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Summary:

Cell phones can teach us a lot about energy efficiency. New energy technologies that have commonly been introduced first in cell phones are now being mimicked across other industries, leading to information technology and transportation that is more energy-efficient.

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Turns out cell phones can actually teach us a lot about energy efficiency. Over the years, they’ve been uniquely designed to operate as efficiently as possible, quickly moving in and out of states of power and utilizing the latest battery and cooling innovations. Think about it: Cell phones are electronic devices that have to be small, lightweight and disconnected from the grid for most of the time.

Because of this, new energy technologies have commonly appeared first in cell phones and are now being mimicked across other industries, leading to information technology and transportation that is more energy-efficient. In an article I wrote for GigaOM Pro (subscription required), I go into the details of how the innovations created for cell phones are leading to breakthroughs like more energy-efficient servers (go ARM chips!), and one day electric cars with long distance battery ranges.

And this is a good trend. The rise of always-on devices will lead to more and more energy consumption associated with the Internet and computing, and our vehicles are responsible for a disproportionate share of greenhouse gas emissions — getting them onto more efficient battery power could be crucial to fight climate change.

From cars to computing, in the future almost everything will be connected to a network and will always be on. So devices need to be built from the ground up to use power only when they need it, with smart software managing power states and battery charging. In other words, if every device acted like a cell phone, we’d be in pretty good shape.

To read my full story on GigaOM Pro go here!

Image courtesy of samantha celera.

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  1. It’s actually more profound than that. Energy consumption in a cellphone is still viscerally understandable by an ordinary person. Whereas energy consumption in a home or in a car is too big and too abstract to understand. With a phone, you can experiment with charging off a wall plug or off a solar panel, etc. and come to conclusions about how effective different energy sources are.

  2. Katie Fehrenbacher Thursday, June 30, 2011

    @albert, good point, thanks!

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