Helping the Environment through Energy-Efficient Product Design

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our ongoing “Executive Perspective” series for Broadcom. It was authored by Neil Y. Kim, Executive Vice President of Operations and Central Engineering for Broadcom. It was scheduled for April to highlight Earth Day and Broadcom’s commitment to environment-friendly technology. The original post is available in PDF format.

Broadcom was founded 20 years ago with the vision of Connecting everything through innovative semiconductor solutions that let people communicate at home, at work and on the go. From our early days to our emergence as a Fortune 500 company, we’ve always made sure that our technology uses environmental resources responsibly.

Broadcom’s commitment to social responsibility is demonstrated in part through its commitment to eco-friendly product design. By providing solutions that help customers realize their own sustainability goals, Broadcom serves as a steward of the environment worldwide.

The Energy Challenge

Energy conservation and the development of energy-efficient IT products are critical challenges. Estimates show that more than 150 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are produced each year to power IT equipment. This represents about 10 percent of overall electricity demand, or $16 billion annually worldwide.

This is a weighty expense to the environment and to the global economy. What’s even more alarming is that almost half of that energy is wasted by “always on” electronics that lack adequate power management capabilities. Industry trends suggest even more IT systems will be left on 24 hours a day, including business servers and network printers.

In the last few years, “always on” systems have contributed to a steady increase in IT-related carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, and “business-as-usual” scenarios project a 130 percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Focus on Energy-Efficient Design

Broadcom’s long-standing initiatives for greener products and designs contribute to saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the company and its customers. Broadcom’s highly-integrated combo chip solutions, for example, reduce power consumption by powering entire systems down to minimum function when not in use, rather than allowing multiple functions to operate separately and continuously.

Through their experience in low-power system and network-chip design, several Broadcom employees hold leadership roles in organizations focused on green IT and networking technologies, including IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group, helping to define environmental compliance requirements and energy-saving technical standards used throughout the industry.

Engineering Energy Efficiency at Work

As an industry leader in the design of energy-efficient communications technology, Broadcom benefits by applying this technology right on our own campuses. Energy-efficient network technology improves our bottom line by reducing our own IT-related energy use and operating costs—the same benefits we deliver to our customers and the environment.

“To achieve a meaningful impact on energy consumption, Broadcom believes that the products it makes should meet or improve upon current standards for energy savings. We are constantly developing crucial energy-saving technology.”

For example, Broadcom embraced the IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) standard and then improved upon it by adding control policy and hardware and software subsystems. The complete subsystem provides enhanced energy savings and faster time to market for system makers. For many network providers, the cost of upgrading to achieve sustainability goals can be daunting. Broadcom’s proprietary AutoGrEEEn™ technology can help. By implementing this technology directly into our network PHYs, we can deliver EEE-compliance to any interfacing network equipment, even legacy devices, reducing power consumption by more than 70 percent per port.

When you put these and other technologies from Broadcom together, we can help to reduce power consumption in IT systems by up to 95 percent, which, according to the University of South Florida, translates to an annual carbon dioxide reduction in the U.S. alone of up to 2.85 million metric tons.

That’s a lot of savings. In fact, 2.85 million metric tons is the equivalent powering 314,000 homes for one year, or taking 495,000 passenger vehicles off the road all year.

Green Connected Home

Broadcom is committed to delivering similar savings to everyday households as well.

In the Living Room: Broadcom’s set-top box technology contains dynamic power management capabilities that can shut down unused system components in real-time. Even in the lowest power modes, technology remains aware of network events both in the home and from broadband servers, providing instant response to network and user input. These deep sleep modes significantly reduce standby power consumption, delivering energy savings directly to consumers. The latest set-top box designs also feature Broadcom’s Full-Band Capture (FBC) digital tuning technology that reduces active power consumption by more than 50 percent. Broadcom’s set-top box technology also supports innovative home networking devices to provide a whole-home connected entertainment environment. By coupling a central video media server set-top box with low-power compact client set-top boxes, consumers benefit from reduced energy use and increased power savings while enjoying services like multi-room DVR.

In Your Appliances: Everything in the home is becoming more connected, including the thermostat. Broadcom’s new Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) platform (pronounced “wik-id”) empowers homeowners by making it easier to monitor and control energy use in appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and air conditioners. The WICED platform delivers simple Wi-Fi connectivity to almost any consumer device with a processor—even those with no traditional networking support. Because of their low power and small size, WICED solutions can also be integrated with sensors and monitors to enable remote and cloud-based monitoring of appliances, electronics, healthcare, fitness, security and whole-house energy usage. In fact, the universe of possible devices that could benefit from WICED-based wireless connectivity is as varied as the imaginations of consumer product engineers.

Commitment to the Future

At Broadcom, we take environmental responsibility seriously and put our commitment into action through power-saving products and sustainable corporate environments. We support, and in many cases lead in the development of standards for energy-efficient design, and we work with partners and customers to ensure these benefits are maintained at every stage of product development. We believe our commitment to developing energy-efficient semiconductor solutions is a key technology to creating an environmentally responsible future for all.

Facts and Stats
  • ITU World Summit on Information Society states that electricity demand by the networking sector for industrialized countries is between 5 and 10 percent of total electricity demand. About 50 percent of this electricity is wasted by equipment that is powered on, but idle. The problem may worsen as more systems, from cloud computing and data center servers to home set-top boxes, are left on continuously.
  • A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) shows that DVRs, cable set-top boxes, and other pay-TV boxes are electricity hogs. These devices “cost American consumers $3 billion a year—$1 billion to operate when in active use and an additional $2 billion while inactive but still running at near full power.”
  • According to the International Energy Agency, consumer’s appetite for electricity is expected to double over the next decade to 30 percent of residential consumption worldwide

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