Those of you who are connected to, or are following me on LinkedIn may have noticed an update to my profile there the other day. I have joined The Futures Agency.
What is The Futures Agency?
The Futures Agency is like a speaker’s bureau except that it specialises in futurists – people who are looking at trends in technology and society and who attempt to predict from that where we are headed.
Is this a full time gig?
No, this is a non-exclusive arrangement – The Futures Agency prefers to call us Members, so I can continue to work with other organisations, as before.
How did this come about?
I was invited to be one of two keynote speakers to address the 56th CEPIS Council Meeting in Athens recently. The other keynote speaker was Gerd Leonhard, Futurist, and CEO of The Futures Agency.
Gerd and I got to talking over lunch and he was interested in some of the things I had to say.
Gerd was seemingly impressed by the talk, and so he invited me to join his agency. And I was honoured to accept.
You’re a Futurist, what are next week’s winning lottery numbers? Good question – that will take a little time to think about. How about you leave that one with me, and I’ll have an answer for you, oh I don’t know, say… next week? 😉
If anyone has any more questions for me, feel free to leave them here in the comments, to email me, or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever is your preferred chat app.
Build sports car
Use that money to build an affordable car
Use that money to build an even more affordable car
While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
And with the launch (for pre-order) of the Tesla Model 3 last month, the Secret Master Plan is now well under way (if a little behind schedule!).
However, I’ve long suspected that Elon Musk has even greater ambitions than moving the world to electric transportation. I think he has two more Secret Master Plans, and I’m going to lay them out below. See if you agree with me.
The first is the more obvious of the two – to disrupt Uber, public transportation, and other ride sharing operators, by allowing owners of fully autonomous Tesla vehicles to participate in a Tesla operated ride sharing scheme.
How would it work – well, when I drive to work in the morning in my Tesla. I park the my car, and engage the Ride Share mode. The car then broadcasts its location and availability to the network, which assigns it rides as and when they are needed. At the end of my work day, my car knows to meet me back at my place of work to take me home, and I can choose once more to set it to Ride Share mode, or have it charge (or both if I have the Tesla robotic charging arm).
The trips would be undertaken on a revenue sharing basis, so money made could well be put towards the car loan/lease costs. In this way, the car could go a long way towards paying for itself, while also reducing traffic congestion, reducing global emissions, and making the roads safer.
The second Secret Master Plan is less obvious – it involves disrupting the utility industry. How?
By using the batteries in the electric vehicles to buy and sell energy. I know this may sound totally outlandish, but bear with me.
Most home energy storage systems store somewhere between 4-8kWh of electricity (with Tesla’s PowerWall coming in at 6.4kWh). But if you own a Tesla car, your battery is 70-90kWh (for the Model S, it may be as low as 50kWh for the Model 3). That’s still a lot more than a home energy system.
But let’s be conservative and say that Tesla manages to deliver 200,000 cars in 2020 with an average battery of 60kWh. A quick bit of maths tells us
60KWh x 200,000 = 12,000,000KWh
12,000,000kWh = 12,000MWh
12,000MWh = 12GWh
12GWh is a lot of storage. For context, that’s the ability to store an hour’s output from 12 typical modern nuclear reactors.
Now, add to this the fact that every Tesla sold has an always-on data connection.
Suddenly you realise Tesla has the ability to control dozens of virtual nuclear power plants worth of storage, and Tesla will be selling at least 12 more nuclear power plants worth of storage, every year. Conservatively.
So the business case – Tesla can sell usage of this distributed storage to utility companies to use as backup, or for frequency regulation, to help smooth the demand curve on the grid, and remove the instability introduced by the addition of variable generators (wind and solar). If utilities can buy energy from Tesla at times of peak demand, it can mean they avoid having to build a power plant (or 12), which is a huge cost saving for them, and also reduces their emissions because peaker plants are invariably powered by burning fossil fuels.
For Tesla car owners, they get paid on a revenue share basis for use of the battery in their car, and the increased grid stability allows for more variable generators (wind and solar) to be added to the grid, making the world a better place for everyone. And that sounds just like something Elon Musk would want.
After all, Musk is the guy who said, when he published his Master Plan back in 2006:
the overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution
So what do you think, will Tesla be the next ride-sharing platform, while also becoming the Uber of electricity?
The price of oil has cratered. In 2012 it was over $120 a barrel. Today, 2016, it is at $42 a barrel, and this is an improvement from January and February of this year when it went under $30 a barrel.
Previously, when the price of oil fell, OPEC would meet, they’d agree to cut the output, and the constrained supply would ensure the price would rise once more. Why isn’t that happening now?
Most commentators are putting it down to the fact that Iran, who were under sanctions until very recently, understandably don’t want to cut production, and with Iran not cutting back, Saudi Arabia won’t either.
However, there’s another thesis which I think is more likely, and if true, oil prices will remain low for the foreseeable future. That thesis states that Saudi Arabia has realised that we are at the end of the Oil Age, and that a large percentage of the world’s fossil fuel resources will have to remain in the ground. With this in mind, it makes sense for Saudi Arabia to make sure they can extract, and monetise as much of their fossil fuel resources, as possible, while they still can.
What is the evidence for this?
First off, consider that last Friday 170+ countries signed the Paris Climate Accord whose aim to to limit global warming to 1.5-2C. Now that we have an upper limit on the temperature increase we are willing to accept, we also know how much CO2 we need to put into the atmosphere to achieve this amount of warming. It comes in at 1,100Gt CO2 [PDF] (1Gt = 1 gigaton = 1 billion tons).
On the other hand, the total proven reserves of the fossil fuel companies, and countries comes to 3,300Gt CO2. Notice the problem? 70-80% of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground if we are to keep global warming below 2C.
Now Saudi Arabia has known about this issue for quite some time. As far back as the year 2000, Sheikh Yamani famously predicted that
Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.
In fairness Sheikh Yamani’s reasoning didn’t have to do with climate change, but better drilling and exploration technologies, but still it has come to pass, and in this scenario Saudi Arabia has to race to produce as much oil as it can, no matter what the price, so as little Saudi oil as possible is left in the ground. Consequently Saudi Arabia is now producing somewhere between 10.3m-11m barrels per day – an historic high.
And then at last week’s OPEC meeting in Doha to try to stabilise oil production, Saudi Arabia scuppered the talks, ensuring no freezing of oil outputs. This has the added advantage of squeezing the other producers, few of whom can produce oil at the same low cost as Saudi Arabia.
Then yesterday comes the announcement that the Saudi cabinet approved a set of reforms aimed at moving the country away from its dependence on oil profits. They have seen the writing on the wall, and so while on the one hand they are going all out to maximise the amount of oil they can extract and sell, they are at the same time setting up a sovereign wealth fund of $2tn to ensure they, in the words of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
can live without oil by 2020
So, with Saudi Arabia diversifying away from oil revenues, and unlikely to reduce output any time soon, there is no obvious reason why oil prices will ever rise again. And Sheikh Yamani’s prediction about a huge amount of oil being left in the ground will come to pass.
Getting you supply chain wrong on the other hand can have serious consequences. Tesco saw €360m knocked off its value overnight when it was discovered that it’s beef burgers were found to be 29% horse meat. Investigations subsequently showed that the horse meat entered the supply chain without Tesco’s knowledge, but the issue still had significant implications for people’s trust in the brand.
Nearly a decade ago, lightning struck a Philips microchip plant in New Mexico, causing a fire that contaminated millions of mobile phone chips. Among Philips’ biggest customers were Nokia and Ericsson, the mobile phone manufacturers, but each reacted differently to the disaster. Nokia’s supplychain management strategy allowed it to switch suppliers quickly; it even re-engineered some of its phones to accept both American and Japanese chips, which meant its production line was relatively unaffected. Ericsson, however, accepted Philips’ word that production at the plant would be back on track in a week and took no action. That decision cost Ericsson more than US$400m in annual earnings and, perhaps more significantly, the company lost market share. By contrast, Nokia’s profits rose by 42% that year.
If every item in your supply chain is part of a blockchain, then it has a proven provenance. Add to this always-on traceability using Internet of Things technologies, and you suddenly have a robust, transparent, virtually bullet-proof supply chain.
Has anyone rolled this out for their supply chain yet? Not that I know of, but it can only be a matter of time (did I mention supply chains are complex?).
It is quick and easy to read with 5-6 story links maximum. But the stories which will relate to the topics I regularly research (the Internet of Things, Energy, and CleanTech), will be the most important stories in these areas for that week.
I will be publishing the newsletter every Friday, so you can enjoy the stories, just as we head into (or during) the weekend 🙂
Apple held it’s annual spring event yesterday in Palo Alto to make iPhone, iPad, and iOS related announcements (amongst others).
However, this year for a change the first executive invited to address the audience was Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, former EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson.
Lisa was greeted by warm applause which became more enthusiastic when she announced that 93% of Apple’s facilities worldwide are now powered by renewable energy. This means Apple is now well on its way to achieving its stated aim of being fully renewably powered globally. And in 23 countries, including the United States and China, Apple is already 100% renewably powered.
In China Jackson explained, Apple has a 40MW solar farm which has a minimal impact on the local environment, and allows for the local Yak farmers to graze their animals and grow hay under the panels (seen above). This solar farm produces more electricity than Apple uses currently in all of China.
a non-profit organisation seeking to improve and promote a high standard among ICT professionals, in recognition of the impact that ICT has on employment, business and society. CEPIS currently represents 33 member societies in 32 countries across greater Europe. Through its members, who are the professional ICT bodies at national level, CEPIS represents 450,000 ICT professionals
Quite an honour to be asked to address them.
This got me to thinking of all the prestigious talks I’ve given in the last few months.
I addressed the TeslaWorld event in Antwerp last year (see video above). This was a spectacular event with two Tesla Model S cars on either side of the stage, a phenomenal line-up of speakers, and I got to drive a Tesla on the way back to the airport! So that was pretty awesome, and I have to admit to seeing my Prius in a less favourable light when I arrived home 😦
In a time when Spain’s economy is in the doldrums, it is nice to see some good news coming out of the Iberian peninsula, especially in the Internet of Things (IoT) space – technology’s new hotness!
Libelium, an IoT hardware and software provider based in the North of Spain, and recently profiled in a Financial Times piece where they were referred to as a “baby unicorn”, just announced that it has launched an IoT Marketplace.
The marketplace currently has 15 boxed IoT solutions for sale, but Libelium plans to increase this to 50 as the year progresses.
As well as the kits covering verticals, there are also Application Development kits for developing IoT solutions for Microsoft Azure, esri, IBM Bluemix, Thingworx, and Telefonica’s cloud platforms.
And there specific Solution kits created together with partners like Indra, Thing+, IOTSENS, and elementblue. These kits include pre-configured hardware to speed up time to live.
In a move likely to be popular with their customers, Libelium took advantage of existing partnerships with cloud providers to ensure that kits were available with trial access to cloud offerings. This cleverly allows Marketplace customers to try the different cloud platforms, seeing which one works well, before buying.
And, this is a true marketplace. Clicking on the Buy button, brings the user to a screen with fields for entering credit card details, or using a Paypal account to buy the kit (I didn’t attempt to purchase an actual kit, so I can’t verify that part of the site works, but I’ve no reason to think it doesn’t).
I asked Libelium CEO Alicia Asín about the genesis of the marketplace and she explained that Libelium’s VARs were often not finding it easy to sell solutions to customers because they were working from a 70+ page catalog, and architecting a solution for a customer wasn’t something they were necessarily comfortable doing.
So in order to make it easier to come up with the right equipment Libelium launched a trial with four vertical kits last year in June. Despite being launched half way through the year, they were some of the company’s top selling products by the year’s end, and so the marketplace was born.
This marketplace idea is an interesting one for organisations looking to run a pilot or proof of concept, without too much risk. The variety of hardware, communications standards, and software protocols to be taken into account in any significant IoT project can be daunting, and any attempt to simplify this should be lauded.
At the 2014 SAP TechEd && d-code event in Las Vegas, I spoke to Dr Severin Kezeu of SK Solutions. His company has developed an Internet of Things based safety technology which has been deployed on building sites throughout the world.
What it does is to send in realtime, the positions of all vehicles, and workers on site, so that in the case a potential collision is detected, action can be taken to avert the collision, thereby saving expensive equipment, and more importantly, keeping people safe.
Yesterday was my last day working for RedMonk. I headed up RedMonk’s cleantech, energy and sustainability practice which we called GreenMonk, for almost eight years, but all good things must come to an end.
I’m fortunate now that I’m talking to a number of people about next steps, and some exciting opportunities are already starting to present themselves. However, if you know of something you think could be interesting for me, or some organisation that you feel could do with my help, do please let me know.
Nothing has been signed yet, so all possibilities will be considered 🙂