Three Industries Where Technology Is Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

 

The science is in. We need to significantly reduce our carbon emissions to limit the amount of warming our planet undergoes as a consequence of climate change.

The good news is, technology is rising up to meet this challenge. The bad news is it needs to do far more, and do it faster. How is technology helping? Well, if we check out some of the industries with the highest carbon footprint (energy, transportation, and agriculture), we can see some of the massive disruptions that are happening there, and how they are impacting emissions.

1 Energy

The energy sector is undergoing a massive transition globally from a system powered by centralised, thermal generation based often on fossil fuel combustion, to one increasingly powered by decentralised renewable sources. And while it would be great if this was happening for reasons of climate concern, it is, in fact, happening for reasons of economics, which is better because it means it is sustainable in the long term.

Why do I say it is because of economics? Because the cost of wind, solar, and lithium-ion battery storage are falling. Falling fast (due primarily to the experience curve). Since 2012 the cost of wind power has fallen 50%, solar power has fallen 80%, and battery storage has fallen 85%. It is now at the point where unsubsidised, combinations of wind and battery storage, or solar and battery storage are able to beat natural gas on price.

Don’t take my word for it. At the Wolfe Research 2019 Power & Gas Leader’s conference last month (October 2nd, 2019) Jim Robo, Chairman, and CEO of NextEra Energy the biggest and most successful utility in the US said

“We see renewables plus battery storage without incentives being cheaper than natural gas, and cheaper than existing coal and existing nuclear… And that is game-changing”

Then, when you consider the amount of time it takes to deploy a power plant, renewables win again.

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And consequently, the share of new power generation being deployed globally that is renewable is rising rapidly, while the share of new fossil fuel generation is falling fast.

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And it is not just the supply side of the equation that is changing. The demand side is changing rapidly as well.

More and more organisations are demanding that their energy provider only supply clean, renewably sourced electricity. In fact, RE100, “a global corporate leadership initiative bringing together influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity” counts at time of writing (November 2019) 212 of the world’s largest companies (including my own employer SAP) as members. All 212 companies are either sourcing all their electricity from renewable sources or have committed to doing so in the near future. Companies do this because it is good for business. Consumers feel better about purchasing goods if they know they were produced using renewable energy, and employees feel better about working for organisations committed to renewable energy.

 

2 Transportation

So the carbon intensity of electricity, one of the main carbon polluters is falling worldwide on a gCO2/kWh basis. What about one of the other big polluters I mentioned at the start, Transportation. Well, fortunately, electric grids the world over are embracing renewable energy, because transportation is now starting to use electricity as a fuel, instead of dino-juice!

Why is transportation going electric? Three main reasons:

  1. Increasing environmental awareness among consumers
  2. Regulations from regions, countries and local governments and
  3. Economics – the costs to operate an electric vehicle (EV) are significantly less than a fossil fuel one
Nissan Leaf charging
Photo credit Tom Raftery

Greta Thunberg has done an amazing job of raising awareness in younger generations particularly about the dangers of climate change, but even before she burst on the scene, the 2019 regulations governing NEVs (New Energy Vehicles) in China and the 2020 emissions regulations for vehicle manufacturers in the EU (as well as local ordinances by cities restricting access to older, more polluting vehicles and countries on the phase-out date for the sale of Internal Combustion Engined vehicles) meant that vehicle manufacturers have had no option but to get on board with the electrification of cars and increasingly other modes of transport as well.

At a time when global vehicle sales are falling, sales of EVs are taking off.

statistic_id270603_battery-electric-vehicles-in-use---worldwide-2012-2018

Volkswagen, who have had some *ahem* reputational issues recently, have decided to embrace the Winston Churchill mantra of never letting a crisis go to waste, and are going all-in on EVs. They plan to spend €60bn (yes billion with a “b”) by 2024 to switch to electric, hybrid and connected vehicles. They will introduce up to 75 all-electric models, around 60 hybrid vehicles and plan to sell 26 million all-electric vehicles as well as around 6 million hybrid vehicles by 2029.

Perhaps even more tellingly, Daimler recently announced that they are stopping their internal combustion engine development initiatives and focussing instead on electric vehicles. The reason this announcement is so game-changing is that Daimler owns Mercedes Benz and Karl Benz, the founder of Mercedes Benz received the patent for the world’s first production internal combustion engine vehicle in 1886. Now 133 years later Daimler has decided that the era of the internal combustion engine is over, and EVs are the future.

And it is not just cars, motorbikes are also going electric with announcements of electric bikes from all the major manufacturers including Vespa, Yamaha, Honda, all the way up to Harley Davidson.

Buses, trucks (from the large class 8 all the way down to delivery trucks), and refuse collection vehicles are also going electric. This is important not just for reducing their carbon emissions, but also because these vehicles often work primarily in urban centres so converting them from diesel to electric will improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and significantly reduce the cost of operation for these machines.

FuelUseVehicleCategory

Also, when you take into account the fuel use by categories of vehicle, you can see from the chart above that class 8 trucks, buses, and refuse collection vehicles consume far more fuel than other vehicle categories. Fuel use is of course, not just a good proxy for their potential to pollute, but also for their running costs so the economic case to shift these to electric is very strong. In the case of buses, battery-electric buses cost 20c per mile to operate over their lifetime, whereas diesel buses cost 75c and so, battery-electric buses will dominate the market by the late 2020s.

And it doesn’t stop there. Construction equipment is going electric. Ships are going electric. Even planes are going electric. Global consultancy firm Roland Berger is currently tracking 170 different electric plane initiatives (about 50% are in the urban air taxi space). While the Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet has said that:

easyJet is collaborating with US company Wright Electric to support their goal for short-haul flights to be operated by all-electric planes within 10 years

It is hard to think of a mode of transportation that is not moving towards electric drivetrains. And as we saw above in the section on energy, as our grids are getting cleaner daily, shifting transportation to electricity quickly drops transportation’s carbon footprint too (as well as reducing noise pollution, and cleaning up our air quality).

3 Food Production

Food production is the third industry where technology is about to play a huge part in reducing our carbon footprint. Agriculture globally accounts for about 13 percent of total global emissions. That makes the agricultural sector the world’s second-largest emitter, after the energy sector. And this doesn’t include emissions associated with deforestation to clear land for more agriculture.

However, shifting away from our current practices of food production to one where our plant food is grown in massive indoor vertical farms has the potential to significantly clean up agriculture’s environmental toll.

Indoor vertical farms use 95% less water and 99% less land than conventional farming practices. They use no soil, require no herbicides or pesticides and they can produce food in the middle of cities, thereby reducing drastically the crop’s food miles. When you are producing food so close to the point of consumption, you no longer need to optimise your produce for shelf-life, and you can instead choose to optimise for taste, and/or nutrition.

Then there is the clean meat movement. Clean meat is meat that is produced from either cultivating animal cells (without having to slaughter the animal), or by converting plant protein to take on the taste and consistency of animal protein as companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are doing so successfully.

Our current means of producing plant food and meats are vastly inefficient and have a huge carbon footprint. This won’t scale to feed the population of 9-10 billion inhabitants that we are projected to reach in the coming decades, especially as the middle classes grow in the developing world and their meat consumption expectations grow too.

Converting to a system where we produce plants in massive vertical farms, and then using that plant food to create clean meat solves a lot of the problems associated with agriculture today such as the unconscionable cruelty we visit on the animals we breed for slaughter, the vast amounts of antibiotics that are used in agriculture leading to the development of multi-drug resistant superbugs, and agriculture’s massive carbon footprint.

Zebra
Zebra in Pilansberg reserve – photo credit Tom Raftery

If we return the land we have stolen from nature for agriculture back to the wild we can restore the enormous losses we have seen in recent decades in biodiversity, create a huge new ecotourism industry, and through reforestation sequester from the atmosphere much of the carbon we have emitted in the last century, mitigating the or possibly turning back the worst effects of climate change.

As the United Nations COP25 Climate Change Conference kicks off in Madrid, it is important to remember that although the situation with the climate is indeed dire, there are solutions. We just need to embrace them. Quickly.

This piece was originally posted on my Forbes blog

Seven reasons why the Internal Combustion Engine is a dead man walking

The age of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is over. Electric cars are the future. The transition has just begun, but the move from ICE vehicles to Electric will happen sooner and more quickly than most people suspect.

What are the factors that lead me to say this with such confidence?

  1. China says so! China is now the world’s largest car market (of the 86m cars sold in 2017, 30% (25.8m) were sold in China, compared to 20% (17.2m) in the US, and 18% (15.6m) in the EU). Unsurprisingly, car manufacturers want to have access to this market. However, China has passed a law which requires any vehicle maker to obtain a new energy vehicle score of at least 10% by 2019, which rises to 12% by 2020, and on up to 20% of sales by 2025. As a result of this announcement, all the major OEM’s have suddenly found EV religion. A slew of announcements has followed about the 10’s of billions of dollars or Euros they are investing in their EV development programs and the partnerships or huge investments they are creating to secure their battery supply chain. The CEO of Porsche has even gone on record as saying that after 2030 all Porsche cars will be 100% electric. So, China has spoken, and the car manufacturers have listened. In the next 18 months, expect the number of electric vehicle models available to purchase, to increase significantly.
  2. The main cost of an electric vehicle is the cost of the battery. These price of these batteries is falling significantly. Lithium-Ion batteries cost $1,000 per kWh in 2010. By 2017 that cost had fallen to $200 per kWh, and it won’t stop there. At the Tesla shareholder meeting on June 5th of this year, Elon Musk stated that Tesla would be at $100 per kWh within 2 years. $100 per kWh is widely agreed to be the figure where EVs and ICE vehicles will have a comparable upfront purchase price.
    LithiumIonBatteryTrends
    So, by 2020 the cost of batteries will have fallen 90% in 10 years, and the price will continue to drop.
  3. Lithium-Ion batteries are increasing in energy density at a rate of 5-8% per annum. Mercedes has said that their EQC, which will come to market in 2019, will have an expected range of 500km. While the Tesla Roadster, which launches in 2020, has a stated range of 1,000km. When Electric Vehicles have a range of 1,000km, it is the ICE vehicles which start to have a range problem.
    Moreover, other battery technologies like solid-state batteries will come on stream giving us batteries that are cheaper, faster charging, and with even greater range still.
  4. Contrary to what many believe, the batteries in electric vehicles don’t degrade over time or over miles/kilometers driven either.
    TeslaBatteryDegradation
    This is a graph of the battery capacity of Tesla Model S/X vehicles, and it shows that after driving 270,000km (roughly 168,000 miles), the batteries still had 91% of their original capacity. There are more details in this article, but the bottom line is that the batteries lose about 1% of capacity every 30,000km (18,750 miles). This means that the upfront cost of an electric vehicle can be depreciated over a far longer time – EVs will just keep on working. Having said that, this data is specific to Tesla batteries which may be down to the good thermal management system Tesla has for its battery packs.
  5. Another factor in favour of electric vehicles is that they are far more reliable. The drivetrain in an ICE vehicle contains 2,000+ moving parts typically, whereas the drivetrain in an EV contains around 20. A quick scan of the top 10 cars repairs of 2015 is telling. Not one of these faults can happen to an electric vehicle.
    CarRepairs
  6. Electric vehicles are typically significantly cheaper to fuel as well (unless you happen to live somewhere that has particularly cheap petrol and extremely expensive electricity). And with the price of oil going up 50% in the last 12 months, finding somewhere with cheap petrol will become increasingly difficult.
    12MonthCrudeOilPrice
  7. Lastly, as outlined above, the number of models of electric vehicles available for sale is about to increase enormously; the purchase price of electric vehicles is falling significantly; the range of electric vehicles about to match or even surpass ICE vehicles; EVs have essentially zero maintenance issues apart from the need to replace brakes and tyres; the batteries in EVs last hundreds of thousands of miles/kilometers with absolutely minimal degradation; and EVs are cheaper to fuel, so why would anyone consider buying a car with an Internal Combustion Engine? Most people won’t.
    And consequently, the resale value of ICE vehicles will collapse. And if the resale value of ICE automobiles is going to collapse in 3-4 years, why would you buy one today? Think about that for a second. Why would you buy an ICE vehicle today, if its resale value in 3-4 years will have collapsed? You wouldn’t. And when people start to realise that, the market will flip. And it will happen quickly. Sooner than most people think. Will your next car be an EV?

And if none of that convinces you, maybe check out the rest of the specs for the Tesla Roadster – 0-100kmh (0-60mph) in 1.9 seconds, top speed of 400kmh (250mph), and range of 1,000km (620 miles). Or maybe watch a Tesla Model S race a Boeing 737, or even more incredibly, watch a Tesla Model X set a Guinness world record by towing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner  

And I haven’t even mentioned the growing list of cities that are passing legislation to ban diesel engined vehicles from entering!

UPDATE: I loved this response to this post on Twitter:

Update 2 – post updated with 2017 car sales figures Jun 29 at 10:22 CET

8 predictions for the Internet of Things (#IoT) in 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, it is customary to look forward to the year ahead and think about what will come. Some of us in SAP put our heads together to come up with a list of likely trends in the Internet of Things space for the next 12 months.

In no particular order:

  1. The IoT hype is over – but the trough of disillusionment typically precedes mainstream adoption. Customers have by now generally accepted IoT as a main driver of digital transformation, however, in 2018, they will be looking for business value and outcomes in every project. There is no doubt that all newly released products and installed assets will be connected with an increasing amount of sensors and intelligence embedded
    IoTvsCloudTrendshttps://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=%2Fm%2F02vnd10,cloud%20computing&hl=en-US
  1. The IoT cloud platform market will consolidate quickly
    Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS will probably take the largest shares. IBM Cloud, Google Cloud Platform, SAP Cloud Platform, and Oracle Cloud will be runners up. Most other IoT vendors will move (or have ported) their IoT offering onto a leading cloud platform-as-a-service stack (e.g. GE, Siemens)Here’s Why GE Shelved Plans to Build its Own Amazon-Like Cloud: http://fortune.com/2017/09/06/general-electric-cloud-pivot/
    Mindsphere debuts on Amazon Web Services http://news.usa.siemens.biz/blog/digital-factory/mindsphere-debuts-amazon-web-services
  1. IoT vendors will refocus and lead with IoT solutions delivering value to their installed base. GE Predix is now focussing on selected verticals and asset-intensive industries; while Microsoft is looking to manufacturing (with new focus on OPC-UA)GE https://www.ge.com/investor-relations/sites/default/files/GE%20Investor%20Update_Presentation_11132017.pdf (page 18)
    Microsoft IoT Central broadens reach with simplicity of SaaS for enterprise-grade IoT https://blogs.microsoft.com/iot/2017/12/05/microsoft-iot-central-broadens-reach-simplicity-saas-enterprise-grade-iot/
  1. IoT architecture will evolve from data ingestion and analytics to an intelligent event-driven solution for end users
    Data science, machine learning, and physics-based models will extract meaningful events from IoT data for users to take prescriptive actionGartner https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3758164
    Blog referencing Gartner https://realtimeapi.io/2020-50-percent-managed-apis-projected-event-driven/
  1. The edge will move from connectivity to distributed intelligence
    Edge solutions are becoming increasingly intelligent and autonomous, adding analytics and machine learning, while distributed edge-cloud programming paradigms emergeGartner https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-edge-computing-means-for-infrastructure-and-operations-leaders/
    Amazon Greengrass https://www.forbes.com/sites/janakirammsv/2017/06/07/amazon-makes-foray-into-edge-computing-with-aws-greengrass/#47b0bc0b3298
    Microsoft IoT Edge https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/azure-iot-edge-open-for-developers-to-build-for-the-intelligent-edge/
  1. Digital twins will evolve from concepts to blueprint and implementation for data sharing within and across companies
    While many early IoT projects focus on efficiency and cost reduction, the long term business value of IoT is in the network of business partners and digital twins. Marketplaces start to emerge to monetise IoT data while blockchain technologies ensure data provenance and device traceability (and payment)Digital Twins https://www.i-scoop.eu/digital-twin-technology-benefits-usage-predictions/
    IDC Predictions https://www.idc.com/url.do?url=/getfile.dyn?containerId=US43193617&attachmentId=47282916&elementId=54584641&term=&position=4&page=1&perPage=25&id=89172f0a-fdd7-48a1-871b-3bb213638507
    IOTA Data Marketplace https://blog.iota.org/iota-data-marketplace-cb6be463ac7f
    IBM IoT on Blockchain https://www.ibm.com/us-en/marketplace/iot-blockchain/details
    SAP IoT Blockchain initiative https://news.sap.com/sap-announces-first-co-innovation-customers-partners-in-blockchain-initiative-for-internet-of-things/
  1. Integration will remain challenging despite advances in open standards and architecturesIndustry standards will slowly emerge to address semantic integration (e.g. OPC-UA, RAMI), but take long to get fully adoptedhttp://opcconnect.opcfoundation.org/2017/06/there-is-no-industrie-4-0-without-opc-ua/
    IIC and RAMI / Industrie 4.0 align https://www.automationworld.com/industrial-internet-consortium-and-plattform-industrie-40-align-architectures
    Edge  http://www.iiconsortium.org/press-room/08-02-17.htm , https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/09/25/1131891/0/en/ETSI-and-OpenFog-Consortium-collaborate-on-fog-and-edge-applications.html
  1. Security and privacy will remain key concerns IoT security
    The standalone IoT security market is dead, but IoT security will be embedded into hardware, network, and systems with IoT security becoming a dedicated threat domain; data privacy legislation and concerns (specifically in Europe and China) will impact IoT architectureIoT security outlook Blogs http://www.ioti.com/security/8-iot-security-trends-look-out-2018 & https://www.i-scoop.eu/internet-of-things-guide/iot-security-forecasts/

Hopefully these predictions will give you some food for thought over the holiday season. In any case, enjoy your time off, and see you in 2018 🙂

 

Photo credit Frank Monnerjahn

Predictive Maintenance for People – the endgame for the Internet of Things (#IoT) and healthcare

Predictive maintenance is one of the oldest and most tested uses cases for the Internet of Things (IoT).  For years now, we’ve been able to analyze incoming data from sensors embedded in machines and make decisions about whether or not maintenance activities should be executed.

Typical scenarios have historically focused on things like wind farms, oil rigs, and fleets of trains. And while there’s plenty of excitement and new developments in these areas, what’s grabbing a lot of attention today is how predictive maintenance can be applied to new scenarios.

For example, in an earlier blog, I talked about predictive maintenance for autonomous vehicles – how sensors can send out data on the status of parts and components, allowing manufacturers to analyse this data to predict part failure and, thus, avoid breakdowns.

Yet, even this scenario keeps us in the realm of machines – because, sophisticated as it may be, an autonomous vehicle is still a machine. But what if we could now take the same general idea of predictive maintenance for machines and apply it to our bodies? Call it preventative maintenance for people – or just predictive healthcare. The reality is that in many ways, we’re already there.

Understanding in context

One of the advantages to predictive maintenance for machines is that incoming data about what’s going on in the moment can be analyzed in the context of historical data about the same machine. Let’s say an HVAC machine on the top of a hotel in Seville – where I live – sends out a high-temperature alert.

In and of itself, yes, this may be cause for concern. But when you realize that the machine sends out the same alert every month at the same time – well, maybe it’s not so concerning. Maybe the HVAC unit runs continuously for 8 hours on the first Monday of every month to help cool a large conference room on the used for the packed monthly meeting of the Seville Dog Walker’s Association.

Or maybe there’s another reason. The point is that in such a scenario, the high temperature alert is understandable and predictable in context – and thus of little concern. It would be nice if we had something similar for healthcare.

More than a snapshot

Here’s the problem: On a typical trip to the doctor you wait in the waiting room for 10-15 minutes, with other people, some of whom are likely sick. When you finally see the doctor, you’re thinking of the next appointment you have across town in 30 minutes so your anxiety levels go up.

My sister Mary was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure because when she was in the doctor’s clinic her blood pressure measured 150/89. The doctor advised her to get a connected blood pressure cuff, and to take regular measurements. When she did, it turned out her blood pressure was 108/75 – completely normal. She was suffering from what doctors call White Coat Syndrome.

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But as with the HVAC machine, the high blood pressure reading was understandable in the context of her being in a doctor’s office. Wouldn’t it be great if the doctor evaluating your blood pressure had more than a snapshot of (often misleading) data to work from? Wouldn’t a whole bunch of relevant historical data be better?

With the smartwatch on my wrist, I can now share 3 years of data with my doctor. Now s/he can see things in context and treat me more effectively. I think it’s only a matter time before their office can take my sensor data in automatically – over the cloud. This will make my yearly check-up more productive. Instead of figuring out what the problem is (if there is one, hopefully not) we’ll be able to focus on what to do about it.

A business network for health  

As with so many things IoT, this is only the beginning. But let’s step back for a moment.

One of our offerings here at SAP is the SAP Asset Intelligence Network (SAP AIN). Think of it as a business network application. With SAP AIN, all of the data (metadata, specifications, bills of materials, whatever) that goes into the creation of a device (a compressor, coffee machine, car, whatever) can be stored in a central location.

When connected to the asset intelligence network, the device can push out real-time data that describes its state at any given moment. When the device owner allows access to this data, the manufacturer can then analyse it in conjunction with other data from other devices – making product improvements that can then be pushed out by way of the same asset intelligence network.

In fact, nothing is stopping device owners from sharing their data with whoever they wish – like maybe a service vendor, or insurance company. If a device goes out of tolerance for some reason, the service vendor could receive a notification and schedule an appointment to service the device automatically. Or in the case of an insurance company – they could then set rates according to actual device usage data.

Returning to the theme of health – what if we took this idea of an asset intelligence network and applied it to our own bodies? What if we had a “people’s intelligence network” – where a device like my smartwatch publishes my health data into a trusted cloud application?  When my device senses high blood sugar, for example, this data gets analyzed not only in the context of the unique moment mixed with my own personal health history – but also in the context of similar data from potentially millions of people.

Based on this much larger dataset, the network could then contact my service vendor – in this case, my doctor – and make an appointment if necessary. Yes, this would be convenient. But more importantly, it would move us away from making medical decisions based on poor data and the intuition of physicians, toward something often heralded but seldom achieved – real evidence based medicine.

Photo credit Chelsea Stirlen

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Jobs

My role here at SAP is IoT Evangelist. It’s my job to go around and speak about how the Internet of Things is changing the way we live, work, and run our businesses. IoT Evangelist is a job title that didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago – mainly because the Internet of Things wasn’t a “thing” 5 or 10 years ago. Today it is, so here I am.

The fact is, technological change has a tremendous impact on the way we spend our working lives. Many of today’s jobs didn’t exist in the past. Of course, the reverse is true as well: a lot of jobs – mostly tedious/manual labor of some variety, think miners, lift operators, or similar – have gone away.

Robots and much more

Much of the discussion today about the relationship between technology and jobs is a discussion about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). Robots in manufacturing is the most obvious example. A lot of AI has to do with big data analysis and identifying patterns. Thus, AI is used in data security, financial trading, fraud detection, and those recommendations you get from Google, Netflix and Amazon.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 14.01.55

But it’s also used in healthcare for everything from identifying better subjects for clinical trials to speeding drug discovery to creating personalized treatment plans. It’s used in autonomous vehicles as well – to adjust, say, to new local conditions on the road. Some say it’s also coming for professional jobs. Think about successfully appealing parking fines (currently home turf for lawyers), automated contract creation, or automated natural language processing (which someday could be used to write this blog itself – gulp!).

The spinning jenny

Will AI continue to take jobs away? Probably. But how many new jobs will it create? Think back to the spinning jenny – the multi-spindle spinning frame that, back in the mid-18th century, started to reduce the amount of work required to make cloth.

By the early 19th century, a movement known as the Luddites emerged where groups of weavers would go around smashing these machines as a form of protest against what we’d now call job displacement. But these machines helped launch the industrial revolution.

As a result of the spinning jenny’s increased efficiency, more people could buy more cloth – of higher quality, at a fraction of the cost. This led to a massive uptick in demand for yarn – which required the creation of distribution networks, and ultimately the need for shipping, an industry that took off in the industrial revolution.

As the spinning jenny came into use, it was continuously improved – eventually enabling a single operator to manage up to 50 spindles of yarn at a time. Other machines appeared on the scene as well. This greater productivity, and the evolution of distribution networks also meant there was a need for increasingly comprehensive supply chains to feed this productivity boom.

Muscle vs caring

Economists at Deloitte looked at this issue of technological job displacement – diving into UK census data for a 140-year period stretching from 1871 to 2011. What they found, not surprisingly perhaps, is that over the years technology has steadily taken over many of the jobs that require human muscle power.

Agriculture has felt the impact most acutely. With the introduction of seed drills, reapers, harvesters and tractors, the number of people employed as agricultural laborers has declined by 95% since 1871.

But agriculture is not alone. The jobs of washer women and laundry workers, for example, have gone away as well. Since 1901, the number of people in England and Wales employed for washing clothes has decreased 83% even though the population has increased by 73%.

Many of today’s jobs, on the other hand, have moved to what are known as the caring professions, as the chart below shows. The light blue bars represent muscle-powered jobs such as cleaners, domestics, miners, and laborers of all sorts; the dark blue, caring professions such as nurses, teachers, and social workers. As you can see, these have flipped.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 13.53.19

The Deloitte study also points out that as wealth has increased over the years, so have jobs in the professional services sector. According to the census records analyzed, in England and Wales accountants have increased from 9,832 in 1871 to 215,678 in 2015. That’s a 2,094% increase.

And because people have more money in general, they eat out more often – leading to a fourfold increase in pub staff. They can also afford to care more about how they look. This has led to an increase in the ratio of hairdressers/barbers to citizens of 1:1,793 in 1871 to 1:287 today. Similar trends can be seen in other industries such as leisure, entertainment, and sports.

Where are we headed now?

Will broader application of AI and other technologies continue the trend of generating new jobs in unexpected ways? Most assuredly. Already we’re seeing an increased need for jobs such as AI ethicists – another role that didn’t exist 5-10 years ago.

The fact of the matter is that technology in general, and AI in particular will contribute enormously to a hugely changing labour landscape. I mentioned at the start of this post that my role in SAP is IoT Evangelist – this is a role I fully expect to no longer exist in 5 years time, because by then everything will be connected, and so the term Internet of Things will be redundant, in the same way terms like “Internet connected phone”, or “interactive website” are redundant today.

The rise of new technologies will create new jobs, not just for people working directly with the new technologies, but also there will be an increasing requirement for training, re-training, and educational content development to bring people up-to-speed.

Will there be enough of those jobs to go around – and will they pay enough to support a middle-class existence for those who hold them? That’s another question – but it’s one that’s stimulating a lot of creative, innovative ideas of its own as people think seriously about where technology is taking us.

 

Photo credit Jessie Hodge

Here come the Jetsons: Flying cars and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Part 3 of 3 on the Future of Transportation and the Internet of Things

If you ever watched the cartoon series The Jetsons – or almost any other show set in the space age – you’ll notice that people often get around in personal spacecraft that they themselves drive. Well, the space age is almost here – at least in the form of flying cars. But we won’t be driving them. Instead, like cars they will be controlled autonomously.

In my last blog, I talked about autonomous vehicles and how much safer they are than self-driven vehicles. To ensure safety in the air, flying cars depend on the same network-connected IoT technology pioneered first in autonomous vehicles on the road.

Is the space age really here?  

Let’s first take a quick look at some of the leading organisations out there doing serious work with flying cars.

  • Lilium: A German start-up, Lilium tested a full-sized prototype of its flying car in April 2017. The Lilium prototype is entirely electric. It can also take off and land vertically like a helicopter – but then change to forward flight for speeds of up to 300km/h, which is much faster than a helicopter. And it’s quieter than a motorcycle. Lilium has raised $100m in two rounds of funding from Tencent, Ev William’s Obvious Ventures, Niklas Zennstrom’s Atomico amongst others.
  • EHang: A Chinese company with deep experience building drones, EHang is perhaps the furthest along. The company produces the EHang 184 – a one-passenger flying car that has already undergone 100 successful manned test flights. Reportedly, the city of Dubai is this year launching a pilot program for an autonomous aerial taxi (AAT) service using the EHang 184.
  • Airbus: The aircraft giant, Airbus, has developed CityAirbus, an electric vehicle capable of vertical take-off and landing for up to four passengers. Airbus Vahana aims in the same direction but for is for individual travelers. And let’s not forget the hybrid Airbus Pop.Up concept, this modular air and ground system involves a passenger capsule that can be connected to a propeller system on top for flying or to a wheeled conveyance system for driving on the roads.
  • And Uber – who recently signed an agreement teaming up with NASA around NASA’s Uncrewed Traffic Management (UTM) project developing air traffic control systems for uncrewed aerial systems (flying cars/drones).
  • Even Boeing is making investments in this space.

This is starting to look real.

No network, no flying cars

What all of these ventures have in common is connectedness. Using IoT technology, they’re all controlled remotely – with the vehicle in constant connection to home base along the lines of what is now a reality for autonomous road vehicles like those made by Tesla.

Of course, the networked nature of vehicles (flying or not) has relevance beyond safety. No surprise, then, that Uber is moving forward aggressively with plans to test an on-demand flying cars network by 2020 in the cities of LA, Dubai, and Dallas, and 2023 in Sydney. Here the network provides convenience – coordinating a ride-sharing service in the sky that allows passengers to hook up with flying cars on the fly.

Drones for passengers

Essentially, what we’re moving toward is a future of passenger drones. One obstacle to this reality is the need for keeping batteries charged. Because of battery life issues, for example, the EHang 184 can only travel 23 minutes. The Lilium vehicle, it is claimed, can travel up to an hour – enough to make it from London to Paris. This, and advances in battery power storage capacity will iron out most issues around range.

When we solve this problem – and get over some regulatory hurdles – flying cars will become a lived reality for people in cities everywhere. The benefits will be tremendous, too. Count among these benefits such as less pollution (both air and noise pollution) and less traffic congestion (with flying cars taking another route entirely). And when it comes to emergencies, first responders can be deployed faster and more efficiently than ever before – helping to save lives. And let’s face it, flying cars would just be fun.

Next time I get to Dubai I’ll have to try one out.

Photo credit Airbus

Connected Cars, Autonomous Vehicles, and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Part 2 of 3 on the Future of Transportation and the Internet of Things

In my last blog, I talked about the simplicity of the electric engine compared to the internal combustion engine – and how this changes everything. From climate to the structure of the auto industry to the way we store, manage, and distribute energy – electric cars are having tremendous impact.

But what I left out of that discussion was the Internet of Things.

Predictive

The fact is, most electric cars are connected cars – connected through the Internet of Things. This means that sensors in the car constantly communicate with mission control (the manufacturer), sending data on the status of components in real time.

By analysing this data, especially in context of historical data, mission control can predict component failure before it happens. For electric vehicles – with engines that already need far less repair than traditional internal combustion engines – this only increases reliability further.

But what’s more, IoT-connected cars also increase convenience. For example, after realising component failure is imminent, your car could also trigger a work order at the dealership to resolve the issue – while ensuring the needed replacement part is in stock when you roll in. And if the car is autonomous, it could drive itself to be repaired while you are at work, and return ready to drive you home once the repair is completed. Speaking of autonomous…. 

Autonomous and safe

Connectedness is also what makes autonomous vehicles possible. And while some people may distrust driverless cars; the data shows that they’re safer than the self-driven sort – at least according to a report of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Back in May 2016, a Tesla Model S sedan in Autopilot collided with a semi-truck in Florida, killing the driver (or passenger in this case?) – 40-year-old Joshua Brown. The car, apparently, crashed into the truck, passed under the trailer, and kept driving for some distance – only coming to a stop after crashing through two fences and into a pole.

As a result of this incident, the NHTSA conducted an investigation resulting in a report that largely exonerated Tesla. In fact, the report says that after the introduction of Autosteer – a component of the Autopilot system – Tesla’s crash rate dropped by 40%.

Self-learning

The accident in question happened when the semi-truck took a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic. The reason the Tesla did not detect such a large object in its path is because it could not distinguish the white color of the trailer from the bright white Florida sky in background.

Reportedly, Tesla has since analyzed the crash data from this accident, identified the problem, and made fixes to the operating system on which its fleet operates. Perhaps it’s premature to declare the problem solved – but the idea at play here is an interesting one indeed when considering the potential for connected cars and the IoT.

What this scenario shows is a learning platform in action. Because all of its cars are connected on a single platform, Tesla has access to a tremendous amount of driver data that it can analyze to continuously improve product safety. I don’t know exactly how the analysis proceeded in this particular case, but one can certainly envision the use of machine learning technology to continuously analyze patterns and introduce safety improvements on the fly – making the self-learning driving platform a reality.

Disruptive

A future in which autonomous vehicles are not only viable but safer than self-driven cars will result in disruptions beyond those I’ve indicated for electric engines.

Take the insurance industry, for example. With fewer accidents comes lower risk – leading to lower insurance premiums. And in a future where most cars on the road are autonomous – connected and controlled via IoT – the insurable entity itself will likely shift from the driver (who is now a passenger) to the operator of the network (presumably the manufacturer). Certainly, if you decide you wish to drive your car yourself, your insurance will be significantly more expensive than the insurance for an autonomous vehicle.

Of course, if autonomous cars can get where they’re going without a driver, why even bother owning a car? Why not just call up the ride when you need it – Uber style?

One result would be optimal asset utilization – where cars that are far less likely to breakdown can be used on an almost 24×7 basis by spreading usage across individuals. This would mean we’d need far less cars on the road – which would alleviate congestion. It would also hit the auto industry with dramatically lower sales volume.

And with fewer cars on the road – cars that are in use almost all the time – we’d have less use for parking. This would have tremendous impact on the global parking industry. An industry which generates approximately $20 billion annually.

Beyond industry disruption, less need for parking would open up tremendous urban space in the form of unused lots and garages. Maybe this would mean more populous cities with room to build for more people to live more comfortably without traffic congestion or pollution. Or how about using some of the space for indoor vertical farming using hydroponics technology and LED lights to grow more food and feed more people? Of course, this is already happening. But that’s a blog for another time.

 

Photo credit Nicole Galpern

3 Ways Electric Cars Are Changing More Than the Way We Drive

Part 1 of 3 on the Future of Transportation and the Internet of Things

The world is moving away from cars based on the internal combustion engine (ICEs). The future is electric. With Tesla leading the way on what’s possible with electric vehicles, more traditional auto manufacturers are following suit.

Volvo has announced that all of its cars will have electric motors by 2019. Aston Martin is planning the same by 2025. General Motors plans to have at least 20 electric vehicles (EVs) by 2023. The list goes on.

Much of the pressure is coming from countries banning ICE sales in the not-too-distant future (The Netherlands by 2025; China, India and Germany by 2030; France and the UK by 2040). Industry and consumers, however, want electric as well.

When everybody wants something, it tends to happen. The question is, what will be the ramifications? One safe bet is that the market for your ICE -based car will be drying up quickly – so think about selling now. But beyond concerns for personal finance, we can also expect EVs to have a dramatic impact in a number of areas including climate conditions in cities, the automotive industry in general, and energy distribution worldwide.

Lower emissions

The obvious benefit of electric cars – the reason countries, industries, and individuals everywhere are pushing for them – is lower emissions. One of the cities most concerned about emissions is Beijing. Back in 2015, the notoriously thick smog of the city disappeared quickly when authorities banned driving  for two weeks in preparation for a World War II commemoration parade. The day after driving resumed, the smog returned.

Today, Beijing is planning to replace the city’s nearly 70,000 taxis with EVs. Doubtless, this is a step in the right direction. Yet, while Beijing tends to get the lion’s share of press coverage when it comes to smog, other cities face similar challenges. From Paris to Mexico City and all around the world, lower emissions from electric vehicles will help to improve health for citizens locally and fight climate change globally.

Industry change

The automotive industry is not just General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and the rest. It’s also made up of countless suppliers of parts and components. But when you move from a traditional ICE to the electric engine, you lose about 90% of the parts. Electric engines are just simpler.

This means that for companies in the automotive supplier ecosystem, much of the market is going away soon. The simplicity of electric engines will also be felt further down the value chain. Service centers, for example, will feel the hit.  Many of these centers – particularly the large chains – use the inexpensive 3,000-mile oil change as a loss-leader to upsell customers on needed maintenance. But without oil in the electric engine – and without as much need for maintenance – many of these chains will have to rethink their business models to survive.

New energy horizons

One of the most significant impacts of EVs will be on the way energy is distributed – because in addition to being modes of transportation, EVs will also act as energy sources that can plug directly into the grid.

This will help address the challenge of “demand response.” The problem to solve here is one of grid stability in the era of renewable energy. Traditionally, large centrally located energy generation plants –  coal, gas, and nuclear – have churned out a steady supply of energy that results in a fairly stable grid.

However, the renewable energy paradigm – based mostly on solar and wind – is neither centralized nor steady. Rather it is distributed across rooftops, solar farms, and mountain tops. And it is variable according to weather conditions.

With renewables, in other words, utilities have less control over the supply side of the equation – meaning how and when energy is generated. This has the potential to lead to instability on the electricity grid. If you can’t manage the supply, then you have to use demand side management, also known as demand response. This can be done using through incentives, and the technology is advancing such that increasingly the process is becoming automated.

By providing a storage mechanism that can both take energy in and send it out, car batteries on EVs can act as frequency regulators for the grid. This is a big deal that has the potential to change energy distribution forever.

At night, say, when the wind is blowing, a car battery can store energy generated by wind turbines. Or, in the middle of the afternoon when everybody wants air conditioning on a hot day, the same batteries can distribute some of their energy. This leads to improved grid stability.

Industry convergence

Let’s just note, however, that the entities with the closest relationships to the owners of the batteries so critical to grid stability would not be the utilities but EV manufacturers. What’s stopping Elon Musk from enticing Tesla customers from sharing their batteries? Tesla could enable its customers provide energy from their batteries – and then sell it on the grid for a profit. Customers make money. Tesla makes money. Utility companies make money. Everybody is happy.

This transforms the automobile industry into an energy industry. At SAP we talk a lot about digital transformation as a response to digital disruption. This is disruption at its most dramatic.

Elon Musk has stated aims to make 500,000 Tesla’s in 2018. Let’s say he falls disastrously short and only hits half his target. Let’s also assume an average 80 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery size in the EVs – (Tesla cars today have battery sizes ranging from 60 -110 kWh). 250,000 cars x 80 kWh – and you’ll see that this fleet would have the capacity of 20 gigawatt hours of storage. For comparison, a gigawatt is roughly the output of a nuclear power plant. So, Tesla will be producing the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants worth of storage, at least, per year.

Electric vehicle manufacturers will be able to aggregate the energy on their networks, and sell access to their “virtual power plants”. It is a whole new world.

Stay tuned for more on how the transportation industry is changing forever.

 

Photo credit Tesla

Dear Internet of Things startups,…

Dear Internet of Things startups,

As you may already know, SAP is one of the world’s largest software companies. We produce the software that most companies use to produce their goods. But what you may not know is that we don’t stop there.

On the contrary, SAP also has

On top of all that, according to our 2016 Interactive Annual Report SAP is now employing over 84,100 people globally, who create software for over 345,000 customer organisations spread across 180 countries. In fact, it has reached the point where 76% of business transactions globally now touch an SAP system.

And SAP is deeply committed to the Internet of Things. SAP pledged last September to investing €2bn (US$2.2bn) in the Internet of Things during the next four years, while also announcing the acquisition of two significant IoT companies Fedem and Plat.One.

And SAP’s desire to lead in the IoT space comes from the very top of the organisation as you can see in this tweet from our CEO Bill McDermott:

Cool, right?

Even better, you and your startup can be part of the SAP ecosystem, gaining access to those 345,000 enterprise customers, and their deep, deep pockets. How?

Become involved in SAP’s IoT Accelerator program.

What’s that?

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator is a globally accessible co-innovation program for B2B startups, innovating in the world of IoT. The Accelerator helps startups grow and scale their business alongside SAP, our vast partner ecosystem and global customer base. We work with Accelerators, Incubators, Venture Firms, Academia and innovative technology providers to expand the IoT solutions ecosystem for our customers.

The SAP IoT Startup Accelerator seeks to find and enable the most promising IoT Startups to bring their solutions to market with SAP, and better yet because of that, SAP is not looking for fees or equity, we are looking for solutions that promote our shared customers success.

Curious to know more? Check out the SAP IoT Accelerator page on F6S.

What the Internet of Things will look like 10 years from now

I was asked recently where do you see the Internet of Things in 10 years?

It is a cool question to think about, and to frame it properly it helps to think back to what the world was like 10 years ago, and how far we have come since then.
iPhone launch 2007

Ten years ago, in 2007 Apple launched the iPhone. This was the first real smartphone, and it changed completely how we interact with information.

And if you think back to that first iPhone with its 2.5G connectivity, no front facing camera, 3.5 inch diagonal 163ppi screen and compare it to today’s iPhones, that is the level of change we are talking about in 10 years.

In 2027 the term Internet of Things will be redundant. In the same way that we no longer say, “Internet connected smartphone”, or “Interactive website” because the connectedness and interactivity are now a given, in 10 years time all the things will be connected and so the term Internet of Things will be superfluous.

Having said that, while the term may have become meaningless, that is only because the technologies will be pervasive, and that will change everything.

With significant progress in low cost connectivity, sensors, cloud-based services, and analytics, in 10 years we will see:

  • Connected Agriculture move to vertical and in-vitro food production, which will see higher yields from crops, lower inputs required to produce them including a significantly reduced land footprint, and the return of unused farmland to increase biodiversity and carbon sequestration (in forests)
  • Connected Transportation will enable tremendous efficiencies, and a major increase in safety as we transition to predictive maintenance of transportation fleets, as vehicles become autonomous and have vehicle-to-vehicle communication protocols as the norm, and as insurance premiums start to favour autonomous driving modes (Tesla cars have 40% fewer crashes when in Autopilot mode according to the NHTSA)
  • Connected Healthcare will move from the current reactive model to a more predictive healthcare, with sensors alerting of irregularities before any significant incident occurs, and the possibility to schedule and 3D print “spare parts”
  • Connected Manufacturing will enable the transition to manufacturing as a service, distributed manufacturing (3D printing) and make mass customisation with batch sizes of one very much the norm
  • Connected Energy with the sources of demand able to ‘listen’ to supply signals from generators, will facilitate moving to a system of demand more closely matching supply (with cheaper storage, low carbon generation, and end-to-end connectivity). This will stabilise the the grid and eliminate the fluctuations introduced by increasing the percentage of variable generators (solar, wind) in the system thereby reducing electricity generation’s carbon footprint
  • Human computer interfaces will migrate from today’s text-based and touch based systems towards Augmented and Mixed Reality (AR and MR) systems, with voice and gesture enabled UIs
  • And finally, we will see the rise of vast Business Networks. These networks will act like automated B2B marketplaces, facilitating information sharing amongst partners, empowering workers with greater contextual knowledge, and augmenting business processes with enhanced information

Many other aspects of our lives will be greatly improved (I’ve not mentioned improvement to logistics and supply chains with complete track and traceability all the way through the supply chain as a given, for example).

We are only at the start of our IoT journey. In 2007 when the smartphone was starting out the incredible advances we’ve seen as a consequence (i.e Apple’s open sourced ResearchKit being used to monitor the health of pregnant women) weren’t obvious, but they have happened. With the increasing pace of innovation, falling prices for components, and amazing network effects from the connected Internet of Things, the future looks very bright, even if we no longer use the term Internet of Things.

Photo credit Garry Knight on Flickr