The IT industry is joining the push toward energy efficiency by developing new power management technology to curb the sector's harmful contribution to climate change, operators say.
The global computing industry has recently been criticized for the high carbon dioxide emissions of its data centers and energy consumption.
The sector contributes 2 percent of global carbon emissions, equaling that of the aviation industry, according to U.S. research firm Gartner.
In moves toward clawing back some of that damage, a number of IT companies are developing or upgrading power management technology which can turn off computers and other devices automatically, saving money and the planet.
Network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc plans to launch technology called EnergyWise in February. It says the software can monitor the energy consumption of electronic devices in the workplace and switch them off when idle.
The potential savings for companies could be huge.
"A bank branch could save nearly 40,000 euros ($53,020) just by turning off phones and wireless access points outside business hours," David Frampton, VP general manager of Cisco's LAN switching business unit, told Reuters.
The software will be applied to phones, laptops and access points, then computers, before ramping up to manage heating, air conditioning, elevators, lights and security systems by 2010.
In a similar push, British software provider 1E estimates that its technology could reduce the same amount of carbon dioxide as banning cars from a city the size of Liverpool.
1E's software can turn computers on and off and is already used by government departments, large banks and other businesses.
"The government wants a 1 million tonne reduction in carbon emissions from large companies. We can achieve 85 percent of that just from our UK pipeline -- just from turning off computers," Sumir Karayi, 1E's chief executive, told Reuters.
"Half of the computers in the UK, U.S. or Germany are not switched off. That equates to potential savings of 115 million pounds in the UK," he added.
Lighting and consumer electronics producer Philips is also carrying out research with Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories to develop an intelligent lighting control system which would respond to people's movements, events and external daylight levels.