Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Computer Switch-off Software Makes IT Greener

A SCOTTISH company has designed software that automatically turns off work computers after hours, which it claims could lead to a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to taking two million cars off UK roads.

Several million office workers in the UK leave their computers on overnight, emitting enormous levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Carbon Control Software (CCS), a new Aberdeen-based company, will launch the program in May, alongside a social networking site called Carbon Earth which automatically uploads information on how much a company has cut its carbon emissions and provides at-a-glance view of which businesses are the most green.

They will give the software away for free to home users and charge businesses £5 per computer, with the promise that £25 would be saved on every machine.

John Gillies, joint chief executive of CCS, said that his software would cut the environmental impact of all businesses that use IT. The sector is estimated to emit around one billion tonnes of CO2 a year - between 2 to 4% of global emissions. This is more than aviation and the military combined.

He said: "Employees think that there is no real consequence to leaving your computer on but it's a substantial waste of energy."

The software works by simply cutting power to computers and then producing data centrally on how much energy is saved in order to calculate the difference in carbon emissions.

There are already programs that do similar things but Gillies claimed that his company's product was the only one specifically designed with carbon cuts in mind.

CCS has already had interest from investors. The software is currently being tested by companies such as oil drilling giant VetcoGray, which is owned by General Electric, and Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

Patrick Harvie, leader of the Scottish Greens, said that innovative ways of combating global emissions were the only way to avoid "stark changes to our lifestyles".

There have already been attempts by environmentalists and government to persuade people to switch their computers off after work, but most have fallen on deaf ears.

John Stocks, manager of Carbon Trust Scotland, said that using automatic software was "one avenue to go down" and warned: "IT uses a tremendous amount of energy and it is very important that all computers are switched off when they are not needed, such as overnight.



David said...

It is always interesting to see another software vendor entering the power management space and I would encourage all IT users to use such applications as part of their strategy to minimise their CO2 emissions. The social networking site that compares CO2 savings and publicly names the greenest is an interesting idea but I wonder how many businesses will really be that willing to have their 'green ranking' displayed in this manner?

You note in your article that there are already a number of programs that do similar things and my own company Codefounders produces one such application. I would take exception to John Gillies comment that his company's product was 'the only one specifically designed with carbon cuts in mind'. Our own offering, and I suspect those of some other vendors, were expressly designed for this purpose. However it is very difficult to persuade customers to adopt such products purely on an environmental basis. An interesting article in this week's IT Week magazine ('Departments pass green buck', IT Week, 7 April 2008) notes that 'increasing awareness of green issues has yet to be translated into much action... where firms had made green moves, their main motivation often had little to do with the environment... these technologies make their business easier to run'. This certainly corresponds with our own experience which shows that it is easier to sell on the cost saving aspects of power management than the attendant CO2 reduction which will accrue from using it. This is why we why (and probably other vendors too) mainly focus on cost savings when marketing power management software and hope to achieve the environmental benefit as a happy side effect..

The same article discusses the results of a survey of a number of IT firms which found that only 21% of businesses had a formal green IT policy and only 8% had fully implemented this policy. Given this low take-up rate of green IT technologies it will be interesting to see how many firms are willing to expose their green credentials to scrutiny via Mr Gillies social networking site.

Anonymous said...

Personally I'll stick with windows built in power management, that way theres not need for a few extra servers around the world to be burning up all that precious carbon just to log the results!!

Gimme a break!