The Technological Forefront of the 21st Century
For one of the first times, we can clearly see how our economies and societies will transform in the near future. One could argue that, if you go back to the mid 1800s… around 1850, the start of the Industrial Revolution…and you looked forward, it was very difficult to anticipate what would be the outcomes of the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, if you stood out in the late 90s at the advent of the Internet and looked towards the future, it was hard to imagine technologies like Google, PayPal, eBay, and smartphones. If we look forward from this point, we can clearly see how things will transform
Logistics: We know that our logistics systems will be transforming towards automated and, with high probability, electric self-driving cars.
Information: We know that our information systems are transforming towards the Internet of Things, a trillion connected sensors and devices, and the high bandwidth networks required to support them.
Food: We know that to address global food issues, we need to move towards an industrialized automated food production.
Energy: We know that our energy systems are transforming towards renewables, grid storage, to address energy storage and smart grids to support that. Currently, we have two intiatives under the Energy program:
EMCO Energy: EMCO Energy is structured and set-up within GO, and its revenue will help GO become independent and sustainable in the long term. EMCO will be an energy retailer providing competitive electricity, natural gas, and certified green energy rates for residential and commercial consumers in Alberta. The initiative will anchor local capital in our communities by re-investing its profits into researching, developing, commercializing, and integrating new technologies such energy storage devices necessary for wide-scale roll-out of renewables. EMCO’s cost-competitive rates will be approximately 5-10% lower than the major local providers.
By choosing EMCO as your energy provider:
Inverter Design Initiative: The cost of system components is a major impediment to the world-wide roll-out of renewable energy generation technologies, especially in countries that cannot afford them. About a third of the cost of solar photovoltaic energy generation projects is the solar panels, another third is the balance-of-system (BOS) components (the rest of the equipment that is needed in the system), and another third is soft costs – land, labour and financing. A significant portion of the BOS costs are the inverters that are required for converting the solar panel direct-current (DC) electricity output (about 24 VDC) to the alternating-current (AC) electricity (120 VAC in the west and 220 VAC in many other parts of the world) that is transmitted over the grid from generators to consumers, and that is used for powering many items including household electronics.
Microinverter costs are currently ~$0.60/W (for example, Enphase 250 W for converting single panels) and have not shown the price reductions in recent years that solar panels have (per Swanson’s Law). Although string inverters are less expensive per watt (~$0.10/W for 30 kW string inverters) these are not useful for smaller projects. For impoverished countries, the microinverter cost is still an order of magnitude higher than what they can afford.
In response to these problems, GO is working to design and create inexpensive technology that will decrease costs and increase accessibility of renewable energy.
Interestingly, the acronym for the first 4 programs, logistics, information, food, and energy is LIFE. These are the things that we need to be human beings in our social societies. We use these things in everything that we do: to live, work, play, learn, have fun, be creative. The key to the first three things is energy – to charge electric vehicles, power devices and cool server rooms, to grow food, we need clean, cheap and abundant energy.
Health: We know that we’re moving towards individualized, automated, health solutions with technologies like CRISPR and Cas9. In the future, you will contract a disease or an illness and you’ll go to clinic. That clinic will sequence the genetic information of that disease or illness, and send that data to a highly automated laboratory. This laboratory will develop a personalized solution for you that will be sent back to your clinic, to be administered by your doctor in a form similar to a flu shot. The genetic therapy will edit the genetic information in the disease to, for instance, get rid of HIV, defects due to cancer, etc This approach to health care is much different than what we’ve done in the past. Historically, drugs are developed to address general populations. But with automation we can create personalized individualize solutions.
Community: GO’s monthly Tech & Social Impact Meetings (TSIs) has been quite a successful initiative under this program. A collaborative effort between GO and Skunkworks, TSIs are held on a monthly basis. Discussion about current world issues and events occur over pizza and drinks, and all are welcome to attend. For more information, please visit the Events page.
Traditional, Emerging and Future Technology:
In following the Tesla Model, we recognize that traditional businesses are generally low-cost capital to start, and a higher return on the initial investment. Emerging technologies, such as a solar photovoltaics, medium cost capital to implement and immediately medium return. Future technologies are high-cost capital to invest in and, in the near future, are low return. What GO will do is start businesses in each of these three areas: start a traditional business that has a low capital to start, so as to provide revenue to invest in emerging technologies, and then use revenues from those to invest in future disruptive technologies.