initiative) SMARTer 2020 report – to which Bell Labs contributed – that estimates the enabling effect of ICT and shows that intelligent use of ICT technologies can reduce global carbon emissions by 16.5%. Dr. Marina Thottan talked about Bell Labs’ ICT solutions for smart grid applications. I also had the opportunity to provide an overview of Bell Labs green research activities and introduce the GreenTouch consortium to an audience many of whom were unfamiliar with the consortium and its goals. Already several participants have expressed interest in GreenTouch.
Personally, I am thrilled with the outcome of the event. We had an opportunity to highlight Bell Labs’ engagement in the green ICT space and opened new doors for potential collaboration. As importantly, a great group of people doing exciting work had the chance to gather for some very informative and insightful discussions throughout the day. People continued to connect and exchange ideas (and business cards) even as chairs and tables were being cleared. To my mind this is a great measure of success.
I also learned some really cool things along the way. Did you ever think that you could save $1 million in annual electrical bills for a large 22 megawatt data center simply by adjusting small mechanical valves in the floor tiles? Did you know that 6-10% of the electricity produced and distributed through the power grid could be saved by smart grid technologies?
No single organization can solve the green challenges by themselves; we need to build the “green innovation ecosystem” – starting in our own backyards and expanding globally. As far as I know this was the first such event in New Jersey, and I am pretty confident that it won’t be the last. Perhaps it might even inspire others around the country and the world to follow suit. I certainly hope so.