MIT Technology Review: Energy Demands of Networked Devices Skyrocket

InsightaaS: Sometimes, we get so lost in individual trends that it comes as a shock when someone connects them. Many people will probably have that experience when they see the MIT Technology Review article “Energy Demands of Networked Devices Skyrocket.” We are all fully aware that the number of Internet-connected devices is growing and poised to skyrocket, as IoT adds sensors, wearable technologies and other new types of connections to the billions of smartphones, tablets and PCs already in use. We are also aware that the environment is already challenged by generation of electric power, which is an enormous source of climate-changing GHG emissions. What isn’t always as clear is the connection between these two points. In this article, we learn that power use by networked devices is rapidly becoming a significant factor in global electricity demand. Networked devices drew about as much power as is consumed by France in 2008; they surpassed total consumption in Canada in 2013, and are projected to account for 6% of global power demand by 2025. This has focused attention on how these devices manage downtime. Is there a power-efficient approach to keeping network-connected devices ready for communications that will meet the performance requirements of human and M2M applications? The article holds that spintronics may enable “normally off” to replace “normally on” as the default device state, which would impact up to 80% of current power demand.

Between computers, smartphones, tablets, wearables, and the Internet of things, the number of networked devices around the world is growing rapidly, and all those devices need energy, even if they’re not doing anything. That could be a problem.

A new report from the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring reliable and clean energy, says that the electricity demand of networked devices around the world in 2008–420 terawatt-hours–was equal to that of France; in 2013 the demand surpassed that of Canada, reaching 616 terawatt-hours. By 2025, the report projects, networked devices will account for 6 percent of global electricity demand at 1,140 terawatt-hours. As much as 80 percent of that demand will be used just to maintain a network connection, keeping devices ready and waiting.


  1. […] In July, InsightaaS featured an MIT Technology Review article looking at the power demands associated with IoT. Today, we return to MIT Technology Review for the other part of the story: possible means of powering implanted devices. The article notes that there are many potential uses for these gadgets (“regulate insulin levels, control appetite, lower blood sugar, or treat brain injuries”), but that batteries are too bulky to implant alongside this array of electronics, and that current wireless methods of distributing power to devices placed just under the skin “won’t work with devices buried deep in the body.” […]


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