Do We Need To Worry That Zoom Calls Use Too Much Energy?

The video conferencing platform that made it possible for the world to stay connected while you work … [+] It appears that a reasonable amount of power is being consumed remotely, especially when there are multiple participants and the resolution is increased.

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A year after the Covid-19 pandemic, life is starting to return to normal. However, there are still fears that we might see a fourth wave, while booster vaccinations are likely to be required for those who have been vaccinated. Now comes the news that we should be concerned about the amount of power these video calls, especially from Zoom, are consuming.

The videoconferencing platform that has enabled the world to “stay connected” while working remotely appears to use a fair amount of power, especially when there are multiple participants and the resolution is increased. The calls are still less than the actual drive to a meeting, but they use more energy than most expect.

This comes from a report by Utility Bidder, which even released a new calculator that can be used to estimate how much energy those calls are in terms of bandwidth, power consumption, CO2 emissions, and even in miles driven on one gasoline , consume. powered car.

“Since the pandemic started last year, when working from home became the norm for the vast majority of office workers, we’ve all spent significantly more time on video calls,” said James Longley, MD, Utility Bidder.

“Our research shows that a weekly one-hour team meeting at Zoom with 6 participants releases 0.05 kg of CO2 over the year – the equivalent of driving 9.36 miles in a gasoline car,” added Longley. “These emissions may seem small. However, when you combine your employee’s time – and the resulting emissions – on Zoom calls, the environmental impact of those calls is significant and definitely be considered as an employee or manager.”

To that end, Longely suggested that everyone should consider when to video call with colleagues or the team.

“Not all communication requires face-to-face communication, and composing a short email to send to colleagues can save you a lot of time and emissions – and increase your productivity,” he added. “As lockdown restrictions wear off and some employees return to an office setting, plan any meeting or discussion that might need to be face-to-face on a day that team members are in the office. This leaves time to work at home. to go deep into work and save the emissions caused by long video calls. “

Zoom in

Other experts suggest we shouldn’t hang up Zoom – or similar video calls – just yet. This is especially true of how virtual conferences have replaced massive trade shows, including the annual CES – formerly the Consumer Electronics Show. Flying to a conference or driving to a meeting certainly uses more energy than a video call.

“In terms of power consumption and emissions, it is clearly better to use Zoom or other video conferencing services,” said Gilbert Michaud, assistant professor of practice in the online Masters in Public Administration at Ohio University’s School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

“Even if you account for different types of meetings – for example, those that use high definition video – different devices, length of meetings, and many other factors, the power consumption in residential areas of a zoom meeting is far less than that of one for one Conference flies through the county, “added Michaud.

“That said, it depends on the scenario,” remarked Michaud. “Using videoconferencing may use more power if people live in the same town and walk to a coffee shop to meet, but in most cases it is better to use platforms like Zoom, especially those that have one From an energetic point of view, alternatives such as vehicle or air travel include. “

Conference calls

Another consideration for remote working is whether or not video is really needed. Certainly it has become the norm over the past year, and in other forms of meetings it can also add complexity where the technology that existed before the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic – namely the telephone – can function properly.

In other words, what’s wrong with the good ol ‘conference call?

“The jury is still vacant, but there is a strong argument that videos do a better job in terms of non-verbal communication,” said Amit Kakkad, PhD, clinical professor of operations management at the University of San’s School of Business Diego.

“In-person interaction is about both what is said and what is not said, what is said, the body language of the participants and the mood each party feels about the other,” added Kakkad. “A voice conference can make up a good part of the verbal communication part. Most of the time, however, it fails non-verbally because it is not easy to provide non-verbal cues for a voice conference, such as informing the person speaking that you want to interfere or that they should stop prowling on and on, etc.

“While video isn’t perfect, it would also do something to connect with the people you’re talking to, not just what they’re saying,” noted Kakkad. “One of the greatest advantages of face-to-face interaction is the ability to develop trust. Either side can observe and evaluate the body language of the other parties and use that decision to decide whether to trust them. While video calls aren’t perfect, they’re much better than that a voice call in terms of the ability to see and connect with those you are talking to. “

When to zoom, when not to zoom

Video conferencing has certainly helped distance learning in ways that voice alone couldn’t. And while there are many arguments that video is inconsistent with class experience, it is difficult to argue against video when there is no other alternative.

“For many types of meetings, especially when trying to repeat the classroom experience in class, video conferencing is an important connection tool,” said Michaud.

“It enables a more engaging and productive meeting environment, and many platforms offer features such as white boarding and recording,” added Michaud. “However, from a power standpoint, video conferencing uses more power than a phone call, which can quickly add up with so many people currently using platforms like Zoom. In many ways, what we’ve been doing over the last year has changed about power consumption the living area. “

Staying connected in a pandemic, or even when distance is an obstacle, requires a solution. The pros and cons must be taken into account. Is it really better to send a package through FedEx than a video presentation?

“From the mail to phone calls, faxes, text messages, and voice calls – individual and group calls – to traditional and electronic media, including social media – all of these are technologies that aid communication,” Kakkad suggested. “Each has different advantages and disadvantages, including energy usage, and is suitable for different goals.”

Zoom alternatives

In addition, some zoom alternatives should be considered when considering energy consumption.

“We did a few studies that assessed the power consumption and emissions impact of the various platforms, and found that applications like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet had less of an energy impact than their competitors,” said Michaud.

“Of course, strategies used on videoconferencing platforms can also reduce usage, such as turning off your video and restricting screen sharing,” added Michaud. “When video and screen sharing aren’t needed, an old-fashioned phone call is certainly a lower-power alternative.”

Utility Bidder’s Longely also suggests that we should plan ahead before planning the next Zoom call.

“If you want to work from home for the foreseeable future, organize your video calls with a strict agenda that doesn’t waste energy or time,” he added. “While emissions from video calls working from home for a week are unlikely to exceed emissions from your average weekly commute, we should all be doing our part to conserve energy where we can.”

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