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Lack of emissions reporting from (some) cloud providers is a supply chain risk

Pollution

We here at GreenMonk spoke to Robert Francisco, President North America of FirstCarbon Solutions, last week. FirstCarbon solutions is an environmental sustainability company and the exclusive scoring partner of CDP‘s (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), supply chain program.

Robert pointed out on the call that there is a seed change happening and that interest in disclosure is on the rise. He noted that carbon scores are now not only showing up at board level, but are also being reported to insurance companies, and are appearing on Bloomberg and Google Finance. He put this down to a shift away from the traditional regulation led reporting, to a situation now where organisations are responding to pressure from investors, as well as a requirement to manage shareholder risk.

In other words the drivers for sustainability reporting now are the insurance companies, and Wall Street. Organisations are realising that buildings collapsing in Bangladesh can have an adverse effect on their brand, and ultimately their bottom line.

So transparency in business is the new black.

Unfortunately, not everyone has received the memo.

We’re written previously about this lack of transparency, even ranking some cloud computing providers, and the supply chain risk as a result of that lack of reporting. Amazon and SoftLayer being two prime examples of cloud computing platforms that fail to report on their emissions.

However, SoftLayer was purchased by IBM in 2013, and IBM has a reasonably good record on corporate reporting (although, as of July 2014, it has yet to publish its 2013 Corporate Responsibility report). Hopefully this means that SoftLayer will soon start publishing its energy and emissions data.

Amazon, on the other hand, has no history of any kind of environmental energy or emissions reporting. That lack of transparency has to be a concern for its investors, a risk for for its shareholders, and a worry for its customers who don’t know what is in their supply chain.

Image credit Roger

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Technology for Good – episode twenty five with SAP Mentor Chris Kernaghan

Welcome to episode twenty five of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had cloud architect and SAP Mentor Chris Kernaghan as the guest on our show. This was not Chris’ first time co-hosting the Technology for Good show, so as an old hand, I knew this was going to be a fun show, and so it was. We covered a lot of topics in the show, including the repeal of carbon tax in Australia, IBM and Apple’s enterprise partnership, and Microsoft’s shedding of 18,000 employees (and a platform!).

Here is the full list of stories that we covered in this week’s show:

Climate

Renewables

Big Data

Mobile

Apps

Internet of Things

Comms

Wearables

Cognitive Computing

Misc

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Microsoft powering more of their Cloud from renewables

Wind Turbine

We’ve mentioned the issue of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with cloud computing once or twice in the past, and we’ve even ranked cloud computing companies based on their emissions. Obviously not all cloud companies report on their emissions (shame on you Amazon), and consequently those that don’t are at the bottom of the rankings.

In looking at cloud computing providers Microsoft ranked very highly. According to the EPA, Microsoft is the third highest user of renewable energy in the US (and Google is fifth).

We in GreenMonk, were delighted therefore to see Microsoft continue that commitment when they announced that they will purchase 175 megawatts of wind energy from the Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois, about 60 miles south of Chicago, as part of a 20-year agreement. This is the second wind power purchase agreement Microsoft has signed, and only one of their many emissions reductions projects.

Kudos to Microsoft for the far-sighted investment. As organisations are beginning to realise the risks associated with their cloud supply chain, opaque cloud suppliers like AWS and SoftLayer will be abandoned for more responsible, transparent, risk-free suppliers like Microsoft.

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Technology for Good – episode twenty four with GE CTO Jeremiah Stone

Welcome to episode twenty four of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had GE’s CTO for Digital Energy Jeremiah Stone as the guest on our show. We have recorded videos with Jeremiah previously, and they’ve always gone well, so we were reasonably confident this one would be good too, and it was. Given Jeremiah’s work in Digital Energy, not surprisingly we had several good conversations around Electricity 2.0 and smart grids as well as the regular Cloud, wearables and Internet of Things topics.

Here are the stories that we discussed in this week’s show:

Climate

Renewables

Cloud

Apps

Wearables

Comms

Internet of Things

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Technology for Good – episode twenty three with Theo Priestley

Welcome to episode twenty three of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had  Software AG‘s Chief Technology Evangelist Theo Priestley as our guest on the show. Theo is one of those guys who I have come across online, but this was the first time we had ever talked, so I wasn’t sure how the hangout would go. As it was, I needn’t have been concerned, it went really well. Last week was July 4th, Independence Day in the US, so there was less Tech news to discuss, but despite that, we had plenty to talk about, especially in the Wearables and Comms categories.

Here are the stories that we discussed in this week’s show:

Climate

Internet of Things

Apps

Comms

Wearables

Transport

Sustainability

Misc

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Ubiquitous computing, the Internet of Things, and the discovery of sound

Sounds of East Lansing photo

I had a really interesting, wide-ranging, conversation with SalesForce’s VP for Strategic Research, Peter Coffee the other day.

A lot of our conversation revolved around how recent changes in the Internet of Things space, in ubiquitous computing, and in Big Data and analytics area are enabling profound effects on how we interact with the world.

Peter had a superb analogy – that of sound travelling through air. When sound is generated, it is transmitted from the source to the surrounding air particles, which vibrate or collide and pass the sound energy along to our ears. Without any air particles to vibrate, we wouldn’t hear the sound (hence there is no sound in space).

As you enter our planet’s atmosphere from space you start to encounter molecules of air. The more molecules there are, the better they can interact and the more likely they are to transmit sound.

If you hadn’t experienced air before, you might not be aware of the existence of sound. It is unlikely you would even predict that there would be such a thing as sound.

In a similar way, in the late eighties, when very few people had mobile phones, it would have been nigh on impossible to predict the emergence of the mobile computing platforms we’re seeing now, and the advances they’ve brought to things like health, education and access to markets (and cat videos!).

And, we are just at the beginning of another period when massive change will be enabled. This time by pervasive connectivity. And not just the universal connectivity of people which mobile phones has enabled, but the connectivity of literally everything that is being created by low cost sensors and the Internet of Things.

We are already seeing massive data streams now coming from expensive pieces of equipment such as commercial jets, trains, and even wind turbines.

But with the drastic fall in the price of the technologies, devices such as cars, light bulbs, even toothbrushes that were never previously, are now being instrumented and connected to the Internet.

This proliferation of (typically cloud) connected devices will allow for massive shifts in our ability to generate, analyse, and act on, data sets that we just didn’t have before now.

When we look at the concept of the connected home, for example. Back in 2009 when we in GreenMonk were espousing the Electricity 2.0 vision, many of the technologies to make it happen, hadn’t even been invented. Now, however, not only are our devices at home increasingly becoming connected, but technology providers like Apple, Google, and Samsung are creating platforms to allow us better manage all our connected devices. The GreenMonk Electricity 2.0 vision is now a lot closer to becoming reality.

We are also starting to see the beginnings of what will be seismic upheavals in the areas of health, education, and transportation.

No-one knows for sure what the next few years will bring, but it is sure going to be an exciting ride as we metaphorically discover sound, again and again, and again.

Photo credit Matt Katzenberger

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Technology for Good – episode twenty two with David Terrar

Welcome to episode twenty two of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had CEO of D2C, co-founder of AgileElephant, and fellow Enterprise Irregular, David Terrar as guest on the show. As well as being a fellow Enterprise Irregular, David is an old friend, so we had a lot of fun discussing this week’s crop of stories. Last week Google held its I/O developer conference so there were plenty of Google stories breaking, but we also found time to fit in topics such as renewables, communications, and health.

Here are the stories that we discussed in this week’s show:

Climate

Renewables

Communications

Mobile

Google (!)

Wearables

Transportation

Health

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Just where does Intel fit in the Smart Grid ecosystem?

Intel Solar Installation Vietnam

When we think of smart grids, Intel is not the first name we think of.

This is a perception that Intel is anxious to change. The multinational chip manufacturer, which has seen its revenues drop in recent years, is looking for new markets for its products. The smart grid space with increasing billions being spent annually begins to look very attractive. And Intel’s place in it? Intel is positioning itself very much at the smart in the smart grid. The distributed compute and intelligence needed to power the smart grid.

One of the most important functions of an electricity grid is to precisely balance electricity supply from its various generators, to the demand from consumers. This is an increasingly complex task in a world where consumers are more and more becoming prosumers (producers and consumers). Utilities need transparency to forecast how much energy will be consumed, and where to help stabilise the energy flows, and the price of energy on the grid.

To achieve this transparency, particularly towards the edges of the network, chips like Intel’s Quark SoC will be important.

Intel isn’t relying on its silicon chops alone though. Speaking recently to Intel’s Hannes Schwaderer (Director of Energy and Industrial Applications for EMEA), Hannes was keen to point out the other strengths Intel brings to the table. Smart grids generate big data, and lots of it. Intel’s investments in Cloudera, and Mashery give Intel a big footprint in the big data and analytics spaces, according to Hannes.

And then there’s the old security chestnut. Apart from your health, no data is as personal, and so in need of privacy, as your energy information. Intel’s purchase of computer security company McAfee allows it to offer quite a unique combination of hardware (the chips), analytics, and security to its potential customers.

And while end consumers were never Intel’s customers in the PC world, similarly in the smart grid space utilities are not the end customer for Intels smart grid solutions. Rather expect to see Intel selling to the Schneider Electronics, the GE’s, the Siemens of this world.

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GE’s PowerOn systems helping utilities to work smarter

GE's ADMS screen

We here at GreenMonk have been researching and writing about the smart grid space for over six years now. It has long been a sector which resisted significant change, but no more.

Several factors have come into play which has ensured that the smart grid we envisioned all those years ago, is now starting to come into being. Some of those factors involve necessary practical first steps such as the rollout of smart meters to homes, other factors would include the huge advances in mobile, big data and analytics technologies which have taken place in the last couple of years.

Then there’s the issue of budgets. More money is definitely starting to be freed up for smart grid investments with revenue from asset management and condition monitoring systems for the power grid projected to grow from $2.1 billion annually in 2014 to $6.9 billion by 2023.

I attended GE’s recent Digital Energy conference in Rotterdam as a speaker, and at this event GE showcased their new PowerOn product set. This is a combined outage, and distribution management system in a singular modular platform. Combining OMS and DMS systems seems to be a new direction for the industry. It remains to be seen if it will become the norm, but it should bring advantages in process efficiency and consequently in productivity.

The application uses newer modern screens (see screens above), with a more intuitive user interface, and a single system database. This combining of systems into a single platform should simplify operations for the system operators, leading to reduced outage times, and a more reliable grid for customers. Repair crews out in the field have access to the system as well, and can update the status of any repairs ongoing. This data can be fed directly into the IVR so customers who are still using telephones can get the latest updates.

In time, as utilities embrace next generation customer service, this information will be fed into customers social channels of choice as well. Then we’ll really start to see the grid get smarter.

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Technology for Good – episode twenty one with Gary Barnett

Welcome to episode twenty one of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had industry analyst Gary Barnett, as a guest on the show. As well as being a fellow industry analyst, Gary is an old friend, so we had a lot of fun discussing this week’s crop of stories. We had some connectivity issues at times during the hangout unfortunately, but that didn’t stop us from having a very interesting discussion about topics as diverse as climate, energy efficiency, and communications.

Here are the stories that we discussed in this week’s show:

Climate
World’s energy systems vulnerable to climate impacts, report warns
Peak Coal: Why the Industry’s Dominance May Soon Be Over

Efficiency

Cable TV boxes become 2nd biggest energy users in many homes
Microsoft Supercharges Bing Search With Programmable Chips

Cloud

Amazon strikes back, launching speedy solid-state block storage one day after Google

Communications

Google’s Balloon Internet Experiment, One Year Later
Facebook has built it’s own switch
Antitheft Technology Led to a Dip in iPhone Thefts in Some Cities, Police Say
Google and Microsoft add phone kill switch
Fire Phone against the world: can Amazon take on iOS and Android

Health

Ahead of Apple’s HealthKit, WebMD app now tracks health & fitness data from connected accessories

Transportation

Harley-Davidson’s First Electric Motorcycle Surprisingly Doesn’t Suck

Start-ups

Microsoft launches new startup accelerator in Redmond, focusing on home automation and the ‘Internet of Things’
Swiss based encrypted email service, brought to you by CERN and MIT scientists.