How Standards Promote Sustainable Innovation

How Standards Promote Sustainable Innovation

How Standards Promote Sustainable Innovation

October 12, 2023 / Posted By: InterDigital Comms

The development of information and communication technologies over the past 50 years has been remarkable. With almost 10 billion mobile devices worldwide, everyone is now connected—meaning we can speak to one another, see each other, share audio and video content, and distribute large amounts of data all the time and almost effortlessly.

However, as awareness of the climate emergency has grown in recent years, more attention is now paid to addressing the energy usage of connected products and services, such as mobile devices, laptops, TVs, and more. Engineers and contributors to global standards from companies like InterDigital are therefore increasingly focused on the need to make networks and products more energy-efficient, and, where possible, to incorporate energy reduction features into industry-wide standards.

As we celebrate World Standards Day on October 14th it is worth reflecting on how standardized technologies can help shape a more sustainable future.

Reducing energy in 5G

In wireless, 5G networks support various features that are more efficient than 4G, but the global rollout of 5G and the introduction of new network elements, devices and services will nevertheless increase overall energy needs. According to a joint study by InterDigital and ABI Research in 2021, the 5G ecosystem will see a 160% increase in power requirements by 2030 (making it equal to all the energy consumption of Sweden). That said, the study also shows that when analyzed on a per-bit basis, 5G is far more efficient than 4G and this efficiency will only improve as newer generations of technology hit the market.

Areas where efforts are now underway to increase efficiency include real-time monitoring and improved battery management. 5G Advanced, which is due to be introduced in 2024, will go further, by emphasizing network operation efficiency and low-power consumption for Internet of Things (IoT) networks. Applications running on 5G are able to become energy aware and can modify their behavior based on energy usage.

As this demonstrates, one of the benefits of 5G Advanced is extending connectivity into a wider variety of industries and sectors in the global economy. While connected devices need power, they can also help drive significant efficiencies and, ultimately, save energy in areas like smart manufacturing and smart transportation. For example, ABI Research forecasts that 5G can save the average warehouse 650 tons of CO2 emissions by 2030.

InterDigital will continue to play an important role in developing the technologies to achieve this through our contributions to standards such as 5G and through our leadership in key standards bodies such as 3GPP.

Making video more efficient

Video is another area where energy efficiency is a priority. Video currently accounts for more than 80% of internet streaming and 72% of video energy consumption comes from consumer devices, according to the International Energy Agency.

InterDigital is a leading contributor to video standards and our engineers bring their expertise in sustainability to standards setting organizations. For example, we are a contributor to the VVC codec, which enables large reductions in bitrates on streamed video with no perceptible loss of image quality. This will help video infrastructure to become more sustainable by limiting expansion and growth.

InterDigital also co-chairs the Planning Team on Sustainability in Media and Data Delivery Services (PT9) in ATSC and co-leads DVB’s study mission on Energy Aware Service Delivery and Consumption. Further, InterDigital leads the Sustainability Committee of the Ultra HD Forum, and is a member of the SMPTE Sustainability Working Group.

Prioritizing sustainability

Sustainability and increased energy efficiency have long been priorities for our engineers. Notably, InterDigital organized and co-chaired a collaborative workshop in Rennes earlier this year titled “Towards Sustainable and Energy-Aware Video Communications.” This was part of the International Conference on Information and Communications Technology for Sustainability (ICT4S).

Further, we were awarded Best Full-Length Paper at the ACM Mile High Video Conference 2023 for research on Energy-Aware Images: Quality of Experience vs Energy Reduction. This award recognized InterDigital’s Pixel Value Reduction (PVR) solutions to balance the ability to reduce the brightness of an image (and therefore the amount of energy consumed) while optimizing the visual quality perceived by the viewer. This is based on two approaches to energy saving: (1) maintaining the full image quality while maximally reducing energy requirements, and (2) achieving specific levels of energy reduction through customization of streaming content services while keeping the visual quality as high as possible.

InterDigital has long been a leading contributor in exploring Energy Aware Broadcasting Systems. In ITU-R Working Party 6C, InterDigital has helped to raise awareness of energy efficiency concerns, co-chairing a rapporteur group on the topic. An ITU webinar was organized on the topic, and an ITU-R report was derived from it. ITU-R has also published an opinion on carbon offsetting, to which InterDigital has contributed.

Currently, InterDigital researchers are proposing PVR solutions in the context of ITU-R to reduce the energy requirements of display devices. In parallel, InterDigital is standardizing appropriate infrastructure in MPEG to carry information to allow display devices to benefit from PVR technologies.

Consumers increasingly factor sustainability concerns into their purchasing decisions, and connected devices and consumer electronics products are no exception. It is incumbent on the industry to develop products and services that are energy-efficient and not wasteful while also enabling diverse and high-quality content and delivery.

At InterDigital, as a leading contributor to standards like 5G and VVC, we are perfectly placed to lead efforts to incorporate sustainable solutions into new technologies, in fields such as wireless and video. Doing so will ensure that energy-efficient solutions are widely implemented, delivering consumers high-quality connectivity with an energy efficient approach.

More still needs to be done but, as our work at InterDigital demonstrates, innovation in standardized technologies can play a significant role in paving the way to a more sustainable future.