WCIT: How digital technologies save energy and help make the planet a greener place

These days it’s all about going green. Companies, families and individuals are seeking new ways to save and preserve energy in an effort to minimize our collective carbon footprint, save energy and reduce the cost of living.

More than 80 per cent of the world’s energy use comes from fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is believed to significantly contribute to global warming.

This week we’re diving into the role digital technologies play in energy, environment and sustainable, or eco-friendly, development. This is the fourth theme of this year’s World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) where up to 3,000 delegates from more than 80 countries will meet in Montreal in October to develop a Global Digital Society Action Plan that will not only shape the future of information technologies (IT) but also the future of humanity. WCIT wants to create a plan to help dramatically reduce global emissions by 2020 and save billions of dollars in energy.

As a partner of WCIT, we’re holding the CareerMash Youth Tech Jam - school events, online activities, contests and prizes through April and May leading up to a large student Jam at the Science Centre on May 11. For full details, check out our CareerMash Youth Tech Jam web page, which also includes links to all our previous blogs on how digital technologies are changing our world.

As part of the CareerMash Youth Tech Jam activities, we’re looking for your ideas on how eco-friendly digital technologies can have a global impact.  Here are just some of the ways we’ve found. What have we missed?

Smart Grids

Smart grids are being developed across Canada. These grids allow energy consumers to monitor and manage their energy usage based on automatic recommendations sent from a grid system. It’s a new technology but manufacturers will soon develop appliances that will “talk” with the smart grid and allow the appliance to automatically adjust its energy usage to consumer preferences.

According to Smart Grid Canada, a smart grid will also allow businesses to talk with their smart equipment, letting owners know if they operate efficiently and if not, give recommendations for energy savings.

What other ways do you think smart grids can be used to save energy?

LEEDs Eco-Friendly Buildings

The Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certification system is used to monitor and rate how green and energy efficient a building is. It was developed in the U.S. and is now used in 30 countries including Canada. The Earth Rangers Centre of Sustainable Technology (ERCST) is a LEEDs certified building that runs nearly 90 per cent more efficiently than the average building its size - mostly thanks to its cutting-edge automation system that uses a meter to measure electricity and automatically adjusts to minimize usage. Every part of the building is green and automated like the washrooms, security and fresh air ventilation system that uses the largest installation of earth tubes in North America. Companies from around the world fly in to see how the ERCST runs.

Do you think every building should be made to meet LEED certification standards to save the environment?

eGain Forecasting

eGain is an award-winning Swedish company that developed a technology to reduce heating costs for homes and buildings. It controls indoor heating and cooling on an hour-to-hour basis based on weather forecasts and a buildings’ energy characteristics. The company claims to lower heating costs by 10 to 15 per cent and the technology pays for itself within a year through energy savings. It uses a meter that monitors room temperatures and humidity each hour then sends the info to a server over a mobile network. So far, the company has more than 150,000 customers.

Virtualization and the cloud

Virtualization is when software that seems to run on one computer is actually split off and shared among several different computers. For example, Rob Di Stefano, the IT Director over at the Earth Rangers Centre of Sustainable Technology (mentioned above) reduced the centre’s servers from 64 physical machines down to one. This reduced energy use by 150,000 kilowatts per year, comparable to the average annual energy use of nine Canadian homes. He also brought the centre into the cloud. The cloud is a web-based, cost effective and secure way to manage and store data that can be accessed by the user anywhere, from any device. Both virtualization and the cloud help to significantly reduce the amount of servers and computing equipment used, which saves energy and is better for the environment. Though time consuming, these are some of the most practical ways for individuals and companies to become greener.

Look around your computer lab at school. How do you think your school can reduce energy use and their impact on the environment?


Dr. Ted Sargent is using nanotechnology to create cheap and efficient (and tiny!) solar cells in an effort to take advantage of what he calls our greatest resource – the sun.  Sargent is the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology at the University of Toronto and his is lab is creating an ink-like semiconductor comprised of tiny solar cells.  This solar ink can essentially be ‘painted’ onto any surface – from clothing to optical wires.  It has the potential to transform electricity by having the cloth of your pants re-charge your smartphone when you just put it into your pocket.  Could you imagine a solar powered light bulb? What if the sun powered your iPod?

For more information on the CareerMash Youth Tech Jam and WCIT, check out the posts below.

CareerMash Youth Tech Jam in the Blog

Anthony Williams, lead organizer of WCIT World Tech Jam

Learn about WCIT from an interview with Anthony Williams, the leading organizer for the event


Digital health care

WCIT: How technology is changing digital health care and medical research


WCIT: How technology is changing digital skills and education around the globe


WCIT: How smart cities and sustainability are changing the world


WCIT: How digital technologies save energy and help make the planet a greener place


WCIT: The power of digital media, arts and culture


Calling All Youth - Add your voice on how the Global Digital Society can change the world


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