At EMC, as in many leading companies, we believe in mainstreaming sustainability. Rather than belonging to a single team, we see it as a shared responsibility and as a pervasive consideration in how we conduct business.Sustainability as a concept is not there in every portion of our business quite yet, but we’re getting closer! Nothing brings that home more than reading through EMC’s Sustainability Report published today. I’m told that some people ignore reports like these, thinking they are just a list of all the ways that companies can promote how “green” they are. But that’s not what it’s about at all! It’s about how we conduct our business for the long term – the principles, values, successes, and – yes – even the challenges in embedding environmental and social considerations into everything we do here at EMC.Though this work is done by many across the company, there is still a role for a few dedicated individuals to champion and link efforts. I think of a company’s Office of Sustainability as being not unlike the Office of the CFO. Clearly, financial considerations – cost and/or revenue – have to be part of every decision made at every level of the company. But we still have a CFO to establish our strategy, perform some functions that are unique to that role, and look around corners at internal and external factors that are headed our way. So it is with sustainability, where our team pulls the report together, coordinates stakeholder collaboration, leads cross-functional groups that drive strategy and engagement, provides education and advocacy to the business units, and serves as point of contact for sustainability issues.But just as with the CFO, the work that makes us successful is the work that’s done in the trenches, at every level of the company, in every line of business and geography.Check it out! My favorite stories include:Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Employees in our Cork manufacturing facility co-developed a new cooling system for our environmental test chambers. By reducing the amount of LN2, it saved money and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and created a more efficient product that is now being marketed by the supplier.Tracking eWaste – We partnered with Environmental Defense Fund and InnoCentive to crowdsource ideas for tracking eWaste. The end-of-life value chain is pretty complicated, and we are working with the winning ideas to determine how to verify that our recycled materials really are going where we are sending them.Engaging with Suppliers – We introduced new ways to engage with our suppliers to further increase social and environment responsibility in our supply chain. Last year we developed a “spot check” program to detect and remedy issues quickly, a newsletter called “SER Link” to help our suppliers better understand and track expectations, and the Blue Sky Supplier Sustainability Award to promote sustainability reporting, engagement, and action.Collaborating with Other Vendors – Our Environmental Design Architect led a Sustainability Summit in which engineers collaborated with recycling vendors. Hands-on exercises helped the engineers realize the implications of their designs on how easily we can reclaim material at the end of life.Developing New Materials – Our technical supply chain team worked with suppliers to develop a new material for our printed circuit boards. It replaces a substance that is potentially harmful while meeting the performance and availability requirements, and has now been adopted by others in the industry.The best part are the signs that the “mainstreaming of sustainability” is happening outside of EMC’s walls! At EMC World last week, I had the chance to speak to a large number of attendees about EMC’s priorities for sustainability. I was absolutely blown away by the thoughtfulness of the questions. The audience knew about conflict minerals, understood the complexity of eWaste challenges, were aware of sustainability reporting trends, and recognized the potential of cloud computing and big data to drive disruptive change.And they cared.It reminded me that we’re doing this because it’s important for society and because it’s good for business. The growing interest and knowledge is a sign. Sustainability isn’t a fad. It’s going mainstream.
Autonomous cars are racing down the highway at speeds exceeding 100 MPH when suddenly a car a half-mile ahead blows out a tire sending dangerous debris across 3 lanes of traffic. Instead of relying upon sending this urgent, time-critical distress information to the world via the cloud, the cars on that particular section of the highway use peer-to-peer, immutable communications to inform all vehicles in the area of the danger so that they can slow down and move to unobstructed lanes (while also sending a message to the nearest highway maintenance robots to remove the debris).Figure 1: “I, Robot” Movie Scene of Autonomous Robots Cleaning Up Road DebrisReal-time analytics at the edges of the Internet of Things and the real-time communications between devices of different types, models and makes are going to be critical to realizing the operational and society benefits of smart cities, smart airports, smart hospitals, smart factories and the like.While machine learning and reinforcement learning at the edges and deep learning at the core are key to driving system-wide intelligence, the ability to capture, communicate, share and build upon the system-wide “learnings and insights” at the “local level” is going to require a technology that exploits real-time, nearest neighbor, peer-to-peer, immutable communications. Hello, Blockchain!While there are many interesting aspects of Blockchain, the two that I find the most compelling for creating “smart” environments are:Peer-to-peer, which is the ability to share access to data and information (analytics) without the need for a central serverImmutable communications, which is that the data and information is not susceptible to change.Define BlockchainA blockchain is a distributed file system in which blocks of information are linked together (“chained”) and secured using private key cryptography, ensuring only those with appropriate permission can edit the data. Because copies of the file are stored on multiple computer systems (distributed) and kept synchronized through the consensus of the network, they enable innovative solutions to problems involving tracking and ledgering transactions in a digital world.Bottom-line is that blockchain enables low-cost, peer-to-peer communications without the added expense (and latency) of a cloud infrastructure.Precision Agriculture Use CaseA recent BusinessWeek article titled “This Army of AI Robots Will Feed the World” discusses the implications of micro-robots in the application of plant-by-plant farming. From the article:“The implication of plant-by-plant—rather than field-by-field—farming is not just the prospect of vast reductions in chemical usage. It could also, in theory, end mono-cropping, which has become the new normal—cornfields and soybean fields as far as the eye can see—and has given rise to the kind of high-calorie, low-nutrient diets that are causing heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. Mono-crops also leach soil nutrients and put food supplies at risk, because single-crop fields are more susceptible to blight and catastrophe. Modern farmers have been segregating crops in part because our equipment can’t handle more complexity. Robots that can tend plants individually could support intercropping—planting corn in with complementary crops such as soybeans and other legumes.”As these micro-robots roll down the fields applying deep learning algorithms to make snap decisions about what pesticides and/or herbicides to use, and how much to use on an individual plant by plant basis, blockchain will play a critical role in ensuring communications between the micro-robots and the other farm implements of different types, models and manufacturers about the learnings or insights that are being gathered in real-time about crop health, damage and disease, including:Is there a pattern to the pesticide and herbicide needs of the plants?Do certain types of plants require more than normal pesticides and herbicides?Are there any potential pesticide or herbicide “drift” problems that are having unexpected impact on neighboring plants?Are there certain portions of the field where more or less crop damage is prevalent?Which pesticides and herbicides seem to be delivering the best results?These kinds of real-time insights can help the micro-robots to optimize the plant-by-plant treatments to drive optimal crop yield at minimal costs.Role of Analytic Profiles or Digital TwinsWhat I find most interesting from a Big Data and Data Science perspective is the ability to build analytic profiles at the level of each individual plants. The micro-robots applying pesticides and herbicides can capture detailed performance and behavioral insights at the level of each individual plant. These performance and behavioral plant, pesticide and herbicide insights can be aggregated to provide substantial financial, operational and ecological benefits such as:Reduced use and overuse of pesticides and herbicidesImproved predictability in crop yieldImproved predictability in ideal harvesting timeReduce crops lost to disease and distressOptimize the mix of crops on a field-by-field basisReduce the time and effort required to care for a fieldSave a whole bunch of money!See the blog “Analytic Profiles: Key to Data Monetization” for more details on the Analytic Profiles concept.Blockchain + Analytics has the potential to convert almost any environment (airports, train stations, malls, highways, schools, hospitals, factories, stores) into a “smart” environment where the learnings and insights from normal operations can be quickly and securely shared with “neighboring” devices to create a self-learning, self-correcting and self-adjusting environment. Now, that’s smart!
MOSCOW (AP) — Tens of thousands of people have protested across Russia to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a wave of nationwide demonstrations that have rattled the Kremlin. Many chanted slogans against President Vladimir Putin. Activists say police detained more than 5,100 protesters across the country on Sunday, including over 1,600 in Moscow. The authorities mounted a massive effort to stem the tide of demonstrations after tens of thousands rallied last weekend in the most widespread show of discontent Russia has seen in years. Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, is Putin’s most well-known critic. The United States urged Russia to release him and criticized the crackdown against protesters.
NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time, “Dateline NBC” is trying to stretch its true crime franchise into a multi-part series. “The Widower,” about a Las Vegas man who had four of his wives die under mysterious circumstances, will debut on Feb. 18 and unfurl over five hours on three different nights. It’s a nod to series like HBO’s “The Jinx” and Netflix’s “Making of a Murderer,” popular crime stories that had multiple parts. In an effort to expand its appeal, “Dateline” will start a dedicated channel on the Peacock streaming service later this month and debut its second-ever podcast with Keith Morrison as narrator.