A pair of tech research firms have produced an interesting report on the energy demands of consumer video devices, and produced some insights I am guessing are not widely known – notably that 8K displays are energy hogs.
The joint study – called The Sustainable Future of Video Entertainment – was released by InterDigital and Futuresource. It suggests consumers and businesses embrace sustainable practices to offset the growing carbon footprint of the video industry.
The research revealed, among many things, that:
- An 8K TV uses more than double the electricity as a 4K TV. Still, many users are unaware that 8K TVs account for 108gCO2e per hour of emissions, 2.6 times higher than for a 4K set;
- By 2023, roughly 30 million 8K TVs will consume 50% more energy than the 343 million tablets worldwide. Consumer engagement with sustainability will spur greater scrutiny in device choice;
- In 2019, televisions consumed an estimated 251Terawatt hours (TWh) of energy, and consumer electronic devices consumed 379 TWh of energy. Conversely, data centers for streaming video consumed 2,460 Gigawatt hours of energy;
- By 2022, video viewing will account for 82% of all internet traffic, with overall internet traffic accounting for more than 1% of global emissions;
- Data centers are responsible for roughly 3% of global electricity use. Data centers are integral to housing content for the video entertainment industry but also leave a high carbon footprint. The massive impact of data centers on global energy reserves highlights the need for a green transformation of the ICT sector.
“The data in this report highlights the importance of continued technical progress in streaming, networking, compression and device technology, but also the need for individuals to make responsible choices,” says Henry Tirri, CTO, InterDigital. “For instance, an individual watching an information broadcast on a 4K TV can lessen their energy footprint by almost 40% simply by choosing to watch the content in 720p – and even more by choosing to watch it on a tablet or their smartphone. With the awareness that studies like the InterDigital/Futuresource study will bring, individuals will be empowered to understand and make those choices.”
The press release does not say why 8K displays use so much more energy, but I assume that increased energy consumption owes to pushing the LED backlighting harder on displays, and maybe having a lot more LED chips to enable local dimming (which results in better contrast).
8K would also require more real-time processing for things like High Dynamic Range (HDR).
TVs and commercial displays for digital signage are technically different, of course, but not THAT different. It’s not clear, at all, when 8K will be a thing in digital signage, or if it needs to be. Just like 4K not that many years ago, the common refrain is that there is no content. That will change, but it is likely 8K will be a niche product for commercial applications – at least for the next few years.
An 8K display in luxury retail, commercial real estate sales or medical settings would be interesting and useful, but the meat and potatoes digital signage jobs like QSR menu boards and wayfinding displays don’t need that kind of resolution.