SF Cleantech Forum 2016 – IoT Platforms

Last week’s Cleantech Forum 2016 in San Francisco featured many exciting discussions and exchanges of the latest cleantech trends, ideas and start-up company efforts. One of the workshops at the forum focused on the developed of the Internet of Things (IoT), specifically how new forms of data are collected and processed on a global scale for a variety of efforts. The panelists of the workshop represented a wide of players in the data space, including start-up companies like Planet Labs who builds small satellites for global imaging as well as established data companies like IBM and Google.

Planet Labs Satellites – Spacenews.com

The panelists agreed that the data layer is being added globally and believe that many efforts are driving forward a democratization of information and data. This democratization of information primarily by technology advances on the data collection side, including Planet Labs’ satellites and the miniaturization of sensors that enable the collection of diverse sets of data from nearly everywhere in the world, as well as continuous improvements in data processing and analysis, such as more advanced machine learning algorithms and the development of neural nets that enable faster and more sophisticated data analysis with modern computers. Peter Williams, CTO of Big Green Innovation at IBM, shared that the Watson supercomputer that was featured on the TV show Jeopardy a couple of years ago used to as big as a container, but the miniaturization of electronics has allowed IBM to pack the same computing power into a machine the size of 2-3 pizza boxes. David Thau, Manager of Developer Relations at Google Earth, shared that Google is building out Google Earth features to map inside of buildings and to use newly available image data to continuously update the mapping capabilities of its Earth engine.

One of the major themes of the workshops was that the technology for creating and utilizing the data layer has already arrived and is ready to implemented. However, considerable sociological barriers remain for full implementation of available tools as businesses, governments, and individual need to make significant decisions in how to utilize the available technological capabilities and the enhanced access to information they provide. The new availability of data can have immense benefits are critical resources, such as the environment, carbon and water, can be more accurately assessed and priced in the future so that they will factor into economic and sociological decisions. The enhanced availability of data will also allow business and consumer globally to make better decisions about their consumptions behaviors and can thereby aid to make the use of resources worldwide more efficient and sustainable.

Similar to each new tool or technology that is developed, the user collective, and particularly decision makers, have the responsibility to ensure that the benefits of the tools are maximized while their potential negatives and abuses are minimized. The coming data layer can yield immense benefits for societies across the world if used responsibly and effectively, which would to great an opportunity to waste.