Scientists are highlighting the importance of green coding technology

Scientists are analysing the benefits of producing sustainable software and preforming green coding to help combat climate change effects.

Devastating climate change effects have obliged humankind to think differently in order to preserve the planet and every living being. A wide variety of sustainable technologies and services that preserve natural resources have emerged worldwide, as a result of environmental research and innovation efforts. We now have developed zero-emission vehicles, smart and more efficient appliances, green packaging made from biodegradable plastic, and even lab-grown meat. However, now scientists are switching focus to sustainable software and green coding. 

Green coding advantages

Scientists believe that apps – and anything else that is programmed – can actually be more efficient and require less power to perform their tasks.

A group of researchers from the Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) and the University of Minho are concentrating on making sure the software that we use daily is coded as efficiently as possible.  

“We want to raise awareness and help programmers build more sustainable and robust solutions”, stated João Saraiva, a researcher at INESC TEC and Professor at the University of Minho.  

Analysing Android keyboard applications

The research group has released a scientific publication where they compared the efficiency of different Android keyboard applications, such as Google Keyboard (GBoard) and Microsoft SwiftKey. Because smartphones run on batteries, the whole system must be as efficient as possible to extend battery life to the to the fullest.  

“In fact, replacing the most energy-greedy keyboard with the greenest one has reduced energy consumption by 18%, and when advanced features of those keyboards (word prediction or animations) were turned off, the energy consumption was also reduced, in this case, up to 9.3%”, wrote the researchers Rui Rua, Tiago Fraga, Marco Couto, and João Saraiva. 

Measuring the power consumption of smartphones

When considering the smartphone as a whole, the team has also developed GreenHub, an Android application that is able to measure the power consumption of smartphones. The data collected from the application allowed the analysis of the battery consumption of 23 million samples, spread across more than 1,600 device brands, 11,800 smartphone models, and more than 50 Android versions.

The authors were able to observe charge and discharge tendencies across different countries, observable battery tendencies across brands and models, and battery usage improvements between Android versions. They have also studied how some of the most popular applications such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook Lite (now called Meta) behave in terms of battery consumption tendencies.

In addition to studies focused on analysing energy consumption, the group is also dedicated to developing tools and methodologies to estimate software energy consumption. “The development of such artifacts is motivated by the need to provide tools for developers and researchers to detect source code critical energy hotspots”, explained Researcher Rui Rua. The latest artifact developed within this scope is a tool called E-MANAFA, which allows monitoring and estimating the energy consumption of software on Android devices. 

Sustainable programming

There are currently hundreds of programming languages available that solve different problems that programmers are required to address. Python, for example, is often used in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and JavaScript for Web development. The group of researchers have placed programming languages under the microscope to find the ones that require more energy to perform similar tasks.  

The result is a scientific publication featuring the rank of 27 languages from power-saver to energy-drainer. “Developers can use this information to decide what programming language is the most appropriate for their target scenario, which can vary according to several constraints, such as limits on battery, time, and memory”, said João Saraiva. 

The necessity to reduce energy consumption

Google’s energy consumption has increased over the last few years, reaching 15.4 terawatt hours in 2020, which would be enough to power 9.6 million European households in 2019, and it is very likely to keep on increasing, not only in Google’s case, but in most industries. Considering that the world is using more and more power, it is of the highest importance to optimise energy. Although it might not be visible to the end-users, power efficiency in software and green coding technologies should be taken into account if the world aims to address climate change, as 80% of the world’s produced energy still originates from fossil fuels.

The energetic crisis has begun, and climate change effects are ever increasing. In our rapidly evolving digital society, being digitally efficient and utilising green coding is paramount.  

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