Letter to BAE Stakeholders on IoT, Technology & Innovation

September 18, 2018

Dear BAE Stakeholders,

In the lead up to our BAE stakeholder breakfast and dinner, I must confess I had a sense of growing concern whether Technology and Innovation, specifically IoT, makes Boston’s bold commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 actually more difficult. IoT is clearly going to increase the amount of data captured, accessed, and rigorously analyzed, thus driving more energy consumption and more pressure on Boston to find clean energy sources. Furthermore, this growing network of needed data centers will have backup generation, most likely from diesel and natural gas systems.

Our discussion leaders provided compelling perspectives on this issue, which led to a thought provoking dialogue on what 12 month action would be most impactful.  It was inspiring to walk away from our time together having heard and better understood so many intelligent and thoughtful voices united by a noble focus. I hope you have similar feelings and will continue to stay actively engaged with Boston Advanced Energy.  

Grant and I stayed an extra night in Boston and spent much of the beautiful Thursday evening walking around Boston reviewing the highlights of the dinner and breakfast. Please see below a summary of my three key takeaways. Thank you for being so engaged in our discussions to identify and agree on the key obstacles preventing IoT & Technology from being the needed breakthrough in Boston’s quest for total de-carbonization.

From the dinner and table exercise:

1. Top three areas where IoT and Technology would be best part of the solution for Boston:

  • The built environment

  • Transportation sector

  • Empowerment of the Individual

For IoT to impact the built environment, we will need a locational and time based market for energy optimization that accounts for carbon and leads to < 3yr paybacks on investments for commercial real estate and <5-7yr paybacks for long hold real estate assets. In regards to the transportation sector, by implementing a 5G city wide network, market opportunities exist for increased convenience, lower personal costs and widespread reduction in carbon emissions. For the individual, consider the behavioral impact of digital wearables, like FitBit when coupled with the powerful communication and control platform of a smartphone. Can IoT connect the benefits of actively reducing carbon to the individual and drive a market of real time rewards? We all have a credit score that has considerable financial influence on our lives. What about a dynamic carbon score?

From the breakfast presentations:

2. The key problems that must be addressed to ensure IoT, Technology and Innovation are Boston’s most impactful allies in its fight to decarbonize are:

  • Lack of inclusion, empathy and of understanding of the Boston resident

  • An interoperable digital environment that can accelerate reach and scale

  • Complexity that make this path neither attractive nor "sexy" to scale

Joe Christo, City of Boston, started our breakfast with a powerful perspective on the challenge and tremendous importance of keeping Boston residents at the heart of decarbonization efforts with IoT. According to a 2015 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the median net worth for non-immigrant African-American households in the Greater Boston region is $8 versus $245,000 for whites. A key reason for me to create a business that supported the achievement of Mayoral decarbonization commitments is the realization that the lives of the most vulnerable are most at risk. The recent images of those unfortunate citizens being rescued due to Hurricane Florence clearly confirms this. Remembering what is truly at stake is powerful motivation to further our collaborative leadership towards results. This realization dovetails well with the importance of optimizing both the cost and benefit of electrified, autonomous transportation, especially mass transit which is relied on by the poor and elderly. A person may have no choice but to take mass transit; however that choice benefits all Bostonians in the fight against GHG emissions. How can IoT translate and monetize this societal benefit for the rider?

Galen Nelson of Massachusetts Clean Energy Center shared real challenges with supporting clean energy projects due to lack of interoperable standards that enable projects to move forward. As Ken Horne of Navigant noted, it was only until you saw the emergence of IOS and Android as the two dominant platforms was there a dramatic growth in applications. How can Boston facilitate this emergence of dominant energy platforms that conform to the most important standards such as cybersecurity requirements?

Finally, David Funk of Enel X and Carlos Nouel of National Grid (kudos to Carlos for the winning problem statement) drove home the point that complexity, perceived and actual, is keeping the needed benefits of IoT and Technology outside the grasp of those we need most to embrace it.

From the roundtable action challenge:

3. A twelve month action challenge with measurable milestones is an exciting step in the right direction to collectively:

  • clarify what is most important for us to accomplish now

  • provide a measurable understanding of what winning looks like

  • give ourselves, the BAE Stakeholders, an exciting way to be accountable

When a curated group like ours can start suggesting actionable 12 month solutions that include ideas such as the development of RFPs, a Boston Energy Marathon, and a winning ABC (Assess, Build and Catapult) path to results, I know that magic is starting to happen.

The potential of our dedicated time and efforts to make a measurable and needed impact on Boston’s noble quest for carbon neutrality has never felt more real and possible to me. I hope this sentiment resonates with you and you stay engaged as we move into the next quarter on Mobility and Transportation: Nov 14 - 15th.

I welcome your comments, suggested edits and/or questions.

On behalf of Grant, myself and all the stakeholder members supporting Boston Advanced Energy, thank you!


H.G. Chissell

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