Tag Archives: sustainability

Sparks of Creativity as Energy and Digital Futures Collide

26 Feb

Digital technologies consume way too much energy and present an environmental and sustainability issue that demands a fresh design approach

Very few commentators link Energy and Digital policy topics. Even fewer policy developers understand how they are intertwined.

Each policy is on a single track but heading towards each other. Both engines of the economy urgently need collision avoidance. Knocking heads together now can circumvent an even greater mess.

Only now are the full consequences of strategic decisions made in separate silos decades ago becoming clear. Attributing blame and short-term attitudes for current and future shortcomings is, alas, too easy.   It doesn’t add up to a plan of where we go from here but first there’s a need for everyone to understand that we have a problem.

Basically the Internet will not scale – meaning that as demand increases, digital infrastructure performance will suffer and energy supply will become more fragile.

Regardless of which growth forecast you believe – and most insiders bet on a doubling of devices over the next decade – without radical overhaul, the predominant current and planned digital access technologies (how you get connected) will consume way too much energy. It is an environmental/sustainability issue that demands a fresh design approach to ensure resilience of these basic utilities.

The solutions are twofold – generate vastly more electricity or waste far less of it on inefficient forms of digital connectivity. No one is suggesting that we put the entire economy into hibernation.

The first option – generate vastly more – is decidedly unattractive and hugely risky in terms of the UK’s energy supply security. But current efforts to reduce demand need rethinking.

The second option – boost connection capacity but at the same time use far less energy – is technologically possible but demands a complete rethink by dominant suppliers – whether they are in fixed line or mobile markets or both.

Digital Management

It is simply not possible to envisage future energy sufficiency (Ref 1) to push signals down copper cables or send mobile signals over great distances – like more than 200 metres – given the sort of high frequency spectrum that is now available.

All mobile services are themselves ultimately dependent on fixed line connectivity to route to and from the wider Internet. Moreover, the implications of using higher frequency radio spectrum are that the much-vaunted low-power 5G designs will be dependent on fibre connections from millions of locations and will look like Wi-Fi on steroids – with demands way beyond the creaking copper connections of yester-year.

How many slightly overlapping 200 metre radius circles fit into the UK’s 65 million acres? That, of course, is a very hypothetical question – we live in a multi-channel landscape – but, as digital applications accelerate, the current lack of any mobile coverage on thousands of miles of UK roads illustrates the challenge.

Enthusiasts for maintaining use of legacy copper networks insist on pointing to technologies that seem to increase their capacity (if only in one direction) but these in turn exacerbate the energy challenges. Their application is misplaced. Sure, run fibre all the way to a building and then use the technology to push the signals a little way further inside the building – but even that local in-building distribution is inefficient compared to low power wireless technologies like WiFi.

Energy Management

At the same time, Energy Management systems have developed to render past infrastructures obsolescent. The top down view of energy – generators, the national grid, local distribution – is being turned on its head. Alternative energy sources – solar, wind, tidal, wave, ground heat pumps – are popping up all over the place.

Soon the complexity of managing demand will be further complicated by new local storage options. One thing that will not help lessen the load is the current and expensively failing UK Smart Meters project.

Collision Avoidance

So what if policy developers for both Energy and Digital better understood each other?

We don’t need to dwell on the past mistakes – but refocus minds on where they go from here.

For around the same investment cost as Smart Meters the Digital camp could reduce Energy demand by between 5-10% – depending on how quickly they buckle down to eliminating copper networks.  But, of course, much of that Smart Meter money has already been spent – some would say, wasted.

On the other hand the costs of fibre have been falling and the investment returns rising – a completely different investment scene to that prevailing 2 decades ago. The cost savings come from all aspects of network deployment.   That could easily be accelerated with liberalization of incumbents’ passive infrastructure – the ducts and poles,

And the net benefit of this silo-fusion?   Accelerated economic growth and greater energy supply security – massively faster connectivity and far fewer power failures.

If only it was that easy to knock government and industry heads together to avoid an unexpected collision. Maybe, in our newfound love of devolution, city mayors will be resolved to point out that the utility emperors are lacking decent underwear.

Brace, Brace.

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Notes/References

  1. Telecoms & Exponential Growth- Cochrane TJV8 Pt4  (PDF download)   Cochrane P, Telecoms and Exponential Growth, ITP Journal Vol. 8/4 Oct/Dec 2014 reproduced with permission of the Institute for Telecoms Professionals www.theitp.org

This article was first published by Computer Weekly 26/Feb/2015

 

Circular Economy – a natural evolution

30 Sep

Groupe Intellex logoMy blog for the RSA, ‘Circular Economy – let the market decide‘, was prompted by calls for some enabling legislation and stronger market regulation.  Great minds are devoting themselves to puzzling out just what that legislation might look like.

I suggest that the Circular Economy concept is part of a natural evolution and what is needed (if anything) is less disabling regulation – a clearing away of outmoded rules that can (and probably will) be used obstructively.

There may be a case for cautious consumer protection as we enter uncharted waters – but apart from nuanced nudges, long live the evolution!

 

 

2015 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards: Sharing Economy

27 Aug

 

This is the last in our series of blogs for each of the awards categories in the 2015 Digital challenge.   Earlier in the year the Open Call for nominations signaled that the Sharing Economy deserved to be recognized as a significant new category.

NGShortlisthi-resSo, in this final Awards Blog we are delighted to introduce contenders with a wide range of approaches to collaborative endeavours.

The Sharing Economy is all about better use of resources – enabling folks to utilize spare capacity, share talent and expertise, and help individuals and communities to work in greater harmony.

The digital connection is that these projects are often made possible by greater online engagement with systems and platforms to connect resources to needs – and those resources may range from intangibles like expertise and data to tangible assets like a redundant Hard disk Drive or the driveway to your house.

The six 2015 Shortlisted Finalists for our Sharing Economy Trophy are:

Fairsay with eCampaigning Forum – sharing the talent for debating skills and social action.

Just Park – Pre-Book Parking – utilizing the value of your home driveway.

MyNeighbourhood – the Smart City and Sharing Communities initiative in Birmingham

Circular Data Solutions – Large-scale 100% recycling of redundant Hard Disc Drives whilst ensuring that no stored data can be inadvertently recovered or misused and full compliance with Data Privacy legislation.

Roomlala – a flat and room-share platform new to the UK and very popular in student communities where the property rental market needs greater flexibility.

Made Open Monmouthshire from Monmouthshire County Council & Made Open Communications – creating the conditions for communities and businesses to raise challenges, start projects and play a part in tackling the challenges that impact their place.

Research suggests that the emergence of Sharing Economy is a significant step in the long transition towards a more sustainable ‘circular economy’ where resources are not wasted but are re-used or re-purposed – designed to be ‘made to be made again’.

The independent judging panel will review all the shortlisted contenders during September. The winner will be announced at a dinner in the House of Lords following the NextGen 15 event on November 5th.

For details of event sponsorship opportunities contact Marit Hendriks

( marith@nextgenevents.co.uk ) or call David Brunnen on +44 (0) 7714 325 657

 

 

 

Network Technologies & City Management: innovations in parallel

25 Jan

Following a week where Judith Rodin’s book The Resilience Dividend coincided with reports from ETSI on great progress in NFV standards development, it was perhaps inevitable that we’d find ourselves musing on their similarities.

Megan Wu - silicon cityscape

For Networks: getting our acts together we found that Megan Wu’s graphic captured a blend of cityscape and silicon.  Network technologists and Community builders –  different disciplines tackling much the same processes.

 

Lazarettos needed in Ebola-stricken lands

18 Oct

250px-Ithaki-VathySkippers sailing into Vathi – the deep natural harbour of Ithaca in the Ionian – nowadays steer well clear of the tiny square islet marked on the chart as Lazaretto, and those of us with larger yachts also know that a storage space at the stern is called the lazarrette.

In these times of Ebola, both references remind us that quarantined isolation has traditionally been the last defence against contagious diseases. The name derives from biblical references to Lazarus and the scourge of leprosy.   Another reminder will occur next week in Exeter.

The National Investiture of the Grand Priory of England and Wales – part of the Order of Saint Lazarus – takes place on Saturday 25th October in Exeter cathedral.

The Order of Saint Lazarus is one of the most ancient of the European orders of chivalry from the days of crusader knights but, with the exception of a brief period in the 17th century, it played no military role after 1291. From its foundation in the 12th century, the members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: providing aid to those suffering from the dreadful disease of Leprosy, and defending the Christian faith.

The event in Exeter reminds us that Leprosy has still not been eliminated – a salutary thought as the world gears up to the challenges of Ebola – and the work goes on, not least in West Bengal amongst the elderly and children of affected families.

Even in Europe, in our lifetime, the Order of St Lazarus was the primary provider of medical and other aid to Eastern Europe and former Soviet Bloc CIS countries – delivering, for example, twice as much as then provided by the German Red Cross which ranked second in EU estimates.

Devotion to this cause is, of course, entirely voluntary and we’re delighted to report that one of our regular contributors will next week receive the Order’s Meritorious Service Medal.

This particular award is quite rare but Dr. Colin Coulson Thomas is well qualified having held one unpaid office or another continuously for 26 years. For 17 years his roles included being a Trustee of the St Lazarus Charitable Trust and he has also chaired the executive committee of the Grand Priory of England and Wales. More recently he has been leading the Order’s International Governance Initiative that is concerned with raising standards of corporate and public sector governance around the world, and particularly where corruption is endemic.

Groupe Intellex congratulates Colin on this recognition of his years of service and commends the Order for its continuing crusades in the 21st century.

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Notes:

Colin’s ongoing work on business governance is featured in our management editorials and will be discussed at the IOD (India) London Global Convention – 28th to 31st October, 2014.

Picture of Vathi courtesy of Wikimedia

 

Indian business leaders gathering in London will get multi-ministerial support

30 Jul

The 2014 London Global Convention for the Institute of Directors (India) will bring business leaders from across the globe in October.

OfficialBaronessVermaSustainability will be high on the agenda – not least because chair of the convention’s programme committee is Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

Sustainability is a high priority on many boardroom agendas and also represents major trade opportunities for the UK – so it’s no surprise to hear that Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, and Trade and Investment Minister, Ian Livingston are also expected to attend the event.

For more information on the Convention and why Sustainability is a key business topic read the Groupe Intellex background commentary.

Tackling Brick Walls – the challenges of Circular Economies

19 May

Brick Wall

 

From our observations following a recent discussion on Sustainability, we suggest that tackling the challenges head on is not an effective use of resources.

 

Given time and the natural inventiveness of citizens and enterprises, today’s brick walls will rot through their own irrelevance – a process that is being accelerated within digitalised economies.

Full Story here

Adapt or Mitigate or Rethink? Creating an environment for fresh thinking

31 Mar

On the day when a report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has prompted headline writers to debate Adaptation versus Mitigation we highlight an altogether different approach – one that demands that we rethink the way economies work.

In ‘A few words about a Circular Economy‘ we consider the challenges of communicating fresh ideas in an environment where words like ‘green’ are no longer helpful.   New digitally-enabled capabilities are hastening the end of mechanistic ‘linear’ economics but expertise in understanding Whole Systems’ and ‘Ordered Complexity’ is only just emerging.

Our editorial gives just a glimpse of the potential for fresh thinking being pioneered by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and comments on how we must also rethink our choice of words to describe the journey.

A New Dynamic - coverThe footnotes include a link to ‘Booms and Boomerangs’ – our January review of ‘A New Dynamic’ (the set text for MBA students at the Bradford University School of Management) and other material from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

 

 

Smart Communities Celebrate as ICF declares Global Top 7

24 Jan

The Intelligent Community Forum has announced the 2014 Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year. The Top7 list includes three from Canada, two from the United States, and two from Taiwan.

Columbus Skyline 2This year’s Top7 group is unusual in that they represent only three nations but they have set a course for others to follow.  Each made it to the list by demonstrating how they have begun to fuse technology, culture and collaboration for economic sustainability.

In alphabetical order, the 2014 Top7 Intelligent Communities are:

  • Arlington County, Virginia, USA, which is building its own fiber network to boost broadband service and re-energize government-business-university collaboration
  • Columbus, Ohio, USA, which in its recovery from the 2008 recession has 20,000 more jobs than it did at its last economic peak in 2007
  • Hsinchu City, Taiwan, the first city in Taiwan to implement e-learning platforms for its students and establish a science park
  • Kingston, Ontario, Canada, which leveraged its educational institutions to build an innovation economy focused on environmental sustainability
  • New Taipei City, Taiwan, a new city forged from communities surrounding the nation’s capital, which is creating a unified and dynamic knowledge economy
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with a renowned waterfront development that will provide Internet at 500 times the speed of conventional residential networks
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where reinvention of its agricultural legacy is creating strong growth while preserving a valued heritage

Study after study notes that cities all over the globe need solutions to a wide range of problems from transportation and the environment to economic growth and education. Intelligent Communities provide solutions.

Regular readers of this blog may not be entirely surprised to find that no UK communities are featured in the Global Top 7.   To be amongst these selected finalists and on course (after the next round of intense scrutiny) for the ultimate 2014 accolade in June, they would already have needed to qualify for the Top 21.

The entire point of submitting to the rigour of the Intelligent Community Forum’s process is to learn.  Some communities find great value in participating in successive years as they invest in the development of their local economies and establish themselves on the global stage.

We know that despite relatively meagre public funding resources (compared to their global competitors), the UK’s major city economies beyond London already generate a high proportion of national GDP growth but are expected to respond to significant pressures on housing, infrastructure, health, education (particularly in digital and vocational skills), enterprise innovation and community development.  The due diligence of potential inward investors demands that risks of failure are fully exposed.

As nations or regions we may be justifiably proud of great past achievements and glorious contributions to societal endeavour but not all ideas are invented here.  In a more digitalised era the new competitive advantage is so often a collaborative advantage.

If leaders of enterprising communities across the UK seek to emulate the success of others, ICF’s Top 7 global exemplars provide a deep pool of experiences and insights – and a great focus for our next fully managed Study Tour when we join them in New York in the summer.

For more details contact

A New Dynamic – effective business in a circular economy

24 Jan

A New Dynamic - coverAs the Ellen MacArthur Foundation crew headed to Davos they had at least two reasons to be cheerful; Unilever joining the foundation’s ranks of enlightened major players and the publication of their latest MBA textbook, ‘A New Dynamic’.

The Circular Economy concept has been well rehearsed  – notably in brilliantly animated productions for schools – and this new book is very much directed at graduates and business strategists.  It not only gives a thorough grounding in the concept’s gestation – how economies must move on from the wastefulness of outmoded ‘linear’ models – but also maps the scale of new sustainable opportunities.  This goes way beyond conventional recycling – it heralds both an entirely new way of designing products and the ways that these products (or the use of them) will be delivered to future consumers.

Converting the radical Circular Economy concepts into reality is a long term challenge that will increasingly be addressed by the enterprise managers of tomorrow.  Volatility in raw material and energy prices is just one of the drivers behind the shift from Ownership to Access and shifts in design to enable ‘things that are made to be made again’.

In ‘Booms and Boomerangs‘ we review ‘A new Dynamic’ in the context of Irene Ng’s ‘Value & Worth’ and John Kay’s recent RSA Journal essay ‘Circular Thinking’.