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Technology patent release aims to accelerate climate change innovations

In this episode of Tech Talk, HPE's chief sustainability technologist discusses how his team supports customers on their sustainability journeys and a new initiative to speed new technology solutions that lower carbon emissions.

Over many years, Hewlett Packard Enterprise has been committed to fighting climate change on several fronts, including appointing John Frey to the post of chief technologist for sustainable transformation. In his role, Frey leads a small team of technologists who advise customers on sustainability and recommend best practices to support them on their journey. The team also works with customers, governments, and other stakeholders to lay the groundwork for future technology requirements and innovations to support greater sustainability.

Please listen to: Sustainable tech: Good for the planet, good for business

In this episode of Tech Talk with host Robert Christiansen, vice president of strategy in the Office of the CTO at HPE, Frey details how HPE is leading efforts to address the climate crisis, including a newly launched initiative to accelerate the development of lower carbon technology.

What does sustainability really mean?

A challenge in promoting collective action on the climate crisis is getting to a common definition of sustainability, Frey says.

"Sustainability means so many things to so many people," he notes. "In an average conversation with a customer or a governmental official, we could move from the topic of efficient IT to how do we prevent human trafficking in supply chains, then shift to algorithmic bias in AI applications, then move to climate change and how does that impact marginalized populations, all the way to a circular approach to the consumption model."

Please listen to: Racing with a purpose: How social equity drives sustainability

Because sustainability encompasses so many areas, it's important to stay focused on individual goals, measure progress on each, and perhaps most important, "avoid unintended consequences as you start to put programs in place," Frey says.

Achieving dual goals

When talking about technology's impact on climate change specifically, the question is, how can companies and governments work together to reduce the carbon footprint of technology while ensuring the benefits of technology advances? As Frey notes, while the use of technology is growing, so is its efficiency and performance in relation to the resources it uses.

"We've fairly well held power consumption in check because of our ability to do much more work with the same amount of power," he says. But, Frey adds, IT efficiency encompasses not only equipment and energy efficiency but software efficiency as well. That means companies need to train programmers to write code that requires less compute cycles.

Please read: Circular economy helps IT build toward sustainability

Further, they need to think beyond use of carbon neutral or renewable energy sources and consider the overall efficiency of their IT stack. Frey cites research from Uptime Institute and others that found that more than 50 percent of equipment in data centers is over five years old and doing only about 7 percent of the work of new equipment, due to outdated, inefficient processors.

Mission: Save the planet

On Earth Day this year, HPE pledged to make key patents free and available to innovators advancing low-carbon technologies.

"One of the things we know about climate change is it's one of our greatest threats to our common future. And yet, the world doesn't have the technology solutions necessary to achieve even the carbon reduction targets that the scientific community tells us we need to meet," Frey explains.

Please read: How sustainability leadership can boost the bottom line

To speed such solutions and drive idea sharing among innovators, HPE has initially released about 400 technology patents.

"It's so exciting to see what can happen when we bring together a bunch of technologists from across the company and beyond who all say, 'Hey, we want to collaborate to make a difference,'" Frey says. "We're really excited to see the innovation that comes out, while at the same time … we're innovating ourselves within HPE."

Listen to other episodes of Tech Talk.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.