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The next phase of the world of energy involves massive connectivity, highly intelligent self-correcting technology, the rapid advancement of energy science, personal energy micrograms and other transformative trends -- Jim Carroll

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Jim was the recent featured keynote speaker, opening the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference, with attendees from major utilities and energy companies from 37 countries. Other events include • Sandia National Laboratories • Black & Veitch International Utilities & Energy Conference • Southwest Gas Association • Allette • National Rural Electrical Cooperative • Midwest ISO Operators • Siemens XHQ • Enercom 2012 • BOMEX (Building Owner and Managers Association • Trane Ingersoll Rand • .

Recent Posts in the Energy & Infrastructure category



Siemens has booked me to headline a major energy conference in Houston in May.

So I did a little video about what to expect. Give it a watch. We are going to see more change to the global utility/energy industry in the next 5 years, than we have seen in the next 100!

Despite the fact that I’m a futurist with a relentless focus on innovative thinking, I’m probably as guilty as the next person in making quick  judgement on people and companies – particularly with respect to the scope of what they do today compared to yesterday.

So it was when I saw that a company named Lewis Tree Services wrote a blog post about my recent keynote for the annual National Rural Electrical Cooperative Technology Show in Nashville. Read their post here; you’ll also find it below.

Hmm, I thought – what is a tree company doing at an energy conference, and why would they blog about my keynote with an observation on the future of that industry? After all, what do these people do – trim and cut trees?

Click to continue reading

In my keynote, I did speak about the emergence of new careers – including, location intelligence professionals! Watch it here:

That’s the type of limited thinking that I often accuse my clients of falling prey to! All too often, we miss the signs of significant change in an industry, unless we actually spend some time to work in that industry. Such it is with the cutting and clearing of trees….. who would have thought! Well, I should have!

I began reading the post (which does a great job in summarizing my talk!), and then started browsing their Web site. Tree cutting? It’s  no longer what it was. It’s bound up in spatial intelligence – location is everything. This organization provides utility, i.e. power companies, i.e. those at the conference, with intelligent mapping services that can provide for better overall municipal risk management among other things.  A key line in their service offerings caught my attention:

“The heart of the Intelligent Vegetation Management approach is a philosophy of leveraging investments in GIS, outage management, customer information and ERP systems to connect vegetation management operations into technology ecosystems – yours and ours.”

Of course! Intelligent vegetation management by location intelligence professionals. Of course their industry has transformed into  a technology driven industry – in which tech provides a pathway to the delivery of all kinds of innovative services and capabilities. And the fact is, this transition has been underway for a long time ; too many of us don’t spend time thinking just how quickly EVERY industry is being transformed.

Here’s the fun part – my entire morning before reading this blog post has been bound up in properly catching the essence of location intelligence as a professional service. Backstory: I’ve been talking about the emergence of the ‘location intelligence professional’ as a critical emerging career path for the last 20 years. Someone must have been listening, because my oldest son Willie Carroll went on to get a university degree and then a post-graduate college certificate in that very field!

And just as I was reading this blog post from Lewis Tree, I’m working with Willie in the home office as he rolls out his new freelance GIS company, Location Intelligence & Design.

Willie’s key skill set includes collection and interoperation of location / geospatial information with the leading such technology from ESRI, ArcGIS. Lewis Tree? The heart of their Intelligent Vegetation Management service is based upon ESRI’s ArcGIS!

I love this world. There is just so much coming together all at once.

I also love this line in their blog post: “We need to learn what we don’t know and fill our knowledge gaps.” Yup, me too!


The Future of the Energy Industry
Posted by Laura Ribas on Mar 13, 2018 12:42:22 PM

The fascinating keynote at TechAdvantage 2018 was given by Jim Carroll, a futurist, who spoke about the speed of change and provided some mind-boggling statistics. According to Carroll, seven out of every 10 kids today will work in a career that doesn’t yet exist. And half of all knowledge learned during the first year of college today will be obsolete by the time the students graduate. Carroll used the phrase “immediate obsolescence” which applies to new technologies, like digital cameras, that come to market and are out of date <6 months later.

The future belongs to those who are fast.

We’re in the midst of unprecedented change with more change expected in the next few years than has occurred over the last 150 years. The world will look vastly different in ten years than it does today.

Disruption and Innovation

The world is becoming hyper-connected and business models are shifting with this massive connectivity. Our smart phones are now digital cameras, credit cards and GPS devices. We can manage the heat and security of our homes from afar. Our kitchen appliances are connecting with food packaging and retailers. Home sprinkler systems have moisture sensors (because why water when we don’t need to?). We now have medical tricorders that provide an instant readout of our healthcare and physical condition. The science fiction of Star Trek and the Jetsons is here today.

When Napster introduced the ability to download MP3s, the music industry was threatened as their business model changed. The same will be true for utilities and those serving them. Will we see change as a threat or an opportunity?

Smart businesses will see change as an opportunity.

What does this new world look like? It’s a world where big data and analytics are key. It’s a world where precision farming is conducted by drones analyzing plant health, soil composition and more. Where real-time information is provided to vehicles to inform lane changing.  Where street lights monitor air quality and offer car charging stations. Where highway control is intelligent. Where we’ll have 24/7 solar energy even when it’s dark outside.

Carroll believes that these are near-term, not long-term, trends. That self-driving trucks are five years away. That flying cars are simply drones scaled up in size and able to carry people.

Moore’s law of innovation velocity is happening before our eyes. The advancements in battery technology are staggering (and small always beats big).

And Carroll believes that we’ll achieve grid parity faster than we think. Think: portable charging stations. Think: glass in buildings that generates electricity. Think: growing solar cells in plants. (Check out this article that highlights a new thermal resonator device from MIT that can generate energy anywhere using natural temperature changes.)

With grid parity, customers will generate their own energy and share it with each other via micro grids. According to Carroll, the micro grid is not a fringe idea; it is fundamental to the future. (Check out this ComEd press release sharing that they’ve been approved to construct one of the first utility-scale microgrid clusters in the nation.) Think of Napster but for energy: cooperative energy networks. Distributed technology resources are growing three times faster than other technologies. Advanced technologies will reshape the industry and edge thinking dominates.

By 2020, every industry will be a:

  • Software industry
  • Technology industry
  • Insurance industry
  • Battery industry

Maytag used to sell appliances. Now equipment manufacturers sell service levels and uptime using predictive diagnostics.

Utilities are also becoming insurance companies, hedging customers against risk using real-time data to eliminate outages. Blockchain technology, like that used for Bitcoin, will have a massive impact on smart grid technology transforming the architecture of the grid itself.

We’ve seen the costs of LiDAR collapsing from $75K to $100. Carroll joked that pretty soon they’ll be selling LiDAR packs at Dollar General. A massive shift in location-based services is underway. And mapping requires location intelligence professionals.

And with customers using smart thermostats like Nest and Ecobee, utilities can also provide innovative ways for customers to receive rebates. Think of today’s kids. They don’t know mainframes and DOS. They’re wired, collaborative and global. They’re gamers. What happens when gamers buy houses with Ecobees? They compete against their neighbors to win energy rebates.

Devices with participatory data are the future.

The grid is a complex data engine and data is the new oil in energy.

We need to learn what we don’t know and fill our knowledge gaps. To be prepared requires garage-like thinking. We need to ask ourselves, are we leaders or followers? And how quickly can we change?

At Lewis Tree Service, we believe that one of the benefits of introducing our Intelligent Vegetation Management solution as a forerunner in the industry is that it enabled us to become more agile, flexible and customer-centric when it comes to technology and innovation.

We’re big fans of Carroll’s adage: Think big, start small, scale fast.

Next month, I’ll keynote the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Technology conference. It’s an unprecedented 5th repeat booking by this organization.

The energy industry is in the midst of fast hyper-disruption.

Here’s a quick little video that I put together for them to outline some of what I’ll cover.

 

 

I was recently invited in to keynote the annual SAP Utilities conference in Southern California, and had a room of a few hundred executives from the energy, utility, water and wastewater sector.

Here’s a clip where I spoke about the acceleration of everything having to do with battery technology. I think its one of the most fascinating yet not fully appreciated sectors in our world of disruption – with an impact on everything from energy to transportation, consumer devices to medical care, and more.

Learn more in my post: The Future of Just About Everything is in Batteries.

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!

Want to understand the future? It’s all about the batteries!

My attention was reminded of this fact last week with an article that appeared on Bloomberg, “Tech Guru Bill Joy Unveils a Battery to Rival Lithium-Ion,” which brought me back to a series of Twitter posts I did a few months back about trends involving batteries.

The thread is worth revisiting, since what is happening with battery technology today will impact dozens of industries into the future! Often, entire industries will be changed and disrupted by the most innocuous of trends.

Obviously, the energy, hi-tech and automotive sectors will be transformed by the acceleration of battery innovation.  But so will other industries, such as healthcare, aerospace, and agriculture. Everywhere I look, I see big changes and opportunities that come from the acceleration of battery science.

With that, I’m pretty convinced that in the future, people will come to realize that one of the most transformative trends of our time had to do with the acceleration of the science of battery technology. To understand why the acceleration of battery science, and innovation around battery concepts is so important, let’s replay the Twitter thread here, with some added commentary.

First off, battery technology is being subjected to the acceleration of basic science, with I have been speaking on stage about for many years. Specifically, the key point being that “we’re going from 19 million known chemical substances today, to 80 million by 2025, and 5 billion by 2100. Any new substance can lead to the emergence of a billion dollar market.”

That’s the acceleration of battery science in a nutshell.

The key concepts accelerating concepts with batteries involve how to improve longevity, weight, and innovate with battery concepts to ride this pace of scientific discovery.  Simply put, there are big opportunities that come from making batteries lighter, that last longer, and which are based on new concepts and scientific ideas, not to mention innovate methods of utilizing them.

Where is the basic science innovation occurring? With drones!

What sparked my original Twitter thread was an article I came across which focused on the unique research occurring with drone batteries. Drones have quickly become a part of many industries, yet have been limited in terms of how long and how far they can fly. The article took a look look at the many new types of batteries – beyond the common lithium-ion batteries – which are under development. If you want to understand what’s really happening with the science of batteries, read the article.

As a futurist, I track dozens of topics in order to keep up with trends, and last month, this article below caught my attention. It’s another example that there is a lot of innovation occurring with different concepts in battery science, another barometer for fast innovation.

And the disruption from batteries? It’s huge in every industry. In the energy sector, for example, it will allow people to store energy from their own backyard energy sources, to be reused later. Then they’ll connect to their neighbours, leading to the emergence of little local energy micro-grids. People will disrupt the utility industry just as they they disrupted the music industry!

Since industries understand that batteries really define their future, the pace of innovation is moving from fast to furious.

And then, while writing may Twitter thread, another article about battery science innovation caught my attention!

And another…. the key thing is, take a look around, and there is just an amazing level of science innovation with battery tech – just as there was with ‘plastics’ in the 1960’s!

Often, to think about the future, you need to stretch your mind well into the future, and think big and bold. Folks are doing that in the battery space:

Add it all up, and something transformative is happening!

I’ve been speaking about the impact of battery science on industries for many ears, including in the energy sector; in 2012, I keynoted a global energy event for Accenture, and spoke about how battery technology was leading to fascinating  concepts — such as a 24 hour solar power plant!

I’ve also written about the topic for many organizations, such as this article I wrote for GE, distributed to their clients worldwide.

Of course, the thing about innovation is this: there are often people who discount the speed of trends which are occurring, or simply can’t conceive of how massive change comes into play.

Back to the fact that it is all about accelerating science. (I repeat myself!)

And so, it’s all about the batteries!

What should you think about next? Maybe penguins!

It is quickly becoming apparent that in 2017, there will be the emergence of two economies: one linked to the whimsical desire for the 1950’s, and the other firmly  set to accelerate to the year 2050.

Case in point: one will involve a desire to return to coal; the other, to solar, alternative energy and accelerating science. One wishes that we can return to the brute force manufacturing methods of 1950 involving bashing metal; the other involves 3d printing, advanced processes and materials, and much more.

Which economy do you want to link yourself to? One will be driven by politics, and will seem pretty ridiculous years from now. The other will be driven by science, and is inevitable.

I don’t know about you, but I’m with science on this one….

Science acclerates and takes us into a faster future. It provides us opportunities that are unprecedented. For example: what if we could grow plants that became  solar panels? What if solar adoption grew as quickly as Facebook did?

Crazy ideas? I don’t think so.

Solar is a barometer for two new economies. I was thinking about that this morning when a Bloomberg article caught my attention: “Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth”  That’s a 1950 vs a 2050 economic issue right there!

Consider this key paragraph:

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Two really cool statistics stand out from the article:

  • since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent
  • every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent

The trend will start to accelerate further as science accelerates. Science is inviolable. It doesn’t slow down. And solar is science.

The fact is, there is incredible momentum with solar.

Innovation in 2017 will be about linking yourself to 2050….

Here’s a clip where i spoke to the National Rural Electrical Cooperaitve, and am challenging them to think about some of these questions.

Today, the Wall Street Journal ran an article,”Why Saudi Arabia’s Oil Giant Aims to Be Big in Chemicals, Too“, with the subhead: “Aramco’s plans to vastly expand its petrochemical operations are part of the kingdom’s effort to remake its economy as oil’s future clouds.” 

bn-qv896_1117ar_j_20161117132853

“Aramco’s strategic goal is to create a global network of refining and petrochemical plants that let Saudi Arabia turn its biggest asset into hundreds of higher-value products crucial to modern life, from chewing gum to auto parts”

Why would one of the world’s largest oil companies shift to a new focus on the chemical industry as their key opportunity? One reason is that the math, and hence the scope of the opportunity, is so overwhelming. (The other being that in a world awash in oil, energy is no longer a growth industry. So after the world gets flat, you put a ripple in it!)

Here’s why: years ago, I dug out a fascinating observation having to do with the world of chemistry. I’ve used this in keynotes for BASF, the American Chemical Society, and many others. Consider the simple math at hand that spells opportunity with a capital ‘O’.

  • “…The number of known chemical substances has been growing exponentially since 1800, from some hundreds then to about 19 million today….”
  • “…. the number constantly doubles every 13 years….”
  • by 2025: 80 million chemical substances
  • by 2050: 300 million
  • and by 2100: 5 billion……

19 billion known chemical substances to 5 billion? That’s a pretty exponential change….

Why is this important? I always point out on stage, when using these stats, that the discovery of a single new chemical substance led to the opportunity for Apple to miniaturize the hard drive — that led to the first iPod.

Which was the birth of a multi-billion market.

For every new chemical substance, similar massive new opportunities exist.

That’s what it means to live in an exponential world! And that is what it means to focus on future opportunities through innovation. Which is precisely what Said Aramco is focused on….

 

 

So … I regularly get approached to speak at a lot of corporate leadership meetings …. and have done so for organizations like Johnson & Johnson, The GAP, Dupont, BASF, Siemens, Lockheed Martin. I frame for them the issue that the future is arriving faster than they think, and offer concise guidance on key trends that they need to align themselves to…..

To help emphasize the issue of the era of acceleration I’ve been using the story of the Jetson’s over the last 5 years while on stage. Remember it? It’s that cartoon show from 1962, purporting to show what the world will look like in 2062. Remember George Jetson? Remember the fact that there were autonomous vehicles, robot assistants, drones, and Skype and FaceTime seemed to be everywhere?

Now consider this! About a month ago, I was approached by Arconic to headline a leadership meeting for them in Phoenix; this is a newly spun-off entity from Alcoa that is focused on advanced technologies. I’ll be the opening kickoff – outlining and reaffirming the trends that will provide massive opportunity in the future.

Great minds think alike! They think the world of the Jetson’s is going to arrive here soon too — and are planning to play a major role in helping to make it happen. So much so, that they engaged Hollywood filmmaker Justin Lin of Star Trek Beyond fame, to do  a live-action re-imagination of the world of “The Jetsons!

 

Give it a watch!

Check their tagline: “Arconic: A Company Where the Future Takes Shape.” And my talk for them? I’m thinking this: “A keynote with the motivation that can help to make it happen!”

Do you need to accelerate your team into the future? Do it now, and read my keynote topic, The Jetson’s Have Arrived Fifty Years Early: What Are You Going to Do About It?

This is all just too much fun — just yesterday, while in Washington, I had some time to kill before a meeting, so I visited the Smithsonian Institution. What did I find, but a Jetsons lunchbox!

jetsonslunchbox

I so want this item….

Learn more about the making of the video

Here I am on stage in front of 2,000 in Chicago on the Jetsons!

david-full-front

“Using 3D-printed wax moulds for concrete components, we will have a completely different paradigm. This is transformative technology”.

It is perhaps the most staggering piece of artwork in the whole of human history, renowned for its accuracy in the depiction of the human body . Anyone who has seen it up close comes away in awe of the fact that someone had the ability to carve such a piece from stone.

Now, imagine, that one day we will see a 3D printer that could print Michelangelo’s David utilizing concrete and other advanced materials – and that if such a statue would be placed next to the original, most people would be unable to tell the difference!

Science fiction? Not to me.

That was one of my messages in my keynote last week for the American Concrete Institute, with with over 1,000 executives from this industry in the room. My job was to outline for them the opportunities that will come to the industry from embracing fast paced trends. And I put on the table for them the idea that the boldest goal in their industry would be accomplished when someone was able to print Michelangelo’s David utilizing a 3D printer.

It’s perhaps the equivalent of the well known Turing test, which is the ultimate challenge with computer technology — could a computer have the ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human?

Farfetched? No. In fact, computer companies have been pursuing the goal of the Turing test in a feverish race.

This same thing will happen in the concrete industry with 3D printing — indeed, it’s a bold goal that some people are already thinking about in terms of the transformative trends sweeping the industry today.

Every industry has, or should have the equivalent of a Turing test. Think about robotics – how quickly will this industry mature? I just toured a robotics display at a museum in Philadelphia, and one display suggested that there should be a “Jetsons goal for robotics” –” the industry will have matured when it can build a robot that will be accepted by a family, just like Rosie the Robot from the popular 1960’s television cartoon.”

Here’s the thing — we might see these big bold bets be achieved sooner rather than later. I continually emphasize to my clients that the future is happening all around them, and that it’s happening faster than they think. In China, an entire 4,305 sq foot, 2 story home has been printed with a 3D printer, with walls as thick as 
8 feet and with 9 foot ceilings. It too 45 days from start to finish, and was printed in one go at the building site.

Consider this office building in Dubai which was printed in concrete using a 3D printer (from my slide deck).

dubaiconcrete
There are fascinating trends which come from the ability to 3D print with concrete. We can get more flexible designs, with concrete that is warped or twisted. Waste is significantly reduced, new design concepts are suddenly possible, and we can cut down on the cost of manufacturing. People are talking about the fact that it will lead us to an era in which we can “design for deconstruction” — printing in such a way that when a building is eventually decommissioned, we can dissassemble it rather than blowing it up!

Where is the world of construction headed? Consider this:

Your future home might be planned using virtual reality, built with a 3D printer and inspected by a robot for quality. What may sound like a sci-fi movie could become reality in a few decades as Singapore ramps up its construction productivity and employs more efficient building methods. Building with speed and quality through high-tech, Straits Times, Hong Kong, October 2016

Of course, 3D printing is already passe, I pointed out to my audience at the American Concrete Institute: people are already talking about 4D printing — which has materials that can change shape depending on the environemt they are in!

Bottom line? Consider this comment by Archite ct James Gardiner: “Using 3D-printed wax moulds for concrete components, we will have a completely different paradigm. This is transformative technology”.

What’s the Turing test or Michaelangelo’s David in your industry? And are you prepared to think in a big and bold way to get there before others do?

 

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