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3 Disruptive Technologies To Combat Global Warming

Anton Kroger

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing the planet today. In my opinion, politicians, scientists, and energy consumers need to embrace 3 distinct disruptive technologies in order to drive change quickly enough to avert this impending global disaster.

EIA (Energy Information Agency) data tells us that the total CO2 emissions from carbon-based fuels has increased from about 21.45 billion metric tons in 1990 to 33.96 billion metric tons today. The EIA forecasts that emissions will reach 43.22 billion metric tons by 2040 if we continue what we are doing today.

Figure 1. Historical and forecasted CO2 emissions

CO2 emissions alone don’t actually tell us that much about pollution. To learn more, we need to convert the EIA figures to parts per million (PPM) .

We are at the 400 ppm mark today, and if we continue as usual we should hit 460 ppm by 2040. 400 ppm is considered by many scientists to be the maximum level that the ppm count can get to and maintain global warming averages below a 2 degC rise. Above this, the chances of capping global warming to 2 degC diminishes, as is shown in the next figure.

Figure 2. Calculated PPM curve – calibrated to the Keeling curve

So the question now is: How quickly do we need to reduce carbon emissions in order to reduce the likelihood of increased global warming?

Based on my own model and calculation, there are 3 possible scenarios, shown in Figure 3:

  1. We continue as we are today, with little change and an increasing demand for energy supplied by fossil fuels
  2. We reduce our carbon-producing footprint at a rate similar to what was created
  3. We drive a completely disruptive approach to reduce our carbon emissions

In order to reach zero emissions by 2050, we would need to reduce our carbon emissions by at least 10% year on year, which is a huge reduction.

Figure 3. Three possible outcomes for CO2 emissions

We again convert this to PPM, and Figure 4 shows that the only way is rapid disruption. Outcomes of global discussions for the most part only seem to have targets returning to the 1990 averages by mid-century, which is simply too slow. Some countries have adopted a more aggressive approach, which is good, but probably not enough to get us across the line.

Figure 4 – Three possible outcomes for CO2 emissions (PPM)

So the results are  clear: We must act very quickly. The question is what technology or combination of technologies can get us there in short timeframe. There is long-term stable nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, or of course a combination of all these, and storage is a also major part of the equation.

The challenge for governments is where to focus and what legislation or projects to back to ensure that change happens quickly enough. The problem today is that change is happening at a sustaining rate rather than a disruptive rate (Scenario 2). This means change is simply happening too slowly. We therefore need to shift our attention away from sustaining technology enhancements and look for disruptive ones.

The difference between disruptive technologies and sustaining technologies is probably best described by Clayton Christensen in his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma:

Sustaining technologies improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued. Disruptive technologies bring to market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value.”

When we apply this thinking to renewable energies, there are two vital requirements that need to come together to drive a truly disruptive change:

  1. The technology needs to have new features that appeal to customers in a different way
  2. The technology needs to have a completely different revenue model or value proposition.

In my opinion, there are 3 technologies that need to come together to deliver these two vital requirements.

The first is rooftop solar.

While rooftop panels might seem like an expensive investment initially, there are some clear long-term financial benefits. Displaying them on your roof also says something valuable about you and your contribution to sustainable living.

Rooftop solar is also taking action at a macro level. It is driving us toward a distributed power model, which is completely different to the model we have today. For the first time in history, individuals have the power to decide where they get their power. This consumer-driven trend has sparked a movement not unlike the rise of the smartphone.

Consider, for example, the plot in Figure 5, which shows the drop in the price of solar PVs against the combined power being generated by solar from 2010 to 2014. The trend added 4.5 GW of power to the grid, while the price of that energy dropped by almost 500% over the 4 years. That’s the equivalent of adding about 8 large-scale power plants to the grid, the bulk of which would have been completed in 3 years or less.

Figure 5 – Cumulative global solar photovoltaic deployment and solar photovoltaic module prices 2000 to 2014

It’s probably no surprise that batteries, or power storage, is the second disrupter. Storage allows us to take advantage of the sun during the day, storing excess power for when there is less sun.

Batteries like solar PV’s are also on a disruptive price curve, meaning that the year on year price decline is making them noticably cheaper every day.

So that is great for consumers living in suburbia with plenty roof space and sunlight, but how does it help apartment-dwellers whose only option is to buy power from the grid?

Peer-to-peer trading is the third important disrupter. This essentially cuts out the retailer and allows individuals to trade directly with each other. To make peer-to-peer trading a reality we need to bring together smart grids and network-based trading. The smart grid conversation is well underway, and some companies are starting to look at leveraging blockchain technology to allow peer-to-peer trading.

Peer-to-peer trading would allow city dwellers to partake in the digital energy revolution by buying excess power from the cheapest provider on the grid. What is interesting here is that the longer peer-to-peer trading takes to implement, the more pressure there will be on large power facilities when it does happen. As more users make the jump to rooftop solar (potentially going off the grid), fewer people remain on the grid to pay for the infrastructure. With demand dropping, costs are likely to go up, further fuelling the move to rooftop solar.

This ultimately means more and more solar PVs, which will likely lead to a huge energy glut in the market. When peer-to-peer trading eventually does kick in, large power facilities will need to compete with plenty cheap home- grown solar. (We see a similar phenomenon with AirBnB, where hotels are now competing with individuals who have a much lower cost base).

Electricity generation contributes only about 70% of CO2 emissions, so it’s not the only major contributor to the carbon footprint. The second-largest contributor to CO2 emissions is the transportation sector. With a potential electricity glut driven by the abundance of solar power, storage, and peer-to-peer trading, it follows naturally that electric cars will soon become much cheaper to run than their carbon-consuming alternatives.

This will likely happen more quickly in urban environments, with long-range travel taking a little longer. In fact, we are already seeing similar rapid price declines in the transportation sector, where the cost of electric cars is dropping and the variety of options is increasing dramatically. Electric cars also don’t face the challenge of a network to supply “electric fuel,” unlike competitors such as hydrogen-powered cars.

The final dimension to consider is how all this plays out in third-world countries. Today non-OECD countries, which predominantly represent the poorer countries, account for about 60% of global emissions.

At the rate at which solar and battery prices are dropping, it won’t be long before we see a massive jump in the uptake of individualised power generation in emerging countries. A decentralised power model will leapfrog the traditional grid model, reducing not only the cost of power but also the time required to provide power in remote places from years to literally days. We saw a similar trend when cellular phones emerged, with networks and adoption proliferating even in high-poverty areas.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that unless governments and lawmakers support rapid reduction of CO2 emissions by getting behind energy disruption, supporting a decentralised solar model, and adopting new laws that facilitate peer-to-peer trading and accelerate smart grid technology, we will fail as a society to stop global warming. Unfortunately, I don’t see sustaining technologies like nuclear, wind, and large-scale solar as sufficient, because they don’t make the leap from sustaining incremental improvement to disruptive change.

A decentralised power model supported by power storage and peer-to-peer trading, all linked via a smart grid, will enable the economic drivers necessary to change how we generate and buy power. There is nothing like a financial incentive to ultimately unite consumers toward the common cause of reducing the threat of climate change.

Companies like SAP are helping their customers not only transform their business models to adapt to this massive energy change but also to optimise and save energy at the same time. For more information, click here. To learn more about what SAP is doing with blockchain technologies, click here.

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Anton Kroger

About Anton Kroger

Anton Kroger is an Energy and Natural Resources industry solution specialist for SAP based in Australia. Anton has worked in the resources sector for 16 years and has field operations and management experience, both locally in Australia and internationally. He now works with Energy and Natural resources companies across Australia and New Zealand to help them run better, more innovatively and imagine new ways of doing business. He is an advocate for clean energy and resources and believes that innovation is critical to the future of this industry. Anton believes that despite the disruption taking place in the industry today there is still a lot of opportunity for existing companies in the future.

The Internet Of Things: An Environmentalist’s Heaven Or Hell?

John Graham

Back in early December, The Guardian ran an article asking whether the Internet of Things will save or sacrifice the environment. As you’d expect, the answer is far from clear. Some environmentalists worry about the effects of producing, installing, and powering those billions of extra devices; others urge the use of IoT sensor networks to help us monitor and curb resource consumption and emissions.

On the surface, the thought of creating huge wireless sensor networks for the benefit of the environment seems paradoxical. However, there is a much bigger picture lurking underneath. The Global e-Sustainability Initiative’s (GeSI) recent #SMARTer2030 report suggests that IoT-related technologies could save “almost 10 times the carbon dioxide emissions that it generates by 2030 through reduced travel, smart buildings, and greater efficiencies in manufacturing and agriculture.”

Even if we achieve a situation in which physical IoT devices have a net positive effect on humanity’s carbon footprint, there is still the massive data transmission and storage growth to consider. Speaking as an executive of a company providing the cloud-based data platform for IoT networks, I can say that it’s in our best interests to keep energy consumption as low as possible, because it costs less. That’s why data centers are built with energy efficiency top of mind.

Ultimately, whether or not the IoT turns out to be an environmentalist’s dream will depend on how we apply its concepts. If it’s primarily used to stream endless high-quality video feeds 24 hours a day or for power-hungry gimmicks and trivialities, the footprint will be far worse than if it’s used directly to get resource and energy management under control. It seems unlikely that the private sector and consumers alone will summon the collective motivation to veer in the direction of the latter, so policy will need to keep up and be sound and assertive.

The attitude of disposability in Western society today is another issue altogether. Perfectly functional year-old smartphones and computers are piling up in landfills across the globe as consumers struggle to resist the lure of the latest model. Can the IoT buck this trend by being founded on sensor networks built to last? With the world trending away from centralized hardware and toward cloud-based software, it could be that upgrades to the virtual aspects of IoT will be enough to satisfy our lust for innovation, while the sensors hum away out of sight and out of mind.

Time will tell.

Register here to listen to an SAP Live webcast in which IBM’s IoT guru Michael Martin discusses the possibilities and challenges of our connected future.

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John Graham

About John Graham

John Graham is president of SAP Canada. Driving growth across SAP’s industry-leading cloud, mobile, and database solutions, he is helping more than 9,500 Canadian customers in 25 industries become best-run businesses.

Climate Change: Look North and South – The Evidence Is Real

Nancy Langmeyer

Explorer Sir Robert Swan – the first and only man to walk on both the North and South Poles unsupported – believes that “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

As a self-proclaimed survivor, Sir Swan, like many others around the globe, believes that climate change and global warming are very serious issues.

The United Nations (UN) adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, and Goal 13 asks the world to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” According to the UN, “Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities, and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says the rate of temperature increase around the globe has nearly doubled in the last 50 years due to greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels. But even though 2016 was the hottest year in recent history, sadly there are still people in the world who say global warming is of no concern and that it is actually a “hoax!”

Well, like Sir Swan, let’s look to the North and Sole Poles and see what we can learn about the reality of this situation.

The Poles have a story to tell us…

Sir Swan believes the North and South Poles hold vital clues to the issue of global warming and that they are an indication of what is going on around the world in respect to climate change.

In his TED talk, Swan showed pictures of melting ice in the North and South Poles, describing it as a dangerous situation. He says, “We need to listen to what these places tell us, and if we don’t, we’ll end up with our own survival situation here on planet Earth.”

So, let’s start in the North and find out what we can learn there.

At 90⁰ north latitude, the North Pole is 450 miles north of Greenland, in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. There is no actual landmass at the North Pole – only massive amounts of ice that expand in winters and shrink down to half the size in summers.

The climate change story here is that the North Pole has been experiencing unusually high temperatures, reaching 32⁰ Fahrenheit in December 2016, which was 50⁰ warmer than typical! This trend has lead to an alarming shrinkage of the Arctic Sea ice masses that equates to approximately 1.07 million km² of ice loss every decade.

Why is this a problem? Well, according to the National Science Foundation, sea ice variability – the amount of water the ice puts into or pulls out of the ocean and the atmosphere – plays a significant role in climate change. NASA says that, “The sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas helps regulate the planet’s temperature, influences the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, and impacts Arctic communities and ecosystems.”

Even the coldest place on Earth is getting warmer!

Now, in the completely opposite direction, what can we learn from the South Pole and Antarctica? At 90⁰ south latitude, Antarctica, which includes approximately 90% of the ice on the planet, is a little over 300 feet above sea level with an ice sheet on it that is about 9,000 feet thick.

Much colder than the North Pole, the temperature here has dropped to a chilling low of -135.8⁰ Fahrenheit in 2013. However, this pole, too, is experiencing warmer weather, with its highest temperature reaching 63.5⁰ in March 2015.

NASA indicates that Antarctica has been losing about 134 gigatonnes of ice per year since 2002. And just recently, a new concern emerged – a rift in the continent that could send a significant part of the polar cap off into the ocean and create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. This could, in the long run, raise global sea levels by four inches.

So what’s a little rise in sea level?

While a couple inches here or there doesn’t seem like much, NASA says rising sea levels can erode coasts and cause more coastal flooding, and in fact, some island nations could actually disappear.

And that’s just the sea level. There are other ramifications as the climate changes, such as an increase in infectious diseases with the expansion of tropical temperature zones, more intense rain storms and hurricanes, and many other life-threatening issues.

Let’s be the “someone else”

These insights are just the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) in the story of global warming, but it is evident the Poles are telling us that climate change is real. It’s also evident that it’s time for us as the inhabitants of this world to become the “someone else” Sir Swan talks about. And the good news is that it’s not too late for us to save this planet.

We don’t have to go to the North or South Pole to make an impact. We can simply follow Swan’s advice: “A survivor sees a problem and doesn’t go, ‘Whatever.’ A survivor sees a problem and deals with that problem before it becomes a threat.”

Whether it’s at work with a company like SAP that supports the UN SDGs with its vision and purpose, or individually – we all have to help climate change before there are irreversible threats to our place. Let’s be the someone else, starting today.

A quick note: My last blog focused on how women in the arts and sports are helping to break gender inequality barriers. Well, I am happy to report that this same movement is happening in science too! In 2016, an initial 76 women in science embarked on a leadership journey to increase the awareness of climate science. The inaugural session of the year-long Homeward Bound program, which focused on empowering women in science, culminated in December 2016 with the largest female expedition in Antarctica. Here these brilliant, dedicated female scientists and engineers saw the effects of climate change first-hand and brainstormed how they, through “collaborative leadership, diverse thinking, and creative approaches,” could make an impact. 

SAP’s vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. This is our enduring cause; our higher purpose. Learn more about how we work to achieve our vision and purpose.

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Nancy Langmeyer

About Nancy Langmeyer

Nancy Langmeyer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She works with some of the largest technology companies in the world and is a frequent blogger. You'll see some under her name...and then there are others that you won't see. These are ones where Nancy interviews marketing executives and leaders and turns their insights into thought leadership pieces..

The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers

 

The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.


Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.


A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.


Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


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How Digital Transformation Is Rewriting Business Models

Ginger Shimp

Everybody knows someone who has a stack of 3½-inch floppies in a desk drawer “just in case we may need them someday.” While that might be amusing, the truth is that relatively few people are confident that they’re making satisfactory progress on their digital journey. The boundaries between the digital and physical worlds continue to blur — with profound implications for the way we do business. Virtually every industry and every enterprise feels the effects of this ongoing digital transformation, whether from its own initiative or due to pressure from competitors.

What is digital transformation? It’s the wholesale reimagining and reinvention of how businesses operate, enabled by today’s advanced technology. Businesses have always changed with the times, but the confluence of technologies such as mobile, cloud, social, and Big Data analytics has accelerated the pace at which today’s businesses are evolving — and the degree to which they transform the way they innovate, operate, and serve customers.

The process of digital transformation began decades ago. Think back to how word processing fundamentally changed the way we write, or how email transformed the way we communicate. However, the scale of transformation currently underway is drastically more significant, with dramatically higher stakes. For some businesses, digital transformation is a disruptive force that leaves them playing catch-up. For others, it opens to door to unparalleled opportunities.

Upending traditional business models

To understand how the businesses that embrace digital transformation can ultimately benefit, it helps to look at the changes in business models currently in process.

Some of the more prominent examples include:

  • A focus on outcome-based models — Open the door to business value to customers as determined by the outcome or impact on the customer’s business.
  • Expansion into new industries and markets — Extend the business’ reach virtually anywhere — beyond strictly defined customer demographics, physical locations, and traditional market segments.
  • Pervasive digitization of products and services — Accelerate the way products and services are conceived, designed, and delivered with no barriers between customers and the businesses that serve them.
  • Ecosystem competition — Create a more compelling value proposition in new markets through connections with other companies to enhance the value available to the customer.
  • Access a shared economy — Realize more value from underutilized sources by extending access to other business entities and customers — with the ability to access the resources of others.
  • Realize value from digital platforms — Monetize the inherent, previously untapped value of customer relationships to improve customer experiences, collaborate more effectively with partners, and drive ongoing innovation in products and services,

In other words, the time-tested assumptions about how to identify customers, develop and market products and services, and manage organizations may no longer apply. Every aspect of business operations — from forecasting demand to sourcing materials to recruiting and training staff to balancing the books — is subject to this wave of reinvention.

The question is not if, but when

These new models aren’t predictions of what could happen. They’re already realities for innovative, fast-moving companies across the globe. In this environment, playing the role of late adopter can put a business at a serious disadvantage. Ready or not, digital transformation is coming — and it’s coming fast.

Is your company ready for this sea of change in business models? At SAP, we’ve helped thousands of organizations embrace digital transformation — and turn the threat of disruption into new opportunities for innovation and growth. We’d relish the opportunity to do the same for you. Our Digital Readiness Assessment can help you see where you are in the journey and map out the next steps you’ll need to take.

Up next I’ll discuss the impact of digital transformation on processes and work. Until then, you can read more on how digital transformation is impacting your industry.

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Ginger Shimp

About Ginger Shimp

With more than 20 years’ experience in marketing, Ginger Shimp has been with SAP since 2004. She has won numerous awards and honors at SAP, including being designated “Top Talent” for two consecutive years. Not only is she a Professional Certified Marketer with the American Marketing Association, but she's also earned her Connoisseur's Certificate in California Reds from the Chicago Wine School. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of San Francisco, and an MBA in marketing and managerial economics from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Personally, Ginger is the proud mother of a precocious son and happy wife of one of YouTube's 10 EDU Gurus, Ed Shimp.