Good news for all you software developers worried about finding work in the downturn: Software development is at the core of reducing the world’s energy consumption, according to Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist for Microsoft (s MSFT), at the Green Grid technical forum this morning in San Jose, Calif. Bernard (who will be giving a keynote at our Green:Net conference in March) said that software will not only be key to reducing the amount of energy that goes into computing (currently 2 percent of global energy consumption), but also the other 98 percent of energy consumed across the globe.
While many might think of software as being confined to computers, gadgets and data centers, software is increasingly fundamental to managing all hardware and systems, including buildings, vehicles and the power grid. Smarter systems and devices mean fuel and energy can be used more efficiently and ultimately carbon emissions can be reduced. For example Microsoft has been working on creating the traffic-routing service Clearflow, which alerts users to the fastest driving routes based on traffic conditions. That means less traffic, less time on the road, less fuel used.
Ultimately the challenge presented by climate change is how to manage energy and transportation in a world that will have 9 billion people by 2050, Bernard explained to the audience, which was made up largely of data center managers and IT professionals. There isn’t much time to figure out how to allocate those resources, he noted, but we can be glad that the information technology needed can already do much of this work. The infotech industry “has the most opportunity and experience to manage this process,” he said.
That sentiment should be heartening to information technology workers that have been hit hard by the downturn. You’ve all seen the layoff numbers from bellweather tech firms like Yahoo (s YHOO) and from Microsoft itself. While the clean energy industry has been rocked, too, energy efficiency is one of the few areas that has gained more attention in 2009, due to the green section of the stimulus bill and companies’ desire to cut their energy bills. Infotech workers looking for new opportunities should check out companies using digital technologies to cut energy consumption.