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UK media giants team up with University of Bristol on carbon calculator for digital content

Written by Mon 13 Jan 2020

BBC, ITV, Sky and TalkTalk among major media companies collaborating on DIMPACT carbon calculator

A group of computer scientists at the University of Bristol are teaming up with nine major media companies to create an online tool for measuring the carbon impact of digital content.

Sustainability consultancy Carnstone will facilitate a 12-month collaboration between University of Bristol researchers and sustainability and tech teams at the BBC, Dentsu Aegis Network, Informa, ITV, Pearson, RELX, Schibsted, Sky and TalkTalk, to map the “carbon hotspots” of digital media content and services.

Digital media, such as streaming video, advertising and publishing, passes through a sprawling series of infrastructure, including content delivery networks and data centres, before it lands on user devices. However, the multitude of infrastructure and owners along the delivery chain makes capturing the carbon impact of digital services a complex task.

Climate change is high on the political agenda and the environmental impact of IT infrastructure has been subject to rising scrutiny in recent months.

Writing in the International Journal of Green Technology last year, Anders Andrae, researcher at Huawei Technologies Sweden, said data centres could double their power demands over the next decade, a trend he described at “completely unsustainable.” Streaming video is one of the biggest drivers of traffic demand, with platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video responsible for 60.6 percent of all internet traffic, according to network analytics firm Sandvine.

Carnstone said the ‘DIMPACT’ program will help media companies understand the ‘downstream’ carbon impacts of digital content and enable more informed environmental decision-making,

“We know that more and more of our interactions happen online, and screens play an ever more important role in our lives. We can say with absolute certainty that the digital economy will continue to grow. What we don’t know is how those modes of digital consumption translate into carbon impacts and where the ‘hotspots’ reside. DIMPACT will change that,” commented project manager Christian Toennesen.

Toennesen added, “given the overall size of the carbon footprint of the digital media sector, it is important that companies assess and report their impacts. By doing so, they can identify the carbon savings that can be made by alternative design decisions, and hopefully find ways to reduce their overall footprint.”

Written by Mon 13 Jan 2020

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digital media environment sustainability
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