Realize the digital revolution in environmental management

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Distinguished panel moderated by Environment Analyst explores how digital innovation is transforming project delivery and data management, disrupting traditional business models and accelerating the journey to net zero in a post-pandemic world

/ Asia-Pacific, Business, Europe, World, Insight, North America, United Kingdom

BY NICK COTTAM

How many environmental consultants have monitored the sites from a room in the back during the current pandemic? What about calculating a customer’s carbon footprint or monitoring the progress of restoration of an isolated coral reef? Whatever the task, a key question in this time of COVID is whether it can be done remotely and, just as important, how can technology begin to make new contributions to the way we live and work. ?

“You have to watch everything you do and ask yourself if it can be automated,” said Ben Coombes, PwC Deputy Director of Sustainability and Climate Change, and guest speaker at Realize the digital revolution – one of the most popular of this year Environmental analyst webinars led by a panel of experts (with around 400 registrants from all over the world). While the online event promoted the value of remote working, it was important, according to Coombes, to identify areas where optimization could really make a difference.

[The panel recording is free to view on demand from our webinars library.]

The value of AI

Water, transport, agriculture and energy, he said, are all sectors identified in a recent PwC report. report on the value of adopting artificial intelligence (AI) to enable a sustainable future. “We found that by just using AI in these four areas, you could increase global GDP by 4%,” Coombes said. “You could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4% – the equivalent of current levels in Japan, Canada and Australia combined.”

Realize the digital revolution made a lively and informative contribution to the debate as a series of expert speakers presented their own take on the digital future of the environmental sector, largely supported by research and project experience. “AI will transform all sectors,” predicted Javier Baldor, then executive vice president (now CEO) of BST Global, a leading provider of business management software and cloud solutions to professional service companies, and sponsor of the event. “We interviewed global consultants on five continents to better understand how technology could solve issues like revenue leakage and staff utilization. For example, for every 1% increase in usage, it’s well documented that you get a 0.5% increase in your line. ”

During this time, PwC “Size the price” Global AI to study notes that “AI could contribute up to $ 15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, more than the current production of China and India combined. Out of this 6.6 tr $, it is likely that the increase in productivity and 9.1 tr $ … side effects of consumption. “It seems that” do more with less and consume more because it is is affordable and available ”is the positive message for a world that must seek new ways to share and protect precious resources. However, as AI can open up more affordable consumption to more people, including in countries developing, another view is that it will concentrate more money and power in the hands of fewer organizations (ie the big techs of this world).

Digital webinar panelists

50 billion connected objects by 2025

The post-pandemic online world behind the scenes gave talks to the Environmental analyst event a particular intensity. All agreed that the current world situation is accelerating both the advancement of digital technology and its application. “Corona has accelerated the need for businesses to adopt new technologies,” said Deepali Trehan, Managing Director and Senior Director of Intel company. “It pushes that spectrum forward and that’s the opportunity we have right now.”

She reminded attendees that an estimated 38 billion connected devices currently in use will grow to over 50 billion by 2025. “We live in a time of disruption,” Trehan said, “and with new technologies, businesses are facing challenges. to a choice. You can stay in your silo and be disturbed or you can take advantage of the situation and disturb yourself. “

Global approach

While digital technology can help businesses open up new markets and become more competitive, it could also help create a fairer, more distributed and more protected global economy, suggested Ben Coombes. “We need a holistic approach, including for the environment. AI, for example, can optimize the use and distribution of energy and give us a more decentralized energy system. Smart agriculture can supporting more efficient irrigation and harvesting while AI will also bring big improvements in areas like weather forecasting and climate modeling.

Coombes referred to another recent report, Unlocking Technology for Global Goals, produced by PwC in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the start of this year. The report introduces the idea of ​​innovations from the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as AI, blockchain and the Internet of Things, which could be used to support the implementation of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The report notes: “For many of the challenges faced, from climate change to the loss of nature, there is no longer the luxury of time.”

An example of this situation came from fellow panelist Ramtin Davanlou, senior director of AI and analytics at Accenture, which highlighted the pioneering use of AI to monitor the recovery of fish stocks in a vulnerable coral reef surrounding Pangatalan Island in the Philippines (EA 12-May-20). Work in partnership with Intelligence and the Sulubaaï Foundation for the Environment, he explains, “We installed an AI-powered underwater camera that was able to detect different species of fish, count numbers and send information ashore for analysis. ”

Davanlou’s main statistic is that 38% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost due to overfishing, pollution and climate change. Using AI in this way, it became possible to analyze the success of restoration projects like the one on Pangatalan Island, where fish-friendly concrete structures were installed on the ocean floor to replace the reef that had been lost.

If tech companies are clear winners in the digital revolution, they too must present themselves as responsible citizens. Microsoft, for example, plans to become water positive and zero waste by 2030, Eve Joseph, the company’s head of sustainability and customer engagement, told webinar attendees. “We will also be carbon negative by 2030 and intend to reduce our emissions as quickly as possible by using more renewable energy and switching to a fleet of electric vehicles.”

As the computer giant believes it will help its customers reduce their own emissions through developments like the now ubiquitous meeting and calling software Microsoft Teams, it will continue to lead by example, Joseph said, citing the ‘company commitment to a million dollar climate innovation fund. and its support for initiatives such as the Amazon– led the $ 10 billion Climate Earth Fund (CEF) to fight climate change. The company now also levies a carbon tax internally, she revealed, charging companies for their emissions and using the funds to purchase renewable energy and support initiatives such as CEF. Microsoft also works as a partner alongside a number of consultants including PwC (with whom she collaborated for the AI ​​Sustainable Future report) and also Drink (EA 21-Oct-20).

Huge opportunity … and an equalizer

The expert group all agreed that as costs come down, small businesses and individual consultants can access more sophisticated digital technology – which in turn is starting to become more widely available in developing countries. “It used to be the arena for big companies with big budgets, but that has changed,” added BST Global Baldor. “It’s a huge opportunity to deliver data in a meaningful way and you don’t have to be a multinational company to come up with innovative ideas leveraging these kinds of technologies. “

They also agreed that partnerships are essential to make big data work and add value to existing ways of working and life in general. Mat Osund-Ireland, environmental specialist and consultant Drink, said his company’s ENVision data management software – which integrates that of Microsoft Azure cloud platform – has been installed at over 200 customer sites in the United States. “Partnerships are about sharing data,” he said, “and if you don’t share data, you won’t get any value.”

BST Global Knowledge management director Hank Tran confirmed, adding that users need to understand and trust the data they get. “Once you understand what’s going on, you can move forward with the optimization.”

Finally, there is the issue of data and inequalities. How can the digital revolution help lift more people out of poverty, empower and empower those outside this technological hub? Faithful to the spirit of Bill Gates quoted by Eve Joseph that of Microsoft AI for good initiative. “We want to make AI affordable,” she said, “and put it in the hands of NGOs, charities and policy makers”. As the pandemic abates, nonprofits and their needy targets will need all the digital support they can get.

See environmental analysts Offer the digital revolution free webinar on demand here – with special thanks to sponsor BST Global

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