Vancouver Going for “Greenest City”

Future Vancouver street sceneOver at ThomasNet Green & Clean, I wrote earlier this week about Vancouver, B.C.’s bid to become the world’s “greenest city” — see “Friendly Competition – Vancouver’s Bid to Become the World’s Greenest City.” In an interview, Vancouver City Councillor David Cadman gave me an inside view of the effort. Although the city definitely wants to become the greenest on the planet, there’s a friendly side to the competition:

Cadman tells me that “simply being a green city in one place like Vancouver isn’t enough. We have to take this plan and challenge a whole lot of cities to beat us, to move this challenge out beyond Vancouver to the rest of the world.”

He thinks cities are in a good position to incubate environmental innovation:

Cadman believes cities are well-suited to serve as sources of environmental innovation. Whereas “national governments don’t seem to be able to get their act together” to move forward on green initiatives, he tells me, “local governments are transforming the world around them.”

AB — 29 July 2011

El Hierro – Isolated Island a Great Demo of Renewable Energy

Over at ThomasNet Green & Clean this week, I wrote about efforts by El Hierro, the most remote of the Canary Islands, to become completely self-sufficient and wholly reliant on renewable energy — see “El Hierro — How an Island Can Serve as a Model for Renewable Energy.”

Some of the most interesting commentary I found on the El Hierro project has to do with the value of the island’s remoteness. One researcher writes that, when it comes to connecting with any outside electric grid, “[The island] is totally isolated, as the significant sea depths make any interconnection impossible.” Yet the island has a population of 11,000 and a significant economy.

The R&D director for the Canary Institute of Technology says that,

Islands can play a very important role as pioneers of the energy revolution… The island as a whole can serve as an experiment not only for this particular energy combination, but also for other types of energy-related issues like mobility, like efficient transport solutions… Examples like El Hierro will prove technologically that this is possible.

AB — 20 July 2011

Cisco’s Infographic About the Internet of Things

On the Cisco blog on July 15, 2011, Dave Evans, Cisco’s Chief Futurist in their Innovations Practice, posted the following infographic about the Internet of Things, which I’ve been writing about for a few years — see “Developing the Internet of Things and a Smarter Planet” and “Is an ‘Energy Internet’ Emerging?,” which touches on similar idea.

Click on this image to link through to the full-size original:

Infographic about the Internet of Things

I’m as much interested in the infographic as a method for the visual presentation of information as I am about the particular content of any infographic — in examining any of these presentations, I think it’s important to understand the data sources and to recognize that these graphics are simplifications of research that is often quite complicated.

I notice that author of this graphic says that by the end of 2011, “20 typical households will generate more Internet traffic than the entire Internet in 2008.” While the denizens of Casa Bredenberg no doubt generate a lot of traffic as Internet users, I doubt whether the objects in our house are right now generating 5 percent as much traffic as the 2008 Internet. Maybe if Progress Energy eventually gets its smart-grid rollout going …

AB — 18 July 2011

Rob Hopkins Response to Criticism of Environmentalism

My article this week at ThomasNet Green & Clean was on the fascinating, fast-growing Transition movement — see “The Transition Movement – Preparing for a World After Peak Oil.”

The “green movement” that seemed so powerful and dynamic just a couple of years ago has come under criticism recently, as you can see in Susanna Rustin’s recent article in the Guardian — see “Has the green movement lost its way?

Coincidentally, the Transition Network just concluded its 2011 conference in Liverpool. Co-founder Rob Hopkins wrote up his reflections on the conference in a blog post yesterday, and included a response to Rustin’s question:

An article in the Guardian last week asked “has the green movement lost its way?” I think that is the wrong question. The right question should be “has a new, emergent culture which embraces resilience and localisation, equity and partnership, even scratched the surface of its potential?” I think the answer is a resolute no. We’ve all had a taste of that this weekend.

Having written a great deal about innovation as analyst for the ILO Institute, insights like this get my attention. Innovations often come from unexpected quarters, when people begin asking new questions and asking questions in a different way.

AB — 12 July 2011

Integrating Wind and Solar Energy: German Virtual Power Plant Shows How to Do It

German Combined Power PlantOver at ThomasNet Green & Clean today, I’ve written about a groundbreaking pilot project called the Combined Power Plant. See the article, “German Combined Power Plant Demonstrates Real-Time Integration of Renewables.”

What these scientists are doing is using networking technology to integrate 36 separate solar, wind, and biogas installations into one “virtual power plant.” Combining multiple sources like this allows them to balance out the various sources, solving a key problem in the integration of renewables into the electric grid.

AB — 27 June 2011

Living Buildings: Approaching Net-Zero Environmental Impact

Oregon Sustainability CenterOver at ThomasNet Green & Clean this week, I wrote about the Living Building Challenge — an emerging standard that goes beyond LEED, awarding “Living” certification to buildings demonstrating that they have met 20 ultra-green “Imperatives.” See “Living Buildings: Like LEED on Whole-Grain Natural Steroids.”

In the article, I highlight two Living Buildings now under development in the Northwest U.S. — one of them, the Oregon Sustainability Center, is shown here.

Here’s one tidbit about the Living Building standards — the Imperatives set very strict standards about how far building materials and even services can be transported to a project site. The standards specify that consultants can’t come from farther away than 2,500 kilometers!

AB — 13 June 2011

Are Speculative Bubbles Ever a Good Thing?

Over at Bubbleconomics, I wrote recently about the effect of speculative bubbles on innovation — see “Speculative Bubbles: Good for Innovation?

For a long time, I’ve thought that the so-called “Internet Bubble” from the 1990s was actually a good thing in many ways in that it sparked technology and business-model innovation and trained a generation in a new way of thinking about business and communication. Networking pioneer Bob Metcalfe agrees with me, as he says in a 2011 presentation:

We saw from the many Internet Era bubbles that investment, speculation, inflation, competition, and collapse are tools of innovators against the status quo. Bubbles accelerate technological innovation.

AB — 6 June 2011

The Coming Energy Internet

Over at ThomasNet Green & Clean, I’ve posted “Is an ‘Energy Internet’ Emerging?” I’ve included some insights from networking pioneer Bob Metcalfe, also Thomas L. Friedman and Jeremy Rifkin, as well as my own thinking about the increasingly networked energy grid.

In an email conversation, Metcalfe acknowledged to me that “energy can be viewed as a thermodynamics problem or a government policy problem,” but he thinks that ultimately  “it’s best instead to view energy as a networking problem.”

In a presentation, he gives a bit of history:

“While building Internet 1.0, the Arpanet,” during the 1970s, Metcalfe says in his presentation, “I remember this clearly, we did not say that our goal was YouTube.” And yet, “video is most of what the Internet now carries.”

So, he asks,

What will be energy’s YouTubes?

AB — 5 June 2011

Undo: One of the Greatest Innovations in Computing

The Undo function — a life-saver.

From “Behavioral issues in the use of interactive systems,” Lance A. Miller and John C. Thomas, International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, Sept. 1977:

A more complex situation, however, occurs … when a user wishes to “undo” the effects of some number of prior commands — as, for example, when a user inadvertently deletes all personal files. Recovery from such situations is handled by most systems by providing “back-up” copies of (all) users’ files, from which a user can get restored the personal files as they were some days previous. While this is perhaps acceptable for catastrophic errors, it would be quite useful to permit users to “take back” at least the immediately preceding command (by issuing some special “undo” command).

Now if they would only invent an Undo button for one’s personal life.

AB — 15 April 2011