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Energy2016

The rule of Moore’s Law is rapidly coming to renewables. This “law” — predicting that the processing power of a computer chip doubles ever year while the cost is halved — is coming to the manufacturing process of renewable technology, to the infrastructure built into renewables, and to the systems that drive renewable use.

From an article I wrote for GE Reports, a global publication of General Electric.

From advances in renewables to data-driven efficiencies and empowered consumers, 2016 offers the opportunity to shape the future of energy.

In my view, 2016 will prove to be a watershed year when it comes to sustainable energy. Years from now, we’ll look back and realize that a variety of technological, design and demographic trends drove the power sector forward, accelerated by one key event — the Paris climate accord.

The accord will prove to be a huge motivating factor for both individuals, as well as the industrial and utility sector, to start to think bigger in terms of what can be done with smart energy systems and non-carbon technology.

For the first time, we have a global consciousness that the time is right to try to accomplish something unique — to apply our technological, design, architecture and analytical capabilities to come up with solutions that will help to drive down our reliance on a carbon economy.

It’s happening at two levels. Individuals and small energy cooperatives are leading the charge through small crowdfunded initiatives, or through what has come to be known as the “maker” economy.

In addition, Paris will encourage large utilities to move faster with alternative energy opportunities. They’ll take a closer look at what they can do to help to achieve the bold goals of a cleaner energy future. They’ll be less willing to take criticism over those who might browbeat them over economic models that might sometimes be marginal. But going forward, it won’t just be the financial return on investment that matters — but the social return as well.

Here are a few predictions for the energy sector in 2016 and beyond:

The most promising breakthrough in renewable power will likely be a massive amount of innovation throughout every aspect of the sector. This is coming about because of our ability to apply more connectivity and computer intelligence to every single aspect of renewables — whether it’s generation, transmission, or deep analytics into the efficiency of operations.

Essentially, what I think is happening is that the rule of Moore’s Law is rapidly coming to renewables. This “law” — predicting that the processing power of a computer chip doubles ever year while the cost is halved — is coming to the manufacturing process of renewable technology, to the infrastructure built into renewables, and to the systems that drive renewable use.

It’s almost as if it’s 1981, when arrival of the personal computer caught the imagination of thousands of hackers and developers — and the rest is history. I think we are at the same tipping point with renewables, particularly small-scale energy generation.

Some of the most fascinating innovations are occurring in the global “maker” and crowdfunding initiatives. People interested in solar development are building small communities in which shared insight is accelerating the pace of pure science. This globally connected mind is turning itself toward solving some unique challenges in the world of energy and renewables.

Big Data will enable the power sector to add far more intelligence to the grid, and to have far better insight into operational conditions. Most of the grid today is pretty dumb — it’s built for one-way transmission, from big energy production facilities out to homes and industries. But there is a tremendous amount of investment in creating a two-way, intelligent and interactive grid. This changes everything, allowing us to more easily accommodate and utilize the energy production occurring in a more distributed world.

In homes across the world, the Internet of Things will enable energy consumers to build their own micro-climate monitoring systems, and better manage their personal energy infrastructure usage.

Consider this: it’s entirely feasible today for someone with just a little bit of technical knowledge to build their own local micro-climate weather monitoring system. Now imagine that you can link it to your intelligent home energy thermostat, one of the fastest-growing home-based IoT categories. Go a step further — add some solar, wind or biomass energy-generation capability — and link your own personal Big Data to that technology, in order to come up with the most optimal time to generate your own power.

Expand that to what’s possible in the industrial sector. Global companies with large-scale facilities now have the ability to monitor and manage all their energy infrastructure worldwide from one central data viewpoint. They can see what it necessary to reduce usage, avoid cost and be more intelligent about how energy is deployed.

I’m a big believer that we are on the edge of “real magic” when it comes to the future of energy and utilities. It’s not just the trends above; it’s the fact that we have new solutions that didn’t exist before — such as intelligent lighting technology that is so advanced that it is hard to put the efficiency it provides into perspective.

From my view, the future of energy is all about opportunity.

I’ve recently done a number of very high profile talks in the health care, pharmaceutical and related industries, including opening the recent World Pharma Innovation Congress in London, England.

Just last week, I was the opening speaker for a very early start at 730AM in New Orleans for over 4,500 people at the International Foundation 57th U.S. Annual Employee Benefits Conference – always a fascinating experience to have that many people out in N.O. for an early keynote!

The organizations selected me specifically because I could give them an overview of future health care trends, without taking at look at the political issue of health care reform. After all, the real trends that will provide the real solutions to some pretty massive challenges in the world of health care will come from the world of science, hi-tech and pure research — not from an ongoing, relentless, annoying and ultimately useless amount of hot-air from politicians, regardless of their political stripe.

For New Orleans, the keynote description emphasized this : which is perhaps why so many showed up!

“Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurists, will share his thoughts on transformative trends that will define the road ahead in the critical area of health care. The fact is we will witness more change in health care in the next ten years than we have seen in the last 200. Hear Mr. Carroll forecast what paradigms will change as health care is transformed through the next decade, far beyond the impact of health care reform.

At events such as this one and the keynote in London, I take a look at the future of health care from the perspective of medical science, social and demographic trends, the impact of increasing velocity of knowledge and other major trends that have absolutely nothing to do with the political debate around health care reform. You can’t wish a problem into a solution — you need pure research and innovation to make things real.

And certainly one of the trends that is going to provide tremendous opportunities for innovation in the sector will come about as Silicon Valley sets its sights on health care. Years ago, a senior executive at Intel noted that “we have the potential to aim our innovation engine at the age wave challenge and change the way we do health care from a crisis- driven, assembly-line, hospital approach to a personal-driven approach, with people taking care of themselves with help from family, friends and technologies.” At the time they were speaking of health care being one of their top five sources of revenue in the years to come.

That’s why one of the biggest growth markets we are beginning to witness now is emerging as Silicon Valley and the hi-tech industry begins to get involved in the world of health care in a whole variety of different ways.

First and foremost, it’s happening in a very big way with consumer-oriented health care apps, particularly on the iPhone and Android. A recent survey indicated that:

  • 78% of consumers are interested in mobile health solutions
  • medical and health care apps are 3rd fast growing category for iPhone and Android phones
  • the Apple App store now has 17,000 health care related apps, 60% of which are aimed at the consumer

We will certainly see a huge amount of product innovation, such as the new iPhone based blood pressure monitor from Withings:

What is really significant is that with such personal medical monitoring and wellness technology, we are going to see very significant involvement by health care providers and professionals, insurers and others within the system to adapt to a new world in which a large number of patients become immersed in the world of interactive healthcare and wellness monitoring.

Then there is the world of bio-connectivity — a trend that will see the emergence of more sophisticated medical device technology that will let medical professional monitor their patients from afar. This is a topic that I’ve explored at length in a variety of posts on this site. Quite simply, in the years to come, the concept of a physical hospital is going to change as it goes virtual through the extension of bio-connectivity technologies and methodologies:

  • Imagine the hospital of 2020? I can 
  • The future of seniors care / assisted living: Big trends or crazy ideas? 

Silicon Valley will also play a huge role as it comes to develop real time health care predictive dashboards and other new forms of medical insight that will help the system to be better predictors of emerging health care risks and crisis situations. Big math, big computers, big analytics and health care – a match made in heaven!

  • Remember those kids who were really good at math? They own the future 

It doesn’t stop there. In the world of pharmaceuticals, the impact of Silicon Valley is going to have one of the most dramatic impacts on an industry that we have ever witnessed. For years, the sector has been busy exploring the opportunity for ‘pharmacogenetics’ — that is, how can we determine if a particular drug treatment is going to have its greatest impact on a group of people who share a common characteristic in their DNA.

This type of very specific genomic medicine has been around for years — but it is about to take off like a rocket as Moore’s law comes to have an impact. Quite simply, the cost to do what were once very expensive genetic tests are simply going to plummet.

  • Costs of DNA sequencing falling fast – look at these graphs 

I could go on ; there are dozens of examples where the impact of technology upon the health care system is going to be dramatic.

Suffice it to say, if you want to watch one of the trends that will have the most impact in the next decade, this is one of them.

 

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