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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.

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Technology is completely revolutionising the healthcare industry

Healthcare is changing. Recent advances in technology are completely revolutionising how we approach the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness. And this is just the beginning of what will be a technological revolution in healthcare.

Smartphone use is growing at an enormous pace. They now account for 87% of the total mobile handsets in the US, for example. And with the smartphones has come hundreds of new apps related to health and fitness. These apps do everything from monitoring sleep and movement (steps), to keeping track of glucose levels, blood oxygen, and even ovulation.

Fitbit Dashboard

The relentless rise of wearable connected devices is also having a big effect on people tacking their health and fitness. These small devices (such as the Fitbit Force, the Jawbone Up, and the Withings Pulse) are light and easy to wear, and they communicate with apps on the smartphone to monitor and record health-related information.

The next evolution of wearables, where they are built-in to the clothes you wear, has already begun. If these devices become as ubiquitous as smartphones, they will help us make far better informed decisions about our health and fitness.

Then you have major players like Apple going on a hiring spree of medical technology executives to bolster its coming Healthbook application, as well as its rumoured iWatch wearable device. Samsung too have wearable fitness trackers and announced their own Healthcare platform “to track your every move” today.

Going further back the stack, and we see IBM using its artificial intelligence play Watson to make inroads into the health industry (see video above). IBM has been partnering with WellPoint Inc. and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to help clinicians better diagnose instances of cancer in patients.

And more recently IBM has announced that it is working with New York Genome Center to create a prototype that could suggest personalised treatment options for patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. From the announcement:

By analyzing gene sequence variations between normal and cancerous biopsies of brain tumors, Watson will then be used to review medical literature and clinical records to help clinicians consider a variety treatments options tailored to an individual’s specific type and personalized instance of the cancer.

And IBM aren’t stopping there. They announced last month that they were opening up Watson as a platform so developers can create apps that can utilise Watson’s cognitive computing engine to solve all kinds of difficult problems. And earlier this month IBM announced that several “powered by Watson” apps have been developed, including one to help dermatologists better diagnose skin cancer.

And IBM also announced the acquisition of Cognea. Cognea offers virtual assistants that relate to people using a wide variety of personalities—from suit-and-tie formal to kid-next-door friendly – think Siri, or better yet Cortana for Watson!

Then, newer in-memory database technologies such as SAP’s HANA, are being used to crunch through datasets so large they were previously to big to query. For example, SAP announced today a partnership with the Stanford School of Medicine to “achieve a better understanding of global human genome variation and its implications in disease, particularly cardiovascular disease”. From the release SAP goes on to say:

Researchers have already leveraged SAP HANA to corroborate the results of a study that discovered that the genetic risk of Type II Diabetes varies between populations. The study looked at 12 genetic variants previously associated with Type II Diabetes across 49 individuals. With SAP HANA, researchers in Dr. Butte’s lab were able to simultaneously query all 125 genetic variants previously associated with Type II Diabetes across 629 individuals. Using traditional methods, this analysis on this amount of data would have taken an unreasonable amount of time.

So, the changes which technology are bringing to the healthcare industry now are nothing short of revolutionary. And with the likes of SAP’s HANA, and IBM’s Watson, set up as platforms for 3rd party developers, the stage is set for far more innovation in the coming months and years. Exciting times for healthcare practitioners, patients and patients to-be.

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Technology for Good – episode seventeen with Chris Kernaghan

Welcome to episode seventeen of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had SAP Cloud Architect Chris Kernaghan as a guest on the show. Chris is an old friend, and a fellow Irishman, so we had a great craic (a great time) discussing the stories, which were quite diverse this week, but primarily from the Internet of Things, and Connectivity spaces.

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

Climate

Renewables

Sustainability

Connectivity

Internet of Things

Cloud

Transportation

Mobile

Wearables

Misc

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Technology for Good – episode sixteen with Xerox’ Catherine Reeves

Welcome to episode sixteen of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had Catherine Reeves from Xerox as a guest on the show. We had a lot of very interesting stories to talk about this week, especially in the energy and transportation spaces. It was great to get Catherine’s contributions given that Xerox has such a large footprint now in the transportation sector.

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

Climate

Energy

Transportation

Internet of Things

Wearables

Misc

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Technology for Good – episode fourteen with Twitter’s Andy Piper

Welcome to episode fourteen of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had the awesome Andy Piper from Twitter as a guest on the show. We had a lot of very interesting stories ta talk about this week, especially in the Apps and Wearables spaces, and as a result the hangout ran long, but it was all great stuff! Next week, I’ll try to keep the show shorter, but I have a great guest lined up, so I can’t make any promises :-)

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

Climate

Cloud

Apps

Wearables

Data Centers

Misc

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Technology for Good – episode thirteen with Diginomica’s Jon Reed

Welcome to episode thirteen of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s show we had the awesome Jon Reed from Diginomica as a guest on the show. Given that Earth Day fell this week, there were plenty of stories around environmental footprints as well as the more usual Internet of Things and Wearables topics.

Here’s the stories that we discussed in the show:

Climate

Footprint

Renewables

Connectivity

Security

 

Social

Wearables

Connected Car

Environment

Internet of Things (IoT)

Software

Misc.

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SAP running six week online course on Sustainability and Business Innovation

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s as they are also known, are training courses delivered online, allowing for large numbers of students to enroll in the courses. When I signed up for an introductory data science course with Coursera last year I had over 50,000 ‘classmates’ taking the course with me. The network effect of haveing thousands of students taking the same course at the same time meant that the forums were actually useful places to interact and get questions answered.

I was interested then to hear from DJ Adams that SAP is running a MOOC on Sustainability and Business Innovation. The course is being given by SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr. Peter Graf.

It is a six week course, commencing on April 29th (2014), with 4-6 hours of instruction per week, with a final exam on June 10-17th (2014).

The course content (below) looks to be quite comprehensive:

Week 1: The Business Case for Sustainability
The week contains the following units: Welcome; Root Causes; Sustainable Value Creation; Engaging Top Management; Organizational Setup for Sustainability & The Role of IT

Week 2: Sustainable Strategies
The week contains the following units: Crafting a Sustainable Strategy; Stakeholders and Materiality; Analysis and Target Setting; Examples of Environmentally Driven Initiatives; Examples of Socially Driven Initiatives & Examples of Transformational Innovation

Week 3: Sustainable Business Processes (Part 1)
The week contains the following units: Embedding Sustainability Into Business Processes; Sustainable Design; Sustainable Sourcing and Procurement; Sustainable Production & Sustainable Logistics

Week 4: Sustainable Business Processes (Part 2)
The week contains the following units: Sustainable Consumption; Sustainable End-of-Life Processes; Environmental and Social Capital Accounting; Sustainability in Finance and Administration; Sustainability in HR & Sustainability in IT, aka Green IT

Week 5: Stakeholder Engagement
The week contains the following units: Engaging Line of Business Leaders; Engaging Employees; Engaging Society – Corporate Social Responsibility; Engaging Business Partners, Authorities and Opinion Leaders & Engaging Investors

Week 6: Sustainability Reporting
The week contains the following units: Purpose, Audiences and Standards; Data Quality and Assurance; Integrated Reporting; Report Delivery; Rankings and Recognition & Recap of Key Course Learnings

Week 7: Final Exam

I’m particularly happy to see the data quality and assurance being covered. With the move towards an increasingly quantified and transparent world the importance of knowing how to measure and interpret data cannot be underestimated.

If you are interested in signing up, or simply knowing more about the course, head on over to the course site, preferably before the class commences this coming April 29th. Over 9,200 people have already registered, so it looks like it will be a lively few weeks for all involved.

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Technology for Good – episode 12

Welcome to episode twelve of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s show we had two guests Chris Adams, and Kartik Kanakasabesan. Given the week that was in it with the Heartbleed bug, and the Samsung releases, there were plenty of stories around security and Wearables.

Here’s the stories that we discussed in the show:

Climate

Energy

Cloud

Wearables

Security

Internet of Things (IoT)

Misc

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Cloud computing and supply chain transparency

Supply chains? Yawn, right?

While supply chains may seem boring, they are of vital importance to organisations, and their proper management can make, or break companies.

Some recent examples of where poorly managed supply chains caused at best, serious reputational damage for companies include the Apple Computers child labour and workers suicide debacle; the Tesco horse meat scandal; and Nestlé’s palm oil problems.

What does this have to do with Cloud computing?

Well, last week, here in GreenMonk we published a ranking of cloud computing companies and their use of renewables. Greenqloud, Windows Azure, Google, SAP and Rackspace all come out of it quite well.

On the other hand, IBM and Oracle didn’t fare well in the study due to their poor commitment to renewables. But, at least they are reasonably transparent about it. Both organisations produce quite detailed corporate responsibility reports, and both report their emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project. So if you are sourcing your cloud infrastructure from Oracle or IBM, you can at least find out quite easily where the dirty energy powering your cloud is coming from.

Amazon however, does neither. It doesn’t produce any corporate responsibility reports and it doesn’t publish its emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project. This is particularly egregious given that Amazon is, by far the largest player in this market.

Amazon’s customers are taking a leap of faith by choosing Amazon to host their cloud. They have no idea where Amazon is sourcing the power to run their servers. Amazon could easily be powering their server farms using coal mined by Massey Energy, for example. Massey Energy, as well as having an appalling environmental record, is the company responsible for the 2010 West Virginia mining disaster which killed 29 miners, or Amazon could be using oil extracted from Tar sands. Or there could be worse in Amazon’s supply chain. We just don’t know, because Amazon won’t tell us.

This has got to be worrisome for Amazon’s significant customer base which includes names like Unilever, Nokia and Adobe, amongst many others. Imagine what could happen if Greenpeace found out… oh wait.

Just a couple of weeks ago US enterprise software company Infor announced at Amazon’s Summit that it plans to build it’s CloudSuite offerings entirely on Amazon’s AWS. As I tweeted last week, this is a very courageous move on Infor’s part

All the more brave given that Infor will be using Amazon to host the infrastructure of Infor’s own customer base. “Danger, Will Robinson!”

This lack of supply chain transparency is not sustainable. Amazon’s customers won’t tolerate the potential risk to their reputations and if Amazon are unwilling to be more transparent, there are plenty of other cloud providers who are.

Image credits failing_angel

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Technology for Good – episode eleven

Welcome to episode eleven of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s show our special guest was unable to make it due to looming deadlines, so I did the show solo. Given the week that was in it with Microsoft’s Build conference taking place, there were plenty of stories stemming from Microsoft’s various announcements, but there was also a ton of other news, as always.

Here’s the stories that I discussed in the show:

Climate

Cloud

Renewables

WiFi

Apps

Social

Internet of Things

Open

Misc