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Expected Environmental Impacts of Pervasive Computing

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Pervasive Computing will bring about both additional loads on and benefits to the environment. The prevailing assessment of positive and negative effects will depend on how effectively energy and waste policy governs the development of ICT infrastructures and applications in the coming years. Although Pervasive Computing is not expected to change the impact of the technosphere on the environment radically, it may cause additional material and energy consumption due to the production and use of ICT as well as severe pollution risks that may come about as a result of the disposal of electronic waste. These first-order environmental impacts are to be set off against the second-order effects, such as higher eco-efficiency due to the possibility to optimize material and energy intensive processes or to replace them by pure signal processing (dematerialization). The potential environmental benefits from such second-order effects are considerable and can outweigh the first-order effects. But changes in demand for more efficient services (third-order effects) can counterbalance these savings. The experience gained thus far with ICT impacts has shown that such a rebound effect occurs in most cases of technological innovations.

Keywords: Pervasive Computing; dematerialization; electronic waste; energy use; environmental impact; rebound effect

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research EMPA, St. Gallen, Switzerland 2: Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment, Berlin, Germany

Publication date: October 1, 2004


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