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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Talking Trash and Saving the Planet at HxGN LIVE in Las Vegas

June 13th, 2019 by Susan Smith

Ole Rollen, president and CEO of Hexagon, spoke on the topic of “Can Data Save the World?” at the ninth consecutive HxGN LIVE held in Las Vegas this week.

“Does the world need saving?” Rollen asked the audience. “Do you think the planet needs saving? She will do fine without us; she’s seen volcanoes, ice ages, huge continental and weather events. What’s under threat is us. Mankind, the species, we are under threat. The world as we know is that what we jeopardize at this moment in time. To save mankind and not the earth itself.”

Rollen’s presentation was well researched. He showed dots on the screen to represent all species on the world that face extinction by human intervention. “We’ve lost 15% of fish stocks in the ocean, killed off half of all plant species on this planet. We’ve killed 80% of all marine mammals and 83% of land mammals.”

If we continue to trawl the oceans, Rollen said, we will be without fish in 30 years. Humans have cut down 10 million hectares of forest in the past 20 years, that’s roughly the same size as 1/10th of Canada. Vital ecosystems are lost by cutting down forests, along with the ability to absorb CO2. In discussing drinking water, a recent study found that all of us ingest 70,000 particles of microplastics every year, even through air we breathe. What has caused all this, what went wrong?

Balancing growth against sustainability, the earth is 4 ½ billion years old. “We’ve already consumed over 30% of the resources of the world,” said Rollen. “In 1804, we hit the first global population. We’re roughly 8 billion people, we will be 10 billion by 2050. The growth rate is slowing down, but we will be 9 billion people more than we were 10 years ago. No species has scaled the way mankind has done. What enabled us to do that? GDP – Gross domestic product, the value of everything we do in a year. The measurement of the standard of living that we all enjoy on the planet. In 1804, the first tech revolution in the industrial revolution triggered a lot of new development – that feeds people. It makes people survive longer, and population grows in line with economic development. We hit $34 trillion in GDP 20 years ago. Last year it was $80 trillion, by 2050 it will be $140 trillion. This is what we work for. If we translate to our everyday lives, we get improved health and longevity, better assistance from products and services. No one wants to go back to a flatline of 1,000 years ago for mankind. We’ve scaled but not sustainably. We all want to enjoy a better standard of living, but we also want planet to survive.”

This prophetic message illuminates the fact that humans can do anything but haven’t done it well. Scientists talk about a “doomsday limit,” as we will run out of fish and emit so much CO2 that we can’t live. The doomsday limit is around 2050. There is 30 years to fix it.

Rollen said that this might be the best business opportunity that you’ve encountered in your career. In order to change behaviors it has to be financially driven.

The human footprint purchases 1 million plastic bottles every minute around the world. Less than half will be recycled, and people dump 8 million tons of plastic into the ocean every year, killing the ecosystem.

Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze went to Bali, Indonesia on a surf trip, intent on catching some of the best waves in the world. What they saw shocked them. “We saw fisherman pushing boats through tons of plastic,” said Schulze. “They weren’t making much money catching fish. We had an idea of creating an economy and creating jobs to collect plastic for a living.  The model of paying for fish per pound and collecting plastic per pound were similar. We created 4Ocean. We’ve been operating out of 27 countries. Our 4Ocean bracelets are made from plastic and recycled glass.”

Made with recycled materials, every bracelet purchased funds the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. In less than 2 years, 4ocean has removed 4,737,190 pounds of trash from the ocean and coastlines.

Trawlers can be used to vacuum the ocean floor for plastic rather than fish. Rollen said If we could use plastic in the construction industry, it can be used to pave roads, and is better than any other material, and it can be fed into power plants. “The input material is free of charge once you collected it.”

The most important challenge, he said, is CO2 emissions. We are emitting 2 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every day, 36 billion metric tons per year, and are on track to double that by 2030.

1 metric ton of CO2 is roughly the size of a house. Rollen showed a video of New York with a pile of CO2 emissions that by end of the day covers the Empire State Building. After a year, it covers midtown and southern Manhattan. 75% of the emissions are from buildings in the city itself. This is 54 million tons per year.

Energy is responsible for 35%.

“Waste is driving CO2 emissions, and we’re wasting 68% of energy production for US each year,” said Rollen. “We at Hexagon are aiming to use data in a more clever way to drive, efficiency and quality.”

Electric cars are the new rage, but what would happen to state of nations if everyone bought an electric car, with 2 billion cars on the planet? “We can’t generate that much electricity and power grids would melt trying to generate it,” Rollen said.

People travel 20 trillion kilometers per year by air, that’s 30 million times to the moon and back, and we can’t change that either, we have 20% efficiency of the internal combustion engine. “Can we do better? Formula One cars have been able to improve efficiency of the internal combustion engine to 50% – how? For Formula One you can only fill the car with 100 liters. Over the years, we’ve worked with Formula One teams to take their data and improve the friction of their cylinders,” said Rollen. “We’ve used metrology data to maximize efficiency so petrol lasts from start to finish. Then you could do this anywhere else. You have 1300 people working 24/7 to produce a Formula One car. We have the data, science, technology. It is a much quicker way to put your data to work — make do with old technologies we’ve already invented but we need to scale them properly.”

Let’s use our data to improve efficiency in transportation and aerospace, suggested Rollen. Can data feed more people with less pollution? “One third of what we produce in agriculture is wasted. What would happen if we improved efficiency by investing in precision farming – combining geospatial technologists with autonomous technologies? We only water where we put seeds, and fertilizers where seeds are, and only use pesticides where necessary, and can decrease waste by 50% and increase production by 30%. We could shave off another 4 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions down to 29 billion tons.”

Industry is another great user of CO2. The average efficiency is 40% from finished products. It takes 2 tons of fresh water to produce 1 ton of textiles. 1/5th of CO2 emissions is contributed by industry. 95% efficiency could be reached by using data.

We could still consume the same volume we’ve been consuming, bringing greenhouse gases from 36B to 24B – 12 billion savings so far.

Buildings are responsible for 2% of greenhouse gases. The lifecycle of a building, and the process of when you operate a building itself. Buildings emit greenhouse gases at 50%. By using triple glazing and other means one can shave off 13B metric tons of CO2.

There are no new energy sources so we will have to make do with what we have on earth right now, Rollen said. This coupled with using the technology we already have, gives us a scale of sustainability target for mankind. We could be looking at a reduction of perhaps 65% of what it is today.

“Never before has the cost of doing nothing been so high,” said Rollen.  “Businesses that don’t react to this opportunity will lose market share; their costs are going to skyrocket. Businesses are the 100 largest polluters, and only 29 are countries and 71 are companies and corporations.”

In conclusion, Rollen said that what matters to people most are relationships. “If we do well with our businesses we actually do well for mankind.  We should go and save the world.”

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Categories: 3D Cities, agriculture, air pollution, aircraft tracking, airports, analytics, Big Data, climate change, cloud, data, disaster relief, emergency response, field GIS, forestry, geospatial, GIS, resilient cities, transportation, utilities

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