Showing posts with the label Energy

Adapting AI for the Planet

The last couple of months have been interesting from a climate viewpoint - we’ve seen a record number of climate related disasters around the globe - drought, floods, fires, heat waves…..and it looks like this is probably going to be what our planet will look like in the near future. Add to that the COP26 conference that is scheduled for October 31st - and climate, sustainability and technology are front page news! So, let’s talk about one of the technologies in the news - artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on climate, water, agriculture, energy, forestry, ecosystems and other sectors in clean technology . AI and its subset of tools - machine learning (ML), data science and statistics - are being touted as one of the key technologies in solving the problems facing the planet today. And while these technologies are certainly powerful - applying them effectively to solve problems in clean tech is another issue altogether. AI has been used by scientists in different clean tech se

AI, Healthcare and the Environment

When discussing complicated topics like artificial intelligence (AI), it’s often easier to understand the issues in a sector like clean technology by comparing what’s happening in other sectors like manufacturing or healthcare. So, this month, let’s talk about building useful artificial intelligence(AI) tools, the need for expertise in adapting these technologies, and how our experience using AI in other sectors is similar to what we experience in clean technology. Since we’re still in a pandemic, let’s take a look at healthcare and clean technology. To start with, what do these two seemingly very different sectors have to do with each other? Quite a lot, as it happens. First, the environment has a huge impact on public health - think wildfire smoke or poor air quality and the impacts on cardiovascular health and asthma in people. Second, monitoring the environment allows us to better understand the health of communities - for example, monitoring wastewater for SARS-Cov2, the virus cau

Corporate sustainability and carbon markets: The role of data science

  Every Earth Day we hear from companies around the world about their sustainability efforts - the gallons of water they have saved, the reductions in energy use, the systems they have converted from fossil-fuel to renewable energy, the ecosystems they have restored and, more recently the amount of carbon they have offset. On the face of it, these are amazing and hopeful numbers - the very fact that corporations are paying so much attention to sustainability and the environment is testament to the fact that consumer and citizen pressure is yielding results. In fact, with every successive year, it seems that companies and organizations are able to sequester more carbon, minimize greenhouse gas emissions and thus mitigate climate change.     What allows companies to make these claims - especially with respect to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions? The way that most companies claim these credits is through carbon markets or “cap and trade” programs. In these programs, a community or a no

Data Science for the Grid, Renewables, Buildings and the Energy Sector

  It's time for our last two events for us in 2020 - what a crazy year it's been!  Continuing our theme of exploring data science in different clean technology sectors, we're doing to be focusing on the energy sector this month.   On Friday, December 18th at 2 pm PT, we'll be holding a free webinar exploring the market and opportunities for data science in the energy sector - with a focus on renewables, the grid and buildings.     And then, on Sunday, December 20th at 11 am PT, we'll host a hands-on workshop where we'll look at the types of problems in the energy sector where data science is being applied, what data sources are useful and where to find them and how do we integrate physics based models and machine learning into our solutions. 

Data Science for the Energy-Food-Water Nexus

  One of the most interesting aspects of working in clean technology is the interaction between different sectors in the space - the Food-Energy-Water nexus, for example.   What is the food-energy-water nexus? Well, not being in the Star Trek universe or any other science fiction arena, we’re definitely not talking about black holes of energy where food and water go to die :)! What we are talking about when we talk about the nexus between different clean tech sectors is - how do these sectors interact with each other? How complex are the interactions and can the relationships between them be described? In the case of the energy-water-food nexus, we’re exploring the interactions between the energy, water and food sectors. For example, we need water to grow food and produce energy, but energy is also needed to pump out groundwater and to process food.   Just for fun, let’s take a look at some numbers on the food-energy-water nexus from the UN and FAO. Let’s start with the biggest one - a

Data and Smart Cities

  If you had to pick a buzzword for 2019 in clean technology and data science, it would be “Smart Cities”!     This year, we’ve heard about Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and their efforts to design one in Toronto; India and China have announced plans to redesign over 100 cities into “Smart Cities”; European countries like Norway and Finland highlight the fact that much of what is touted as a “Smart City” already exists in their systems; and plenty of people in Silicon Valley have their own ideas of what Smart Cities should be like and what they should do.     A couple of features do stand out in many of the conferences and presentations about Smart Cities - 1) Opportunities abound with an estimated market size of   $237 billion by 2025 according to one study   and 2) There’s a wide range of interpretations about what exactly makes a city “Smart”.   The most conservative definition and the one that governments and city organizations highlight is “ where traditional networks and services are

Upcoming conference on Smart Cities in Silicon Valley

  There's an interesting conference coming up in Sunnyvale, California on October 8th. The topic is "Smart Cities Innovation Day: A future outlook on urban life". The location is at one of the Valley's incubators - Plug and Play and the agenda promises to be quite interesting! Several startups are presenting, there's a panel discussion with officials from regional and city governments, and a keynote from the head of IoT at the World Economic Forum.    If you're curious, the link to register is   here.  

From The Ground Up: Science For The Community

  My last post talked about how ideas get transferred from the laboratory to markets so that they can be used by millions of people. What I’m going to talk about today is the other side of the coin – the way millions of people can use smartphones and today’s tech to help advance scientific research and improve the world.   In other words –   citizen scientists   and how they help the clean tech and big data fields. One place where the community has been essential in understanding what’s going on in our world is in biodiversity and wildlife monitoring. Collecting data about where the different species are, what’s going on with their habitats has always been something that is hard and expensive to do for scientists. Imagine the effort it takes to distribute sensors and collect enough data about animals like tigers and bears!   Scientists and policy makers have always relied to some extent on data collected by enthusiastic amateurs to help round out their data collection efforts in these

Top Down: From Lab to Market with Government Help

  We hear a lot about the Elon Musks of the world – what makes them tick, how they see the future of clean technology and what they would do about it. But, what’s perhaps not very well known is how much of what gets built into these new products and new markets owes its start to government funding and policies. Today, I want to walk through the way innovative new technology moves from the research laboratory to the market via government. A fascinating study was published in   Nature Communications   about integrating “solar ribbons” into fabric so that in the future our clothes could harvest sunlight and store energy to power phones, health sensors or any other device. The scientists said that this research was inspired by the movie “Back to the Future” – but it needed a lot of cool technology to come together to actually make the prototype work. First – how can energy be harvested in a thin, flexible form? Enter the perovskite solar cell- a technology with several years of basic resea

Cooling The City – Green Facades For Mitigating Urban Heat

Anyone who’s ever visited an Indian city in the heat of summer will remember the feeling that the city itself is baking – heat radiates from the pavements, the buildings and there are fewer green areas to mitigate these effects. This is the urban heat island effect – when the city is much hotter than the surrounding areas. Urban heat islands are a common problem and are only going to get worse as the climate warms. This is especially true in countries closer to the equator – summer is hot but is now promising to get even hotter. One of the solutions that people have been looking at is “greening building facades” or more simply – growing plants along the walls of buildings – vertical greening. The advantages of “green building facades” are that the plants help reduce building temperatures through shading by the leaves, reducing the impact of wind and through evapotranspiration. Now, like any other natural system – growing plants vertically means that there are a number of parameters tha

Snippets in Clean Technology and Data Science: Sustainability Accounting

  Let’s take a look at one of the traditional clean tech sectors –   sustainability accounting . Now, this is a term that’s used in many different contexts, but traditionally, it refers to the use and flow of materials and energy. This could be locally, within a company, regionally for a specific sector across countries or monitoring a specific material over the globe. Most large companies these days track their   metrics on sustainability   –   carbon footprint, water usage, waste, conflict minerals   and so on… These metrics and the associated analyses are typically presented in reports that are one-time downloads or available in obscure places on the web. So anyone who’s interested in tracking changes over space and time for a single company or a group of companies – congratulations! You just agreed to spend a huge amount of time trying to get the data before doing anything with it. Enter the company   ESG Trends . This company was started a few years ago and has made it easier to f