Can Technology Help Humanity Reach a Sustainable Environment?

 
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Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22nd, since 1970, strives to raise awareness and support for improving environmental conditions and the world’s natural habitats for future generations. Increasing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the subsequent warming of the planet is only one challenge we are facing. Other issues include the loss of natural habitat and the shrinking of agricultural land which is losing out to global population expansion. Another threatened resource is our supply of fresh water, which needs to increase to support a population that is rising to over 9 billion by 2050. And there are concerns about acidification of the ocean and its shrinking biodiversity, including coral reefs which provide habitat for many marine organisms and protect the mainland from storms and waves. Similarly, there are concerns around the shrinking of the ozone layer, which protects our planet from damaging solar radiation. This is why for the past 47 years, April 22nd has been dedicated to raising awareness around activities that aim to tackle these and other environmental challenges.

Indeed a contributor to our environmental problems is the sheer ingenuity and success of the human race. In fact, our creativity, inventiveness and ingenuity has altered almost every corner of our planet. The challenges we face are only accelerating as each year our planets inhabitants require more food, water, and energy. Could the same human inventiveness that may have placed us in our current state, also provide us with the solutions to our most pressing challenges? It is clear that technology is a powerful tool to help us achieve change and technologies impact on society has, for the most part, improved our quality of life. If applied towards solving Earth’s problems then perhaps we have an answer our challenges.

After all, technological developments in renewable energies are helping to improve the efficiency of renewable energy solution such as solar panels and are providing a way of harnessing the wind without the detrimental effect that long blades have on bird populations. Similarly, efficiency in data centers has the ability to improve application processing, reduce electrical requirements and shrink a data center’s carbon footprint. This is exactly what Mellanox technology is doing for data centers today. Through an end-to-end suite of interconnect products of adapters, switches, cables and optics, Mellanox has been increasing compute efficiency for years. Mellanox solutions enable data centers to achieve the highest efficiencies, subsequently also delivering high-performance, low-latency networks with rich offloads that are capable of accelerating application processing, deliver data faster and unlock system-wide performance.

Another way Mellanox helps with efficiency is by delivering networks that can handle line-rate processing at up to 200 Gb/s speeds and without dropping packets. All this adds to the overall efficiency of a data center and is what Mellanox is referring to when we say ‘Networking Done Right’. This is particularly important within Cloud infrastructure where the opposite can cause system-wide performance degradation. This degradation has the capability of manifesting itself as slow data communication, storage access problems and heightened CPU utilization, all of which can cause a larger hardware footprint that requires more capital expenditure and increases power draw within the data center. Efficiency lessens these factors and thereby reduces the data center’s impact on the environment.

Another aspect where technology is bound to make a difference is the proliferation and access to large quantities of knowledge. Moore’s law tells us that technology will continue to drop in price, which will allow for lower cost computers that can be made readily available to everyone, including those in isolated regions and underdeveloped nations. This will help spread knowledge and give individuals in these countries a better opportunity to use their own ingenuity and access to the World Wide Web to help resolve local or regional challenges. An example of how Moore’s law is dropping prices on technology is the arrival of portable medical devices. This helps not only improve medical care but has the promise of allowing quicker diagnoses. Other emerging technologies such as advancements in quantum computing, nanotechnology, and robotics all provide a range of options for making a difference in the future, from genetic manipulation to end disease to the discovery of alternative energy.

Artificial Intelligence is already making an impact on health care. An example of this is IBM’s Watson, which correctly diagnosed a woman’s rare form of leukemia, something that had stumping medical professionals for some time. The supercomputer read over 20 million cancer research papers, and came up with the proper diagnosis within 10 minutes, suggesting a new treatment that has since been more effective. As computers continue to get faster and smarter, scientist will enlist them in many ways to solve all kinds of challenges. And with the rise of Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Deep Learning (DL) there is a growing requirement for superior efficiency, low-latency, and high-throughput interconnects. An area where Mellanox happens to excel. The ability to efficiently move data at higher speeds has landed Mellanox Spectrum switches and RDMA-enabled ConnectX-5 adapters as key components for enabling world-leading ML, AI, and DL platforms.

Technology is also causing a major disruption to the consumer market by evolving not just how we produce products but also in how they are being consumed. Cloud Computing, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure offer a “Pay for Service” model, where compute is offered as a utility and consumers pay only for what is consumed. The pay for service model is being adopted by many and the disruption it can cause is easy to see in the shake-up of the razor market that subscription service shave clubs have caused. This idea has been expanding to many vertical markets including HVAC filters and is even available with light bulbs where Philips recently introduced “Pay per lux”. For Philips, they maintain ownership of the expensive energy-saving LED bulbs, and sell light as a service. Customers don’t have to worry about replacing bulbs, they buy light and nothing else. Other similar models have taken the mobile world by surprise with sharing services such as Uber and AirBnB. They increase an assets utilization (parked cars and empty beds) and in doing so, lower costs for consumers. All these services have one thing in common, and they share it with Cloud computing and Mellanox, high efficiency. They are better able to meet the demand for products and services without adding waste and unnecessary consumption. If current trends are any indication, we can expect to hear a lot more in years ahead about how technology is helping us make the world a better place to live for the long term.

I have seen a lot of technological advancement in my life, and it was in elementary school in the late 70s when I first started hearing about environmental change. At that time, I envisioned a future society powered by renewable energies and electric cars. While this hasn’t happened yet, I do believe that human innovation with the help of computers will continue to evolve and develop clever new technologies to help us push our planet towards a more favorable, sustainable state. Each year, Earth Day should be a reminder and used as a call to action that encourages us all to lend a helping hand. What can you do? It doesn’t have to be grand and it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Small steps every day can help.  Some things we can do are to turn off lights, leave our cars at home on occasion and walk, bike, or take public transportation, increase our recycling efforts and reduce consumption. So, what are you doing to support and drive significant, positive changes for our planet? Leave us a comment below.

About Tim Lustig

Tim Lustig is the Director of Corporate Ethernet Marketing at Mellanox Technologies, Inc. As a professional in the networking industry, Tim Lustig has been at the forefront of marketing new networking technologies for over two decades. From his start in network and database administration to product marketing and corporate technologist roles, Lustig’s experience includes outbound marketing activities, third party testing/validation, strategic product marketing, market research, and technical writing. Lustig has written many papers and articles on multiple networking technologies, and has been a featured speaker at many industry conferences around the world. Prior to Mellanox Tim held positions at Brocade Communication as Sr. Product Marketing Manager and QLogic Corporation as the Director of Corporate Marketing. Tim Lustig currently sits on the 25 Gigabit Ethernet Consortium marketing committee where he is an industry steward for the promotion of 25, 50 and 100Gb Ethernet. Follow Tim on Twitter: @tlustig

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