Welcome to episode thirty two of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had SAP‘s Sameer Patel as the guest on our show. Sameer and I are members of the Enterprise Irregulars group – a loose group of analysts and vendors with an interest in enterprise software. Previous Enterprise Irregulars who have guested on the show include David Terrar, Craig Cmehil, and Jon Reed.
There was a problem which wasn’t apparent to us during the show and that was that the video from my side never showed up in the recording. I suspect that’s because I was using a beta version of Chrome, but anyway, the audio, and Sameer’s video feed was recorded, so all’s well.
This week we didn’t get through all the stories we had lined up, ‘cos we had such a good discussion around the ones we did manage to fit in!
I had a really interesting, wide-ranging, conversation with SalesForce’s VP for Strategic Research, Peter Coffee the other day.
A lot of our conversation revolved around how recent changes in the Internet of Things space, in ubiquitous computing, and in Big Data and analytics area are enabling profound effects on how we interact with the world.
Peter had a superb analogy – that of sound travelling through air. When sound is generated, it is transmitted from the source to the surrounding air particles, which vibrate or collide and pass the sound energy along to our ears. Without any air particles to vibrate, we wouldn’t hear the sound (hence there is no sound in space).
As you enter our planet’s atmosphere from space you start to encounter molecules of air. The more molecules there are, the better they can interact and the more likely they are to transmit sound.
If you hadn’t experienced air before, you might not be aware of the existence of sound. It is unlikely you would even predict that there would be such a thing as sound.
In a similar way, in the late eighties, when very few people had mobile phones, it would have been nigh on impossible to predict the emergence of the mobile computing platforms we’re seeing now, and the advances they’ve brought to things like health, education and access to markets (and cat videos!).
And, we are just at the beginning of another period when massive change will be enabled. This time by pervasive connectivity. And not just the universal connectivity of people which mobile phones has enabled, but the connectivity of literally everything that is being created by low cost sensors and the Internet of Things.
But with the drastic fall in the price of the technologies, devices such as cars, light bulbs, even toothbrushes that were never previously, are now being instrumented and connected to the Internet.
This proliferation of (typically cloud) connected devices will allow for massive shifts in our ability to generate, analyse, and act on, data sets that we just didn’t have before now.
When we look at the concept of the connected home, for example. Back in 2009 when we in GreenMonk were espousing the Electricity 2.0 vision, many of the technologies to make it happen, hadn’t even been invented. Now, however, not only are our devices at home increasingly becoming connected, but technology providers like Apple, Google, and Samsung are creating platforms to allow us better manage all our connected devices. The GreenMonk Electricity 2.0 vision is now a lot closer to becoming reality.
In a less than obvious move earlier this week, SAP launched a ride-sharing app called TwoGo.
Why less than obvious? Well, ride-sharing is generally perceived as more of a consumer focused activity, than an enterprise one. And SAP is very much an Enterprise software company.
A quick search for ride-share iPhone apps, for example returns 24 results, all of which are consumer software plays.
TwoGo is more than just a smartphone app though (it is available on most mobile platforms), TwoGo customers can also access it through its website, via email, via any iCal enabled calendar application, and even via SMS.
It is a single instance, multi-tenant cloud application. This is important because it means for any organisations deploying TwoGo, set-up on SAP’s side simply involves adding the organisations email domain to the customer table. Then employees are immediately enabled to create a TwoGo account by signing up with their work email address.
Also, because it is single-instance and multi-tenant, smaller companies can sign up and benefit from sharing rides with employees of other companies in the area who are also TwoGo subscribers.
And because TwoGo works with email, and iCal already, integration issues are minimal.
Why would an organisation want to deploy a ride-sharing app, you ask?
There are several good reasons –
if companies are subsidising travel for employees, ride-sharing reduces the number of trips taken by employees, thereby contributing directly to the organisation’s bottom line.
For organisations with vehicle fleets, this also reduces wear and tear, service and maintenance costs for vehicles.
Then there’s the issue of having to provide car parking spaces for employees – this is expensive and a poor use of the space. Reducing the number of cars coming to work, de-facto reduces the amount of car parking spaces an organisation needs to provide.
And, obviously, ride-sharing will also reduce the organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Then there’s the more intangible benefits –
Employees spending more time together leads to serendipitous meetings – what was previously ‘dead time’ in the car can now be productive
And it brings employees closer to each other and to the company
What about employees though – what benefits can they get from ride-sharing?
The obvious one is the ability to use carpool lanes on freeways where traffic often moves significantly faster
Then there’s the social benefits of meeting new people, making new friends and learning more about other job functions in your organisation.
TwoGo, although just now being released, has been in operation at SAP for 2 years now. It is at release number 4.5, so this is already a mature product. SAP themselves report that TwoGo has generated more than $5 million in value, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating 400,000 miles of driving, and matched employees into carpools more than 36,000 times, creating 2,200 additional days of networking time among employees.
The app is highly configurable and has clever algorithms which only offer a user a ride to work, if it can also offer him/her a ride home that evening, as well. And obviously, the app has block lists to ensure you are not repeatedly offered lifts with someone you’d rather avoid.
Given all the benefits of TwoGo, we have to wonder why other enterprise software vendors haven’t come up with a similar product before now. Or have they? Does TwoGo have an enterprise competitor we’re not aware of?
I attended the first three days of IBM’s Start summit last week and I’m definitely going back this week for more.
The venue (Lancaster House) is a sumptuous mansion in the centre of London whose opulence, defies description!
The event kicked off with a day dedicated to discussing Smarter Cities. The speaker list included Martin Powell (Boris Johnson’s Advisor on the Environment), Nigel Hugill (Chair of the board, Centre for Cities), Hamish McRae (Associate Editor, The Independent), and Emma Harrison CBE (who seemed a little out-of-place to be honest!).
IBM’s Ginni Rometty spaeking at IBM Start
The audience on the day included several chief executives of cities, the talks (especially Martin Powell’s Achieving a Sustainable 21st Century City Environment) were incredibly interesting, and the networking was tremendous.
Day two was Smarter Energy for a Sustainable Future. This was by far the best of the three days I attended, which says a lot considering how good the other days were! Again, the speakers (incl Charles Hendry (UK Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change), Martin Lawrence, (MD, EDF) and Rachel Fletcher, Director Distribution, Ofgem) and the audience were stellar but two things made this day stand out for me: 1) there was far more audience participation encouraged than either of the other two days and 2) most of the discussions were about Smart Grids – a topic I have had a deep interest in for some time now.
Day three was all about Smart Transportation. Once more the delegate and speaker lists were stratospheric…
Temperatures in Tibet rose last year to the highest level since records began for the remote Himalayan country, which scientists say is particularly vulnerable to global warming, state media reported on Friday.
The Associated Press recently reported that at least 27 of 104 nuclear reactors across the United States are leaking potentially dangerous levels of tritium into the groundwater around the plants.
The scope of the problem surfaced after the recent discovery of a leak at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. According to the AP, new tests have shown that the levels of tritium in the wells at the Vernon, Vermont site are more than three-and-a-half times the federal safety standard.
“We’ve heard this one before; Obama threatening to sever subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. He called for ending the subsidies during his SOTU, and was doing so even before that. Now, he’s proposing that $36 billion worth of those subsidies for oil and $2.3 billion for coal (both get $70 billion a year in total) get stripped from the budget–which would be great. Too bad special interests will almost certainly keep this from happening.