Tag: climate change

(Lack of) Sustainability in the Mobile industry

I realised recently that although I have referred to the talk I gave in Barcelona on Mobile Sustainability (for the Mobile 2.0 conference) in a couple of posts I never talked about the talk directly here, so now it is time to redress that.

I have posted the slide deck above so you can follow along with the slides above and my explanation below.

Slides 1-3 are simply my introducing the topic and myself (along with my contact details).

I started off with a bit of a background:

  • Slides 4-6 I start to talk about some of the reasons why sustainability is important. Climate change, for example, is real and is recognised as real. Even that last hold-out, the US government, has now admitted it is real and have set up the United States Global Change Research program to study the effects of Climate Change on the US.
  • Slide 7 – New studies show that the impacts of climate change are likely to be worse than we anticipated
  • Slide 8 – The polar ice caps are shrinking far faster than anyone predicted
  • Slide 9 – Climate change is affecting animal populations today
  • Slide 10 – Climate change is affecting the world’s river systems, and thus access to water for many people globally today
  • Slide 11-13 – This is having devastating effects on people in South America, the Middle East, and Asia (and agriculture in Australia and California)
  • Slide 14 – NGO’s are warning that the humanitarian systems, already stretched thin, will be overwhelmed

Then I went on to discuss the business case for sustainability today:

Having set the stage (we need to be more sustainable, and look, there is a strong consensus that there is a business case for it too), I started to bring the talk around to the subject of the Mobile industry:

  • Slide 24 – Quote from Smart 2020 report saying ICTs could deliver emissions reductions of at least 15% by 2020
  • Slide 25 – While there are 1 billion PCs in the world today, and 1.4 billion Internet users, there are 4 billion mobile phone subscriptions
  • Slides 26-29 – Examples of Green handsets from Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. I made the point here that in many cases the ‘Green handsets’ being produced by manufacturers are simply so they can ‘tick that box’ in the annual report. Sony had 57 handsets on their website. 1 was green. Green handsets should be the rule, not the exception.
  • Slides 30-33 – I checked out the websites some of the main mobile operators. 3 have no mention whatsoever (that I could find) of sustainability on their corporate website; the websites of Telefonica and O2 had Sustainability sites but they could both stand a lot of work, while Vodafone’s Sustainability site was the best of the mobile operators which I examined (that’s not to say it couldn’t stand some improvement too!)
  • Slides 34-36 A quick look at some of the Sustainability apps which have been developed for the mobile platform – slim pickings, tbh!

So having shown how poorly this industry is doing in terms of sustainability, I posited a few what-if’s:

  • Slide 38
    What if manufacturers made phones which lasted 6 yrs not 6 months? Rent, not buy?
    What if manufacturers made non-toxic handsets?
    What if manufacturers standardised to usb chargers?
    What if mobile operators switched to e-billing?
  • Slide 39
    What if carriers avoided unnecessary duplication in mobile networks, (would lead to a savings of 300gWh pa in UK alone)
    What if everyone pushed sustainability down supply chain?
    What if developers used mobile platform to build apps which ‘made a difference’?
    What if grid computing client apps were created for mobiles?
    Other?

Under the “Other” heading go ideas like creating Augmented Reality applications for handsets with sustainability related information, or what if the phone makers included pollution sensors (for example) in handsets. With the ubiquity of handsets and with most handsets having inbuilt Internet access, it wouldn’t be long before realtime information on air quality worldwide would be available. Combine that with an Augmented Reality app so people can visualize live their air quality and you would very quickly see changes in people’s behaviour.

Finally, I concluded with two quotes to show why this is critical:

  • Slide 40 – From the 2007 IPCC Climate Change Synthesis Report [PDF Warning]
    As global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5 degrees C, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe.
  • Slide 41 – From the Chair of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri
    If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.

The thing to remember here is that Rajendra Pachauri is a George Bush appointee. He was appointed Chair of the IPCC because his predecessor, Dr. Robert Watson was deemed by the American fossil fuel industry (and in particular ExxonMobil) to be too outspoken.

Rajendra Pachauri and the IPCC’s quotes are the conservative point of view.

Mobile phones are ubiquitous. There are in excess of 4 billion of them. They are now for all intents and purposes hand-held computers increasingly with an Internet connection. Shame on us all if we don’t leverage this incredible resource in the battle to mitigate the effects of climate change.

by-sa

New battery technology imminent?

I was reading a report on Ars Technica today about an emerging battery technology which could totally change how we use batteries today.

The breakthrough comes from using capacitors as batteries. Up until now this has not been feasible because there hasn’t been a strong enough insulator to make this approach compelling. However, EEstor, the company who have made the breakthrough have applied for a patent for a highly insulated capacitor.

In their patent application, it suggests that:

the charge storage is much higher than anything achieved in an academic lab: 52 kilowatt-hours in a 2,000 cubic inch capacitor array. A rough conversion calculation suggests that this is over 10 times the power density of standard lead-acid batteries.

The Ars Technica article goes on to note that:

the Associated Press is reporting that the ZENN Motor Company, which makes compact electric cars, plans to start using the capacitors before the year is out. The company has invested in EEStar in return for production goals being met and so is in a position to know how realistic its claims are

If this has any basis in fact, it could have incredible consequences for the reduction of carbon emissions from transport and from the environment in general with the reduction in the use of the particularly nasty chemicals which currently go to make up batteries.

Climate change

They had snow the other day in Buenos Aires.

Texas has had one of the wettest June’s on record with Marble Falls getting 18″ of rain overnight!

Australia is suffering from a drought for the last five years which is threatening to destroy 40% of its agricultural output.

The UK has had one of the wettest June’s on record with some people in Hull still unable to return to their homes.

And despite the weather here in Ireland of late, it seems that according to the Met Office, temperatures in Ireland have been gradually climbing for the last 27 years!

Climate Change

And some people still deny that climate change is occurring? Incredible.

Video interviewed by Loic

Loic Le Meur, France’s best known blogger and organiser of the Le Web conference interviewed me recently by Skype Video.

Previously I had panned Loic very publicly for the way he handled the Le Web conference last year. Loic starts this video by asking how he can do better this year. Soliciting people’s opinions is a great start Loic. Loic finished by asking me to be on the advisory board of this year’s Le Web. I’m now on the advisory board of the Le Web conference, the Web 2.0 Expo in Berin and I’m chair of the organising committeeit@cork annual Business in Technology conference. Phew!

For the majority of the interview (from 06:30 onwards) we talked about CIX, how to make data centres carbon neutral (while at the same time facilitating bringing more wind energy onto the national grid!) and the energy efficiency strategies we have designed into the CIX data centre.

I’m going to be printing out the screen grab from this video and using it to scare away the neighbours kids!

Using I.T. to add green power to the network

The problem with wind power is that its production is variable and difficult to predict. From the perspective of a power supply company, such a supplier is unreliable and likely to de-stabilise the power network.

For instance, at 2am in Ireland, when the demand for electricity is near its lowest, if a 40mph wind is blowing across the country, wind can be supplying up to 30% of the demand. However, if the wind picks up to 50mph, the wind farms shut down to protect their mechanisms and suddenly you lose 30% of your supply! The electricity supply companies have to scramble to bring power stations online to meet the sudden fall off.

In CIX, we have come up with a strategy for Data Centre’s to act as a flywheel for electricity supply companies. This will allow the supply companies to greatly increase the amount of green energy they buy. And if the Data Centre’s are burning biodiesel then you are in a win-win situation .

It seems we are not alone in our thinking – Google, no-less, has come up with a similar strategy using cars! Yes cars. You’d think that with all their data centres they’d use them in the way we propose but they have decided to go the ‘vehicle to grid’ route for now.

Google’s strategy is modify hybrid cars so that they can consume power from the grid. These new ‘plug-in hybrids’ achieve 70-100mpg.

These plug-in hybrids take power from the grid overnight at times of low demand, say. Then the batteries in these cars, which store electricity, can ‘sell’ electricity back to the grid at times of high demand.

Check out the Google video on this to see what I mean:

A cute idea but one which would have to achieve massive scale before making a difference, I suspect.

Tax on company cars causes increased carbon emissions!

I was speaking to a sales rep yesterday who was driving a company car. He told me about the Irish government’s scheme to tax people for receipt of company cars. It is called Benefit in Kind (BiK).

Basically, if your employer gives you a company car, you are liable to pay 30% of the original market value of the car in tax (the original market value includes the amount the government already collects in VRT!).

However, if you do more than 15,000 per annum, the amount of BiK you have to pay drops. The more mileage you do, the less BiK you have to pay (up to a ceiling at 30,000 miles).

Sounds fair, you might say. These people are using the cars the company gave them.

Possibly, until you realise that what this law does is incentivise company car owners to use their cars more to drive to meetings (for example) where they might otherwise have taken a more carbon friendly alternative (telecon anyone?). The rep I was talking to said he will preferentially drive anywhere to get his mileage up!

If you want to tax company cars, why not do it on the basis of their carbon footprint (or engine size if that rating isn’t easy to come by). Something like €500 for cars 1.6L and less; €2,500 for 1.6L to 2L; €6,000 for 2L to 3L and €12,000 for 3L and above index linked.

BarCamp Dublin was great

I attended BarCamp Dublin at the weekend and it was a fantastic day – kudos to the organisers (Paul, Elly, Joe, Paul, and Eoghan).

I was waylaid in the corridors several times so I didn’t get to as many talks as I would have liked.

I did get to good friend and TCD law lecturer Eoin O’Dell‘s talk on the law, and how it relates to blogging. It was very sobering (and I hadn’t even had a drink!) and very entertaining at the same time! Eoin told us the only way to ensure we weren’t likely to be sued for something we publish online is not to publish anything online!

I also got to Darren Barefoot‘s presentation on Social Media which was excellent, as you’d expect from Darren, despite the wifi letting him down.

I spent the next couple of hours catching up with people and unfortunately I missed Eoghan‘s talk on usability 🙁

After lunch I listened eagerly to John Ward‘s fascinating story of selling Web 2.0 technologies to financial institutions. Well done John, no mean feat.

Then we had a panel discussion on social media. I was on the panel with Sean, Darren and Karlin. We had a highly interactive and wide-ranging discussion which touched on everything from Cavalier King Charles Spaniel forums (no, really!) to blog comment spam.

After the panel discussion it was time for my presentation on CIX. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people stayed awake during a presentation on data centre energy efficiency strategies and a hair-brained carbon neutrality strategy!

After this, I was interviewed for a podcast by Ina (missing out on Krishna‘s talk – sorry Krishna).

Then we retired to the Lord Edward pub.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long as I had to catch the train back to Cork but it was shaping up to be a good night when I left.

BarCamp Dublin on Saturday

BarCamp Dublin is on this Saturday (21st April 2007) in the Digital Hub.

Registration starts at 09:15 with the talks kicking off at 10:00.

There are lots of great speakers lined up to talk on topics as diverse as “Web Usability 101” right through to “Law of Blogs; Blogs of Law”.

I’ll be giving a talk on CIX’s data centre and how we hope to be carbon neutral.

I’m really looking forward to the day. It will be a fantastic opportunity to catch up with lots of old friends, make lots of new ones and hear fantastic talks into the bargain.

Oh, did I mention that entry is free?

See you there.

Yahoo! also going for carbon neutrality!

I see Yahoo! has announced that it is going to follow our lead in CIX *cough* and aim for carbon neutrality!

In the announcement David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo! said:

we’re going to invest in greenhouse gas reduction projects around the world to neutralize Yahoo!’s impact on the environment. While doing our homework on this, we measured our carbon footprint and discovered that Yahoo! going carbon neutral is equivalent to shutting off the electricity in all San Francisco homes for a month. Or, pulling nearly 25,000 cars off the road for a year.

While buying carbon credits isn’t the ideal way to go carbon neutral (I can think of a couple of better ways – David, come along to my talk at Barcamp Dublin on Saturday if you want to know more!), it is certainly a step in the right direction and puts a financial imperative on the company to “clean up its act”, from a carbon point of view, at least!

Kudos to Yahoo! for taking this stance and hopefully we’ll see more companies going down this route sooner than later (though I don’t see Halliburton coming on board any time soon).

An inconvenient truth

I watched Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth last night and, I must say, it was very good. Hopefully it will serve as a wake up call to those who dismiss climate change as a myth. Unfortunately though, I think those who watch it will do so because they have an interest in this area and those who don’t believe in climate change will never watch it.

Some interesting facts which came out of the movie – for instance Al debunks the notion that scientists disagree about climate change. He pointed out that in a study of over 900 scientific papers on global warming (a randomised selection of 10% of all scientific papers published in the area in the last 10 years) not one scientific paper came out against global warming.

Whereas the same study looked at over 600 newspaper reports on global warming and 53% of them came out against climate change.

In the same way that the tobacco industry tried to tell us that smoking is not bad for our health, it looks like the petroleum industry is now trying to debunk global warming and right now, it is winning the PR war.