2019 NYAE Q3 Recap: New York's approach to IoT, Technology and Innovation

- Christopher Gray, Participant

As a young professional thinking about the next steps in my career I couldn’t help but become concerned with the current state of climate change and what it means for the future. I’ve spent the majority of my professional career at the intersection of law and business and have been asked by numerous colleagues and friends if law school or business school would be next for me. While I knew I was leaning towards pursuing an MBA, I found myself thinking about the state of the environment and the predicted outcomes of the unchecked progression of climate change. In 2012 I took a break from my studies at Swarthmore College and had the opportunity to study abroad in Taiwan and mainland China where I was affected by poor air quality. Several years after graduating, I traveled to Ghana and saw several cities overrun with plastic which the government and the people were ill equipped to properly dispose of. My exposure to these environmental situations in conjunction with my understanding of the lax stance that the U.S. government has taken in recent years regarding carbon emissions and environmental protection has served as a call to action for me. As I’ve sought to explore the intersection of business, energy, and sustainability, I thought it would be appropriate to start by understanding what industry leaders identify as major issues and how they plan to address them. The Advanced Energy Group’s (AEG) New York City Stakeholder Meeting seemed like an ideal place to begin my exploration, and I was not disappointed.

AEG’s NYC Stakeholder Meeting was a great opportunity to engage with thought leaders in the energy and utility sectors. The focus of the Q3 meeting was Internet of Things (IoT), Technology, and Innovation. The meeting kicked off with an update from AEG’s CEO and Founder, and fellow Swarthmore College alum, H.G. Chissell, about the progress the group had made since the Q2 meeting in engaging and collaborating with the sponsors and partners. The meeting got underway with the introduction of four problem statements by the discussion leaders. Paul Rothman from the NYC Mayor’s Office of the CTO, Pat Sapinsley from Urban Future Lab, André Corrêa d’Almeida from Columbia University, and Itai Dadon from Itron each gave an introductory talk and concluded by presenting the stakeholders with a problem statement that they felt should be the focus of the Q3 meeting. To encourage engagement and accountability the meeting was structured as a competition from that point forward. All of the stakeholders were encouraged to vote for the problem statement they felt could realistically be addressed with an actionable twelve-month solution which included three quarterly milestones. While it was agreed that all of the problem statements were well thought out and certainly deserved the attention of the stakeholders in the room, ultimately Itai Dadon’s problem statement was chosen.

Considering the overarching topic of IoT, Technology, and Innovation, Dadon challenged the group to devise a plan to obtain and use hyper local data to efficiently reduce transportation related carbon emissions in New York City. During his presentation, Dadon explained that a large percentage of transportation related carbon emissions are the result of slower traveling vehicles that idle frequently or spend a great deal of time looking for parking. With this background information in mind and a clearly defined challenge, it was time to get to work. In the spirit of competition, Chissell organized the stakeholders into teams of eight and explained that the members of the team that devised the winning plan would receive twelve-month carbon emissions offset credits and would be asked to provide quarterly updates on the progress they had made in carrying out their plan at future NYC Stakeholder Meetings.

After careful planning and deliberation the teams submitted their proposals and a representative from each table pitched their team’s idea to the larger group. Ultimately Table 1’s plan was chosen. In twelve months the group planned to help the New York Power Authority (NYPA) develop a smart sensor/data product which will piggyback on the existing street light program. For the quarterly milestones, the group planned to:

  1. define the offering (i.e. data types, sensor types, and use cases)

  2. market test the concept, and

  3. identify and vet companies that will be able to provide the service so that by the twelve-month mark the team will be in a position to assess the procurement and contracting structure.

While this sounds like quite an ambitious plan, I left the meeting feeling encouraged about the prospects for its development and success.

Fulfilling the day to day operations of any business is essential to ensuring its longevity and sustainability, and as an outsider looking in it’s easy to question why a company or government agency operates the way it does. Through my experience as a young professional, I’ve quickly come to realize that there isn’t always time to focus on larger scale issues that aren’t directly aligned with one’s role.

Furthermore, it might not be feasible to tackle some of these problems using one’s network alone. AEG has created a platform to bring together members of various energy and utility companies, as well as research institutes, and government agencies to create a collaborative environment that allows these like-minded experts to step away from their specific roles and use their expertise to solve the problems they see in the world. This is the exact format needed to work towards the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. I was honored to have partaken in the discussions and left the meeting with a great sense of hope.  

On December 12th Advanced Energy Group will host the Q4 New York Stakeholder Meeting on Mobility and Transportation. To request an invite please click here: http://bit.ly/AEG_invite