In the years to come, digital technologies will contribute to an increasingly connected world. At the same time, concerns about increased energy requirements and the associated CO2 emissions are increasingly coming to the fore when it comes to issues such as the area-wide deployment of 5G. Nevertheless, the use of new digital solutions in various areas offers a number of possibilities for making them sustainable. There is no all-encompassing solution. Therefore, it is crucial to “weave” sustainable goals into the digitalization process, regardless of the field of application.
According to a study by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, investments in new transmission methods and infrastructures can lead to considerable energy savings. With appropriate investments, for example, by laying fiber-optic networks, increased energy consumption can be counteracted, for instance, from high-resolution video streaming. Looking at the evolution from 5G to 6G, Fraunhofer FOKUS also supports the energetic optimization of 5G campus networks through research using a specially developed prototype measurement platform. This platform will be available for use within the framework of research projects.
The use of new, sustainable forms of energy also requires an improved network infrastructure, especially for smart cities in which novel transmission methods play a central role. Renewable energies benefit from a systematic decentralization of energy supply and consumption. As part of the BMBF-funded project WindNode, FOKUS supports the expansion of climate-neutral and sustainable supply through renewable energies. Furthermore, an open data portal will be provided as a platform for data to be made available to other project partners. This creates the basis for further analyses and ultimately for resource-saving management, e.g., through new AI planning procedures.
Free access to data and an open Internet are essential components of sustainable digitalization. In the public sector, open data platforms promote the transition to a “Data-Driven Government”. Ideally, the administration could use this data daily to plan public policies and processes in a foresighted and sustainable manner and ensure that its services are as proactive and intelligent as possible. This works on all levels: Open access to administrative data enables citizens to network and participate in their communities. Open data solutions such as the European Data Portal allow the reuse and exchange of public data sets at European, national, and local levels. More than 90,000 environmental data sets are part of this database and contribute to understanding and improving the EU's environmental conditions. In addition, the European Commission has commissioned Fraunhofer FOKUS as part of a three-member consortium to establish the European “Support Centre for Data Sharing” (SCDS).
Talking of CO2 emissions: Networked mobility and intelligent urban planning, focusing on motorized and non-motorized traffic, can reduce the CO2 footprint of an ever-growing urban population and improve access to rural areas. Only focusing on developing more fuel-efficient or electric vehicles is not effective enough in the long term. The car and its environment must become more intelligent so that other road users and the environment can benefit from it. For more than 15 years, Fraunhofer FOKUS has been developing, testing, and evaluating new approaches for connected and automated driving and mobility. The expansion of intelligent sensor networks and pollutant measurement devices is intended to prevent unnecessary emissions in road traffic by adapting driving behavior. One example is the DIGINET-PS project, in which connected and automated driving is being researched together with partners in the urban test area of Berlin. As part of the Eclipse Foundation's MOSAIC project, FOKUS researchers are testing new mobility services with innovative simulation technologies to increase safety, efficiency, and comfort in traffic while simultaneously conserving the environment. The Eclipse Foundation is supported by over 300 members, including industry leaders such as Bosch, Google, IBM, and SAP, who value open source as a critical business strategy element. “For us as Fraunhofer Institute, Open Source plays an essential role in many research areas. Numerous results of Fraunhofer research are based on the idea of open-source software or contribute to it”, adds Dr. Tom Ritter, Deputy Director of the Fraunhofer FOKUS Institute and Director of the Eclipse Foundation.
Digital simulation can also be used as a safe way to explore nature and the environment. In order to support the survival of the various ecosystems, more research is being conducted on their inhabitants and their response to climate change. Fraunhofer FOKUS has adapted its 360° projection software to create an optical simulation environment for insects. The State Institute of Apiculture is currently using this to develop and project different scenarios and test the behavior of bees accordingly. The technology allows researchers to study the species at close range without endangering it and can provide the scientific basis to ensure the species' survival.
Digitalization is a complex but ultimately blind process. With its projects and solutions, Fraunhofer FOKUS contributes to making it more sustainable and socially beneficial. “Digitalization must be done with foresight,” adds Prof. Dr. Manfred Hauswirth, Director of the Fraunhofer FOKUS Institute.