Digital Connectivity and 5G are Critical Enabling Technologies

IEEE Young Professional Climate Change and Sustainability Task Force member Cybele Ghanem, a computer and telecommunications engineer, talks about how digital connectivity is an enabling technology to mitigate climate change.

How does digital connectivity and 5G technology contribute to environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation efforts on a global scale?

5G networks are meant to provide better energy efficiency. Moreover, the reliability and minimal latency it provides enable its use for multiple applications that serve the environment. Digital connectivity, along with 5G, allows devices to share information reliably, which enables them to make smarter and more sustainable decisions in real time. Consequently, 5G and digital connectivity will enable better waste management, energy management, risk management, resource management, and more, which reduces CO2 emissions and mitigates its impact on climate change.

Can you provide specific examples of how 5G-enabled solutions are being applied in various sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a greener economy?

To move to a more sustainable future, a notable example is in smart grids, which will provide efficient energy consumption and distribution. Also, smart vehicles as well as smart transport systems rely on massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) to transmit real-time information with other vehicles and the road infrastructure, which can help optimize travel routes, reduce fuel consumption, and thus result in greener transportation.

What role does the Internet of Things (IoT) play in leveraging digital connectivity and 5G to enhance energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprints in industries and urban environments?

The IoT relies on the concept of connectivity among devices through 5G technology. Applications in the industry sector can highly impact the carbon footprint, as sensors, devices, and machines can be connected, which enables better monitoring of energy usage, an optimization of resources, and allows them to make energy-efficient decisions and provide faster manufacturing. Urban environments can be impacted by IoT through the implementation of smart cities, where energy-saving systems can be used, for instance, in smart street lighting to economize energy in the less-busy hours.

Given the increasing demand for data and connectivity, how do experts address concerns about the potential environmental impact of expanding digital infrastructure, and what measures are being taken to ensure sustainable deployment of 5G technology?

Expanding the digital infrastructure will come with its own energy cost, as powering data centers, servers, and these millions of additionally connected devices is extremely energy consuming. Minimizing the impact on our environment can be achieved through the implementation of renewable energy sources, minimizing e-waste, and using energy-efficient hardware. Additionally, a green 5G deployment can be achieved using virtualization, which allows multiple networks to run on the same hardware, AI, and machine learning, which improves efficiency and optimizes resource allocation, as well as optimizing traffic networks through load balancing and other strategies.

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