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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.

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Technology for Good – episode twenty with Sam Johnston

Welcome to episode twenty of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had Sam Johnston Director, Cloud & IT Services at Equinix, as a guest on the show. Sam is an old friend, so we had a lot of fun discussing this week’s crop of stories. This week was relatively quiet on the technology front – whether that’s a hangover from last week’s Sapphirenow and Apple WWDC, or the World Cup, I’m not sure, but still we found plenty to talk about; especially on the health, IoT and wearables fronts.

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

Climate

Renewables

Cloud

Open

Wearables

Health

Internet of Things (IoT)

Apps

I.T.

Misc

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Technology in healthcare, a post-Sapphirenow update

As noted here recently, technology is completely revolutionising the healthcare industry.

And that was brought home to us forcefully when we attended SAP’s 2014 Sapphirenow conference last week. I had fifteen meetings scheduled at the event, and while there wasn’t much mention of healthcare during the keynotes, seven of my fifteen meetings were healthcare related. In previous Sapphirenow conferences, there might have been one.

The meetings were with a range of organisations. Some were larger organisations like MKI, Stanford University (specifically their Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics (CEHG)), and unsurprisingly SAP. MKI talked about their use of HANA, R, and Hadoop for genomic analysis. Stanford’s Carlos Bustamante talked about the research being done by the CEHG, in conjunction with SAP, on understanding different genomes and their health-related phenotypic consequences, while SAP discussed their Care Circles initiative, as well as their Genome Sciences projects.

One interesting data point that emerged from Prof Bustamante was that one dataset of 2534 individual genomes contained in excess of 20 billion records and it consumed 1.2 terabytes of RAM. This is big data. Especially when you consider you are interrogating it against matrices of other data points (such as age, nationality, gender, etc.).

CoreyMobile screen

Three of the companies I met were part of the SAP Startup Focus program. This is a program aimed at start-up companies with offerings in the big data, realtime or predictive analytics spaces. The program helps them develop their product on SAP’s in-memory HANA database platform, and also helps them with go to market strategies.

The three healthcare startups were Convergence CT, Phemi, and Core Mobile. ConvergenceCT makes software for hospitals which can take in data from multiple data sources (EMR systems, labs, radiology, etc.) and produce insights via predictive analytics, and reporting dashboards. Phemi, similarly takes in healthcare info from the various disparate hospital data sources, and then has a number of apps sitting on top of the data delivering results and outcomes. While Core Mobile has mobile apps for doctors, patients, and carers to help optimise care processes, and share patient information with authorised recipients.

So lots of interesting things happening in this sector right now and much of the innovation is down to SAP’s decisions to 1) turn it’s HANA database into a platform, and 2) to initiate the Startup Focus program. Now that IBM is going the platform route with it’s Watson cognitive computing engine, we’re likely to see a lot of healthcare innovation emerging there too.

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Technology for Good – episode nineteen with Craig Cmehil

Welcome to episode nineteen of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had Craig Cmehil, Director of Global Developer Relations at SAP, as a guest on the show. Craig is an old friend, so we had a lot of fun discussing this week’s crop of stories. Given this was the week of Apple’s 2014 WWDC developer conference, there was a lot of Apple-related news to discuss, as well as the usual topics.

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

Climate

Renewables

Comms

AI Personal Assistants

Apps

Development

Health

Wearables

Smart Home

Education

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Sustainability and SAP?

SAP former CEO Dr Peter Graf

Dr Peter Graf, SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer announced that he’s leaving SAP yesterday.

There has been a significant purge of executives re-organisation at SAP in the last few weeks since CTO Vishal Sikka resigned suddenly, and Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe stepped back from his Co-CEO role leaving Bill McDermott as sole CEO.

Taken in isolation, the departure of Graf from SAP wouldn’t be too concerning, but SAP’s sustainability team has lost four of its most senior executives in the last few months. Jeremiah Stone was VP for SAP’s Sustainability Solutions. Scott Bolick was VP Sustainability. James Farrar was also VP of Sustainability for SAP, and Peter Graf was the Chief Sustainability Officer.

The loss of four such senior figures in such a short time leads to obvious questions about SAP’s ongoing commitment to sustainability.

Coincidentally I’m at SAP’s customer and partner conference SapphireNow this week, so I look forward hearing SAP’s take on this.

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Technology for Good – episode eighteen with Chris Adams

Welcome to episode eighteen of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had Loco2 product and UX manager Chris Adams as a guest on the show. Chris is an old friend, and semi-regular co-host, so we had a lot of fun discussing this week’s crop of stories. Though I tried to whittle them down to a manageable number we still had quite a things to talk about, particularly in the energy, transport, and health spaces.

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

Climate

Transport

Energy

Wearables

Apps

Sustainability

Health

Misc

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GE’s 2014 Digital Energy conference

MedPanTuesday-6

GE held their annual International Digital Energy Software Summit in Rotterdam this year. They asked me to speak on a panel titled “The Grid of Tomorrow… the challenge of integrating renewables and distributed generation on the grid“. One of the reasons they invited me to present is because of the many posts I have written, and talks I have given on what I have termed Electricity 2.0 over the years.

The Electricity 2.0 vision I have espoused is one where, to help balance the grid and enable greater penetration of renewables onto it, in-home appliances would listen to realtime energy price signals from the grid and adjust their behaviour accordingly. They would come on at times of low demand, and reduce their consumption at times of high demand.

Obviously not all loads in the home are movable. If you have your evening meal at 8pm every night, you are not going to change that just because there’s a higher load on the grid. However, many in-home loads are eminently movable. Washing/drying of clothes, or dishes, for example; heating water in an immersion too is generally movable, as can be aircon or cooling fridges/freezers.

When I first started talking about these possibilities in 2006, it seemed a fantastical, impossible notion. But now that we’re in 2014, the Internet of Things is well established, and I can control the lights in my home from anywhere in the world using my phone, that dream is now a lot closer to being realised.

One company, almost uniquely in a position to deliver on that vision is GE, given that they manufacture everything from wind turbines, to sub-stations, all the way down to the appliances in the home which need to respond to grid signals.

During the panel discussion we talked about many aspects of smart grids, the utilities rolling them out, and the regulations which they are bound by. We also went into some detail on the newer technologies that are emerging, particularly as they pertained to electric vehicles, vehicle to grid, and storage in general.

And finally the panel felt that utilities will need to be far more open to change than they traditionally have been. The markets are changing, customers are changing, and the technologies are changing. Utilities are extremely risk averse and therefore slow to change, however the risk for utilities now is if they don’t move with the times, they’ll be left behind.

This conclusion was confirmed by two data points this week:

  1. Wind energy is now cheaper than coal, according to European utility EDP, and
  2. this week when Barclays downgraded the entire electric sector of the U.S. high-grade corporate bond market.

From Barclays credit strategy team:

Electric utilities… are seen by many investors as a sturdy and defensive subset of the investment grade universe. Over the next few years, however, we believe that a confluence of declining cost trends in distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation and residential-scale power storage is likely to disrupt the status quo. Based on our analysis, the cost of solar + storage for residential consumers of electricity is already competitive with the price of utility grid power in Hawaii. Of the other major markets, California could follow in 2017, New York and Arizona in 2018, and many other states soon after.

In the 100+ year history of the electric utility industry, there has never before been a truly cost-competitive substitute available for grid power. We believe that solar + storage could reconfigure the organization and regulation of the electric power business over the coming decade. We see near-term risks to credit from regulators and utilities falling behind the solar + storage adoption curve and long-term risks from a comprehensive re-imagining of the role utilities play in providing electric power.