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On stage, I have a little bit of fun pointing out that the cartoon below seems to summarize  the state of the political situation in the US today. I used it a few weeks ago when I keynoted the Nevada Economic Development Conference, with a talk that look a look at the opportunities for growth in the state through trends other than gaming and tourism.

“We’re going to get to the 22nd century,” Carroll said. “We’re not going back to the 1950s. There are those who say, let’s focus on coal and wave a magic wand and bring back these manufacturing jobs, which are dead gone and not going to happen. If we look at the world of manufacturing, it’s all about robotics and 3-D printing. It’s all about mass customization and about the ability to design products faster and get them to market faster and highly intelligent connected products.”

Appropriately enough, my keynote featured the title: “The Jetsons Arrive 50 Years Early: What Are the Economic Development Implications?” (I love my job!). My talk examined the rapid evolution of science, business models, hyper connectivity, intelligent highways and autonomous vehicles, the future of agriculture and many other accelerating trends.

I guess it went well: the feedback just came in from the individual who booked me: “You were amazing.  Your presentation exceeded our expectations.  Your knowledge and insights were intriguing and inspirational!

After my talk, I had a chance to chat with a reporter for the Las Vegas Business Press, who ran an article about the conference. An excerpt from the article appears below. Obviously, the decision by Amazon to locate a 2nd headquarters somewhere had the attention of everyone in Las Vegas, as in every other jurisdiction in North America.

But the future isn’t just about Amazon! It involves a region aligning itself to the trends of the Jetsons in the 21st century, rather than trying to find hope in the era of the Flintstones of the past!


New Amazon headquarters buzz of Nevada Economic Development Conference
Las Vegas Business Press, September 2017

One of the speakers was Jim Carroll, a futurist and expert on trends and innovation and author of “The Future Belongs to Those Who Are Fast.” He said there’s a massive number of global trends and Amazon and online shopping is one that’s providing jobs and future economic growth. Robotics and artificial intelligence are part of the story line of the future as well.

Carroll said Northern Nevada landing the Tesla electric car gigabattery factory shows there are no limits of what the state can attract.

There’s an opportunity here, and Nevada is waking up to the fact that it’s not about agriculture, gaming and tourism,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of other big trends going on in the world of which Amazon is just one. Why not get into the mindset that we can pursue all of these things?

Carroll said he speaks at conferences across the country, and there’s going to be a lot of competition to land Amazon and it seems that every state and metropolitan area is going after the headquarters.

“When it comes to Amazon, every jurisdiction in North America wants it,” Carroll said. “It’s going to be a massive competition. It got the attention of every single development group in North America.”

Nobody knows what’s Amazon’s preference is for locating the second headquarters, Carroll said. The company will be looking for skills, incentives and locations. It’s possible executives want a location closer to the center of the country, he said.

I think first and foremost any region shouldn’t get into defeatist mindset,” Carroll said. “We’re never going to get ahead if that’s the way we think. That’s why I encourage people to start with a positive mindset.

Carroll repeated that Amazon is only one of what will be many “big new initiatives” and companies that regions can pursue. He said the future will be about batteries, and it’s not just about Tesla’s electric cars but batteries in drones and for utilities and energy.

Amazon is but one thing of many things happening out there,” Carroll said. “What Nevada needs to do is get the mindset of how do we position ourselves for one of these many things beginning to unfold?

Carroll said the trends are heading toward “the world of “The Jetsons,” citing the 1960s futuristic cartoon. But instead of looking at the 22nd century, many want to stay in the world of “The Flintstones,” Carroll said of the 1960s cartoon depicting the dinosaur age.

We’re going to get to the 22nd century,” Carroll said. “We’re not going back to the 1950s. There are those who say, let’s focus on coal and wave a magic wand and bring back these manufacturing jobs, which are dead gone and not going to happen. If we look at the world of manufacturing, it’s all about robotics and 3-D printing. It’s all about mass customization and about the ability to design products faster and get them to market faster and highly intelligent connected products.”

Nevada is making the right bet focusing on solar and wind energy and microgrids, Carroll said. It’s about the acceleration of energy science rather than coal, he said.
Nevada shouldn’t worry about trying and failing like it did in landing a Faraday Future electric car plant in North Las Vegas, only to have the project stopped before it began, he said.

There’s a lot of angst about the car plant that didn’t go ahead, and my take is you have to try that,” Carroll said. “Some of that stuff works and some of it doesn’t, but you got to make sure you are out there and hitch yourself to a horse. Sometimes you fall off and have to get up again.

SaveSave

We’re in the era of ‘connected energy,’ and everything is set to change in pretty dramatic fashion.

That will be the essence of my message when I speak to several hundred energy and water utility executives when I keynote the annual SAP Utilities conference in Huntington Beach, California. It’s great to spend some time with SAP again — I did about a dozen keynotes for them from 2003 to 2007, back in my “What I Learned From Frogs In Texas” days!


The session description reads:

“The future belongs to those who are fast! That’s the mantra of futurist Jim Carroll — and no where has this become a reality faster than in the world of utilities. There is no doubt that the next phase of the world of energy involves the convergence of a variety of trends, each of which is significant on their own, but combined, provide an opportunity for massive disruption — and opportunity. The era of massive hyper-connectivity at an industrial, commercial and residential level as a result of the acceleration of the Internet of things. The rapid advancement of energy science, particularly with battery storage, alternative energy sources and other leading edge technologies. Business model disruption through the fast arrival of technologies that support personal and local energy energy microgrids through backyard wind, solar, biomass and other forms of energy generation. New demand and infrastructure requirements arising from such significant trends as smart cities, self-driving cars and intelligent highway infrastructure. And then there are simple light poles — which are now becoming ‘fitbits for cities’ with embedded environmental sensors, car-charging technologies, Wi-Fi hotspot capability and traffic management technologies! But wait — there’s more! At M.I.T. they are even in the midst of research as to how to grow solar cells from plants! That’s why no less than the Edison Energy Institute has stated that going forward, ““The threats posed to the electric utility industry from disruptive forces, particularly distributed resources, have serious long-term implications for the traditional electric utility business model and investor opportunities.”

The challenges and opportunity in the energy sector are real, and it’s captured pretty accurately in that summary. Need a hint of what is going on? Simply take a look at what is happening with battery storage technology.

Quite simply, we are in a situation in which a centuries old business model – the centralized production of power, distributed one-way through a relatively unintelligent system — is set to change in so many ways.

I’ve spoken at numerous energy conferences through the years, including the global Accenture Energy & Utilities Industry conference. Just a few months ago, I spoke privately to the nuclear division of one of the countries largest energy utilities, literally with 20 nuclear engineers in the room. And a few years back, I was engaged by the CEO of PG&E to do a video on what happens if grassroots power production and micro-grids lead to the disruption of the industry.

 

Stay tuned: I’m sure I’ll have a lot to post, including an overview of why light poles are a harbinger of what’s to come with our connected future!

I spent the morning yesterday with the Board of Directors of a multi-billion dollar credit union, taking a good hard look at the trends sweeping the financial services space. They know that disruption is real, and that it is happening now.

And disruption is everywhere: every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other challenges.


The speed with which these changes occur are now being increasingly driven by he arrival of a younger, more entrepreneurial generation; a group that seems determined to change the world to reflect their ideas and concept of opportunity. They’ve grown up networked, wired, and are collaborative in ways that no previous generation seems to be.

And therein lies the challenge.

Most organizations are bound up in traditions, process, certain defined ways of doing things — rules — that have helped them succeed in the past. Over time, they have developed a corporate culture which might have worked at the slower paced world of the past — but now has them on the sick-bed, suffering from an organizational sclerosis that clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.

Those very things which worked for them in the past might be the anchors that could now hold them back as the future rushes at them with ever increasing speed.

They are being challenged in a fundamental way by those who think big, and by some really big, transformative trends.

How to cope with accelerating change?  Think big, start small and scale fast!

I’m doing many keynotes in which I outline the major trends and opportunities that come from “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” by addressing some of the fundamental changes that are underway.

1. Entire industries are going “upside down”

One thing you need to know is this: entire industries are being flipped on their back by some pretty big trends.

Consider the world of health care. Essentially, today, it’s a system in which we fix people after they become sick. You come down with some type of medical condition; your doctor does a diagnosis, and a form of treatment is put in place. That’s overly simplifying things, but essentially that is how it works.

Yet that is going to change in a pretty fundamental way with genomic, or DNA based medicine. It takes us into a world in which we can more easily understand what health conditions are you susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moves us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. That’s a pretty BIG and pretty fundamental change. I like to say that the system is going “upside down.”

So it is with the automotive and transport industry. One day, most people drove their own cars. One day in the future, cars will do much of the driving on their own. That’s a pretty change — sort of the reverse, or upside-down, from how it use to be.

Or think about education: at one time, most people went to the place where education is delivered. But with the massive explosion of connectivity and new education delivery methods involving technology, an increasing number of people are in a situation where education is delivered to them. That’s upside down too!

You can go through any industry and see similar signs. That’s a lot of opportunity for big change.

2. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Another big trend that is driving a lot of change comes about as technology takes over the rate of change in the industry.

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Back to health care. We know that genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. But now kick in the impact of Moore’s law, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules!

3. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — we are witnessing a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behaviour, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies.

Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

4.  “Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seemed to become obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centres. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

5. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by

Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): “My focus will really be on creating more and better theatre in the stores.”

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theatre’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

6. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Whitings Wi-Fi Body Scale. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graphs and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

7. Careers reinvented

For those who that the post-2008 North American recovery from the recession was slow, here’s an open secret: there was a significant economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture worked hard to reinvent themselves. It just didn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

8. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

We are living in the era that involves the end of incumbency. Companies aren’t assured that they will own the marketplace and industry they operate within because of past success ; they’ll have to continually re-prove themselves through innovation.

Consider Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. What a fascinating little concept that has such big potential for disruption. And it’s a case where once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

* * * *
There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, who are going to change the world and who are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco some years back.

It’s a good sentiment, and is a good way to think about the idea of ‘thinking big.’

As with anything, the opportunity around the idea of the ‘smart home’, and the reality of what will transpire, varies to a large degree. We are in early days yet!

That was the essence of an exchange I had with a potential client in the home/condo construction market; they were looking at me for an executive offsite concerning their plans in this space, and wanted a senior level executive session that outlined opportunities with smart home construction in the future.

My key goal was to get across to them that a smart home doesn’t just involve throwing in some Internet-connected devices;  it’s not just about the Internet of Things; there is a lot more potential, and the scope of the opportunity is pretty significant in the long term. Given that, they really needed to take a substantive approach that involved not just short term goals but some long term thinking.

Here’s what I outlined:

  1. It”s bigger than you think. The smart home of the future will not only play a role in security and energy, but also also a role in economic development, healthcare virtualization, the reengineering of local energy grids and much, much more
  2. We’ve only just begun. Major organizations, such as appliance and other home device manufacturers, are only just starting to understand where they can go with the smart home. This is outlined in my recent post, The 11 Rules of IoT Architecture – they are coming to understand that just as Tesla is building cars that can be upgradable, they can play a role in smart homes that will be upgradable and changeable over time. That’s a pretty big scope of opportunity.
  3. The energy side is much more than just connected thermostats The real smart home of the future will be designed with major energy implications in mind. This will involve @ home energy generation, as well as sharable energy systems and support for local community micro-grids. Catch my video on this, Will the Energy Industry be Mp3’d?
  4. AI will play a big role, but no one is sure what that means yet. We are in early days with home AI devices such as Amazon Alexa and other intelligent assistants. Alexa and other devices have caught the attention of the innovators; someone out there is busy engineering future solutions that are barely an idea yet. We don’t know where this aspect will take us!
  5.  Virtual healthcare in the home is a bigger component of the smart home than you realize. Bioconnectivity – the virtualization of healthcare, is massive. The hospital is being reengineered to incorporate the monitoring of patients from afar. Big, bold thinking in the seniors care and other industries will lead to transformation of the very essence of what we think a hospital is – because the home becomes a part of the hospital. Look to the MedCottage for guidance on the opportunity with this issue.
  6. Making it work is pretty complex. An API has been built, but people are only just beginning to use it. Head over to the site, If This Then That. It’s at the vanguard of where we can go with this massive form of hyperconnctivity. It involves a series of rules -if this device does this, then do that. Talk to your phone to turn on your thermostat. Use your phone to see where you are and define a rule if your garage door should open. The number of companies joining IFTT is staggering — it is likely the World Wide Web for the Internet of Things!
  7. Existing players aren’t necessarily the major players. Google was big and early into the game with NEST, but don’t expect that big organizations like GE, Whirlpool and others will easily give up the potential market. While big companies aren’t necessarily the best innovators, I’m seeing a lot of deep, substantive thinking in these organizations as to the real nature of a smart home eco-system.
  8. The economic implications are huge. In the 1950’s, the modern suburb defined the future of economic relocation – companies made decisions based upon where the employees might live. In the future, smart communities wired by smart infrastructure, particularly those supporting the nomadic worker, will have an economic leg up. Wild card: self-driving cars and economic success.
  9. Architectural / design issues are only just being explored. If we can build ultra-smart, energy efficient, secure homes, have we yet hit an understanding of the design opportunity? In this area, think about the Jetsons – it really provides guidance!
  10. The skills issues are massive! I had one of the first Internet enabled thermostats about 17 years ago. My HVAC contractor flipped out when he saw it, complaining he didn’t know how to wire Ethernet stuff. I said that’s ok, my teenage son will do it — and he did! Its going to take a lot of knowledge re-skilling for the future of the smart home!

For each of these areas, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 20 years. By way of examples:

  •  I’ve spent time with many of the companies in the home energy sector; all of Honeywell, Trane, and Lennox have had me in for CEO level events or dealer meetings
  • with the era of smart appliances, I just keynoted a session at Whirlpool/Maytag on the implications and opportunities of the Internet of Things.
  • in the energy field, I’ve spoken about the future of micro-grids and shared energy for the CEO of PG&E, as well as many global energy conferences
  • I’ve done multiple keynotes around the future of virtualized, community oriented healthcare, most recently, for several thousand folks in the seniors care industry
  • on the economic implications , lots of talks — I’ve just been booked by the Western Nevada Economic Development Association for a keynote around this theme, by way of example
  • on the architectural / design issues, I recently had a keynote in St. Louis for Alberici Construction…. and others
  • and on the skills issues, a lot of time, including talking about the future challenges for HVAC contractors and others at the WorldSkills conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil!

One of my favourite future phases is from Bill Gates: Most people tend to overstate the rate of change that will occur on a two year basis, and underestimate the rate of change on a 10 year basis. So it is with the smart, connected home. We’re going to be in a different space 10 years from now, but we are only just starting to define that!

Closing comment? Back in the late 90’s, I wrote a monthly column for one of the world’s leading airlines — Canadian Airlines! One of my columns had to do with the smart home of the future. It’s a fun read today – and I was pretty right about the trends going forward! Have a read!

Soon you’ll be programming the drapes
September 1999 – Canadian Magazine
by Jim Carroll PDF

The last few decades have been marked by promised of innovative new technology for the home. The presumption, of course, is that more technology is good for us and that, in the process, our homes will become “smart.” Yet today, as we consider the number of people whose VCRs still flash 12:00, we wonder just how smart our homes have become.

YESTERDAY

Ever since the 1930s, many industries have predicated a variety of fanciful technologies that would find their way into our homes and make our lives much easier. Most predictions are, in retrospect, hilarious.

Perhaps one of the earliest examples was the introduction of the automatic dishwasher at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Westinghouse presented a dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern (using a Westinghouse dishwasher) and Mrs. Drudge (cleaning her dishes by hand). At the close of the contest (you know who won), the moderator commented that in addition to losing, Mrs. Drudge was not nearly as “neat and refreshed as when she started.” Yes, technology would make us feel better!

Washing dishes seemed to be a favourite theme of the World’s Fair: some 25 years later, the 1964 Fair featured the Norge Dish Maker. The appliance washed and dried plastic dishes – and then ground them up into tiny pellets, which it would then mould them into new plates, cups and saucers!

Walter Cronkite got in on the act, appearing on March 12, 1967 in At Home 2001, a half-hour show about the nature of the home at the dawn of the new millennium. He explained, for example, the duties of the host: “When a guest arrives, he just pulls out his inflatable chair – a small pressurized air capsule would inflate it and it would be ready for use. At the end of the evening he’d just pull out the plug and put the deflated chair back into his little bag.” Need to cook for the guests? Simply reach for the ultimate in convenience food. “A meal might be stored for years and then cooked in seconds,” he said, without a trace of scepticism.

Optimism continued to reign. In 1977, the Vancouver Sun reported on a “domestic android” manufactured by Quasar Industries, which could “serve your dinner, vacuum your rugs, baby-sit your kids and insult your enemies.”

There was a common undercurrent to many of the predictions about the “smart home.” We would have push-button control over everything, a “remote control for the home,” that would allow us to draw the drapes, water the plants, turn down the thermostat, and control virtually every other aspect of the house simply by punching a few buttons.

TODAY

Of course, few of us today have such capabilities – and we wonder if we’d be able to use it even if it were available. After all, how many of us could manage that “remote control for the home” when we find ourselves stymied by the typical 50-button VCR remote control?

The industry is certainly trying to deal with the problem. There is no shortage of ‘smart-home” technology available and apparently some people are buying this stuff – the U.S.-based National Association of Home Builders estimates that, worldwide, some $2 to $4 billion is spent each year on smart-home devices that link security systems, lighting, and entertainment communication systems.

Who buys them? John and Missy Butcher of Chicago, for example. They have spent $100,000 on a home automation system, which means that (if they are in the mood), they can click the “Romance” button on their home automation controller and watch as the curtains are drawn and the lights dim, while listening to music designed to get them in the mood. “Our lives are much easier,” they note.

Of course, we might think, anyone who can spend $100,000 on a home automation system already has an easy life.

TOMORROW

Will the smart home remain largely a concept, an expensive curiosity available only to the richest and most gadget-hungry among us? Likely not. This is one technology that is set to explode in terms of the number of customers it will gain and the practical role it will play in our daily lives. There are several reasons for this.

First, many people now have more than one computer in the home. The computer industry recognizes that linking them together into a home-based local area network is going to be one of the biggest opportunities of the next three years.

We won’t simply be linking the computers in our home. The technology will link all of our devices based on the computer chip into a central control panel, bringing us one step closer to the remote control concept of earlier decades. Three years from now, you may be buying a set of drapes with a microchip. Plug them in, program them – and forget about them.

Second, the emergence of the Internet plays a significant role. Though we think of it as a tool to surf the Web and read e-mail, it is also a technology that will one day link our refrigerator to its manufacturer, notifying the company when the appliance is about to break down – and, in the process, taking us through the next step in home automation.

And finally, there is the ever-decreasing cost of technology. The smart home has always been held back by the fact that the minimum investment was at least $2,000, but that figure is dropping quickly.

And, most significant of all, we’ll barely notice the technology as it sneaks into our home! We’ll be buying appliances, garage door openers, alarm systems and other things for our home, unaware that they contain the necessary intelligence to plug into our home network.

It’s not that we’ll choose to have a smart home – one day, we’ll discover that it’s already smart.

Not quite convinced? Let me quote Walter Cronkite, from that 1967 program. “Sounds preposterous,” he told his audience, with a bit of a smile, “but some people are convinced it will happen.”

I’ve written another article for the global GE Reports publication : you can find it online here.

GoingGray

The U.S. and other countries are doomed by tremendous water usage and leaky infrastructure. But a thirst for innovative solutions is leading entrepreneurs and communities to rethink ways to use everyday wastewater.

Let’s talk about water.

There are big energy opportunities that come from innovative thinking about water usage, particularly given that much of the Western world’s infrastructure is not set up in such a way that wastewater is reused and recycled.

Consider some key statistics:

  • 16 percent of the U.S. water supply is lost due to leaky pipes and goes back in the ground.
  • Only 7 percent of U.S. communities recycle wastewater.
  • Compare that to Israel, where more than 80 percent of household wastewater is recycled, with half of that going to irrigation.

Bottom line for the U.S.? Utilities lose enough water every six days to supply the nation for a day.

That infrastructure challenge of wasted water exists for many Western nations. Canada is one of the highest per capita users of water on the planet. The average person there generates 300 liters of waste water per day, compared to 20 to 30 liters in developing countries. Other developed countries show similar patterns.

That doesn’t have to be the case if strategies are adopted to more aggressively recycle “grey water ” within a community. What’s grey water? Quite simply, it’s the water we send down the drain from showers, toilets, sinks and other commercial and residential sources. Most of it disappears, draining into oceans, lakes or ground aquifers.

What if we could recycle that water and reuse it, and thus engage some of the expense of moving so much other water around?

Consider the Irvine Ranch Water District in California, which has had a recycled water program since 1961, serving areas such as Newport Beach and parts of Orange County. The results are impressive: recycled water meets some 21 percent of the area’s water demands. While initially aimed at water use for agriculture, it now provides services for landscape irrigation, industrial use and toilet flushing in commercial buildings. The system now delivers 23.5 million gallons of recycled water to more than 4,000 customers daily.

This is while water supply and access are becoming increasing challenges in many areas of the world.

In California, the energy cost of water is particularly expensive. In an article in The American Journal of Public Health, some of the numbers are pretty clear:

  • Pumping, treating, transporting and heating California’s water currently represent nearly 20 percent of the state’s energy use.
  • Much of this energy use is the result of a heavy reliance on “imported” water, because the majority of California’s water users are concentrated far from major water sources.
  • Transporting water via California’s State Water Project –the state-built water delivery and storage system — is 2 to 3 percent of the state’s total energy alone and results in roughly 4 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

The potential energy savings are huge if more recycled grey water is utilized. If 10 percent of imported water in California was replaced by recycled water, there would be a savings of 80 million kWh of energy annually .

It is estimated that some 9 percent of U.S. carbon emissions are related to transporting water, and that heating water totals 58 percent of the national energy footprint of water usage.

That’s why the grey water opportunity is clear.

One of the companies using technology to deal with the challenge is Nexus eWater. They market themselves as the world’s first home water and energy recycler, providing a solution for residential water reuse. Nexus has some pretty bold goals that can be met utilizing their system:

  • reducing city water into the home by up to 40 percent;
  • reducing sewage from the home by 70 percent;
  • reducing water heating energy by 70 percent;
  • generating total savings of $50 to $200 per month per home for water, sewer and electric bills, at least for the the River Islands community in Lathrop, California.
  • Oh, and harvesting rainwater as well.

How does it work? With advanced filtering and energy capture technologies, they provide recycled water of a quality that is safe to use on lawns and in toilets. In addition, they can capture the heat in grey water, and thus produce hot water using 75 percent less energy than that from the electrical grid. The cost? Currently at least $10,000 per home.

Nexus is just one such initiative. ReWater Systems, also based in California, offers a grey water solution that reuses sink, toilet, shower and other residential water for lawn and garden irrigation. Spend some time on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and you can find all kinds of initiatives geared towards the idea.

There are plans to develop communities that employ efficient recycled water systems. The Sea Cliff community, under construction in San Diego, is specifically built with this purpose in mind. It is estimated that each of the 52 upscale homes there will save up to 100,000 gallons of water per year.

It’s clear there are leaders who are looking at this problem as an opportunity. I’d hazard a guess that this will be a pretty big growth market in the years to come.

What should you do?

As I suggest with any new area of opportunity, you should “think big, start small and scale fast.”

Gain some inspiration from the many initiatives in this area; and maybe take on a pilot grey water program. Learn from your efforts, and then determine how to go further, either from a simple residential project or an overall community initiative.

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.

From GE Reports, October 28, 2015 (link)

Technological advances from the Industrial Internet to renewables are transforming the energy industry. Here are the key trends to watch over the next decade.

Hyper-connectivity is transforming many industries — few more so than the energy sector. The expansion of the industrial Internet and power of Big Data analytics is enabling power companies to predict maintenance failures and approach zero downtime, while smartgrids and apps are empowering consumers to become producers.

Could the energy generation and distribution industry find itself in the same position as music companies did n the past — stuck defending an older and entrenched business model, rather than embracing new ideas, concepts and methodologies?

“We are now in the era of `personal energy infrastructure management,’” where connected consumers are gaining increasing control over energy consumption and production, says Jim Carroll, a futurist and energy expert.

The quickly shifting energy landscape means utilities and other industry players must be careful not to be “MP3’d” like the music industry, says Carroll in an interview, in which he also discusses the prospect of achieving energy access for all and the potential for renewals to replace fossil fuels as the dominant energy source:

How much progress will we make in improving energy access to everyone on the planet in 10 years, with the help of microgrids and off-grid solar and other solutions? 

One of my favorite phrases comes from Bill Gates: “People often overestimate what will happen in the next two years and underestimate what will happen in 10.”

I think we live in a period of time when there are several key trends impacting out future use of energy. An intelligent, connected and self-aware grid. An accelerated pace of innovation with non-traditional energy sources — there are now window panes for building construction that generate solar power. Major investments and innovation with energy storage battery technology. I don’t think any of us can really anticipate how quickly all of this is coming together.

Will renewables top fossil fuels as the dominant energy source?

History has taught us that significant progress is more incremental than dramatic. The key point is that globally, we are at an inflection point when it comes to energy. Right now, we’re 90 percent carbon, 10 percent renewables, give or a take a few points. At some point — 10, 20, 50, 100 years? — we’re likely to be at 50-50.

A lot will happen with scientific, business model and industrial change between now and then. We’ve had this predominant business model based on carbon that goes back 100 years, but will that last forever? We’d be delusional if we thought so. What is known is that the carbon energy industry has made tremendous and somewhat unforeseen strides with increasing output — shale, horizontal drilling, smarter drilling and production technologies. Yet the same thing is happening with renewables — and it’s probably happening faster. In the long term, I believe we will see a gradual and inexorable shift to renewables.

How much will we be able to reduce the carbon footprint of the power industry, as technological innovation brings down the cost of renewables?

The technology — as well as consumer/industrial demand for new alternatives — will continue at a faster rate but will run up against increasing regulatory and business model challenges. That’s why I have challenged utility CEOs to ask the question, “Could they be MP3’d?” Could the energy generation and distribution industry find itself in the same position as music companies did n the past — stuck defending an older and entrenched business model, rather than embracing new ideas, concepts and methodologies.

How will the relationship between consumers and producers of electricity change, given smartgrid technologies, mobile app connectivity and the increasing availability of small-scale renewable power sources?

I always stress that we are now in the era of “personal energy infrastructure management.” What does that mean? I have the ability to manage my heating and air conditioning spend through an iPhone app. In the not too distant future, I believe my local neighborhood will have some type of swarm intelligence — linked to local and upcoming weather patterns— that will adjust its consumption patterns in real time based on a series of interconnected home thermostats. My sons are 22 and 20 years old, and we’ve had an Internet-connected thermostat in our home and for over a decade. They live in a world in which they are in control of remote devices, include those that manage their energy use.

How much will energy efficiency improve, with the help of the Industrial Internet and Internet of Things and Big Data analytics?

Some people might view the IoT as being the subject of too much hype at this point. Maybe that is true, but it is probably such a significant development that we can barely comprehend its impact. Think about it this way: every device that is a part of our daily lives is about to become connected. That fundamentally changes the use and purpose of the device in major ways. Add on top of that location intelligence — knowing where the device is, and its status. Link together millions of those devices and generate some real-time and historical data — the possibilities boggle the mind.

We are increasingly in a situation in which the future belongs to those who are fast. That might be a challenge for the energy and utility sector, but it’s a reality.

Earlier this year, I was invited to open the Southern Gas Association in Austin, Texas. In the room, I had about 800 of the most senior executives in the natural gas industry in the US, including utilities, distributors, exploration companies, producers and suppliers. It was a pretty heavy duty crowd. This was one of several high profile events I led off in the energy sector — I was the opening keynote, for example, for the 2012 Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference.

At the close of my talk, I reframed the concept of innovation for the group:

It’s a great little synopsis of how you can rethink the concept of innovation – run, grow and transform the business!

I’ve had the opportunity to be the opening keynote speaker at four major energy conferences in the last two months ; the 2012 Accenture Worldwide International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco; the Southern Gas Association Annual Conference in Austin, Texas, and the 2012 Enercom Conference in Toronto. In addition, last week I opened a leadership meeting for about 200 executives with Noble Energy in Houston, Texas.

So I’ve been speaking on a  pretty extensive basis on trends impacting the global oil and gas industries, as well as utilities. Part of my job at a keynote at such events is to open up the minds of folks to the massive opportunities that are emerging all around us, particularly as we witness an absolutely fascinating acceleration of the science around energy – whether it be oil, gas or renewables.

Here’s a clip in which I’m talking about the fact that at MIT, they are learning how to print solar cells onto paper!

What is occurring in the US right now in terms of advanced discovery techniques – whether with shale gas, horizontal drilling, new subsea mapping technologies or other new discovery, exploration and production techniques is probably one of the most significant trends of this decade. Combine that with the fact that though the economics and politics of clean-tech have challenged the wind, solar and other opportunities, the pace of scientific research and innovation has not slowed down.

What happens when we can print solar cells onto paper? The world speeds up — and the future belongs to those who are fast!

In all likelihood, we are going to see the US enter a period near-complete energy independence within the next few years. Faster than people think!

The implications are pretty significant. I’ll write a blog in the next few weeks with some of the details that I’ve been covering off in these talks.

  • Read the original post about “When Light Stops”  

“There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, we are going to change the world and we are going to do things differently.” From my opening keynote for the 2012 Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference last week in San Francisco.

Where do you stand? In a company that is focused on small, incremental nothingness, or one that is set out to change the world?

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