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The global energy footprint of information and communication technology electronics in connected Internet-of-Things devices

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Journal Article

Das, Sujit, and Elizabeth Mao. 2020. “The Global Energy Footprint of Information and Communication Technology Electronics in Connected Internet-of-Things Devices.” Sustainable Energy, Grids and Networks 24 (December): 100408.

Information and communication technology (ICT) has been critical to the emergence of a new Internet-of-Things (IoT) era, as a rapidly increasing number and variety of IoT electronic devices in a wide range of end-use sectors require massive data communication in terms of volume, velocity/speed, and variety. Semiconductor technology advancements have played a key role in ICT and unlike the past ICT energy footprint analysis, which focused on the final electronic product, an attempt has been made to examine the global energy impacts for the period 2016–2025 based on the market forecasts of three major IoT IC types, i.e., sensors and actuators, connectivity, and processor ICs distributed among four major IoT device components. Total global IoT semiconductor primary energy demand is projected to increase from 2 EJ in 2016 to 35 EJ by 2025, resulting mainly from a substantial projected increase energy needed in the manufacturing of ICs, with growth in the use of sensors and energy-intensive next fab generation manufacturing. Unlike the trend in manufacturing energy, total global operational energy use is projected to decrease significantly with the development of smaller transistor size, low-power devices, and faster wireless data communication technology. Total operational energy is projected to significantly decrease from 118 TWh/year (1,2 EJ/year) to less than 1 TWh/year (0.003 EJ/year) in spite of a significantly higher anticipated growth in its market size during the 2016–2025 forecast period. Its annual share of total primary energy use is projected to reach an insignificant level of 0.01% by the end of 2025, consistent with the past limited electronic product life cycle analyses besides the analysis focus here limited to ICs in IoT devices.

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