The fair opened to the public on Wednesday, March 4, in the German city of Hanover, showcasing advances in computer technology. Computer giant Microsoft said computers could be activated to save electricity.
Preparing for CeBIT: "Green IT" couldn't be a clearer message
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the public opening of the six-day trade fair -- billed as the world's biggest show of computer software and digital gear.
A total of 5,845 exhibitors from 77 countries are taking part in the 2008 trade show and paying special attention to the needs of large corporate and government buyers.
Merkel was joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Microsoft head Steve Ballmer at the trade fair's formal opening on Monday.
Ballmer told reporters that computers could contribute to combating climate change by being activated to save electricity.
Computers going green?
Flat screens are nothing new, but they're getting bigger and clearer at CeBIT
IBM Germany chief executive Martin Jetter, who is on the board of the German computing trade federation Bitkom, said software and services could help most other business sectors cut their power use and their carbon footprint.
Environmentally friendly technology is one of the themes of the CeBIT, which runs from March 4-9, heeding calls for future computers to waste less electricity.
"If you exclude transportation and travel, PCs and information technology are probably the area with the fastest-growing consumption," Ballmer said.
The world's computer and telecommunications systems are estimated to cause about 2 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, industry leaders said at a briefing. Those emissions are about equal to the carbon emitted by the world's aircraft engines.
"There's work that the software companies need to do to drive down power consumption," he added. "We believe we have both a responsibility and the innovations at our disposal which can help us concentrate on reducing consumption."
Ballmer said computers were necessary as a tool for some of the scientific research that could fundamentally change the way that energy is generated and used.
Responding to criticism of the huge electricity demands from Internet server "farms," Ballmer said Microsoft would publish policies it had developed for power reduction in its data centers. He added that, when idling, the new Windows Vista operating system uses 3 percent of the energy of the older XP system.
Raising awareness through computers
Not just a computer fair, cell phone technology is also present in Hanover
Microsoft and the German energy provider Yello Strom have also entered a partnership to raise awareness among consumers. The joint project is to enable customers to use software to monitor and control their energy consumption.
The system is based on a new German law that allows electricity producers to install their own meters. It was the beginning of an entirely new way of monitoring, said Martin Vesper, managing director of Yello Strom.
"We said right away that other solutions must be found since the current meter systems are 40 to 50 years old," he said. "These old methods no longer correlate with the possibilities that now exist, which could help raise awareness among consumers and provide them with more transparency about energy efficiency."
The new technology Vesper referred to consists of power meters that send consumption information to the electricity provider, who make the data available electronically to customers.
"The system will enable consumers to be informed about the power they use in 'real-time,' which will make it possible for them to immediately see how they can cut down," Vesper said.
Consumers will be able to see how much energy -- and money -- they save on a daily, monthly and annual basis when they turn off electrical appliances.
One thing consumers won't be able to track, though: how much energy they'll save when they switch off their computers.