Interesting article Vince. To take the cynic’s perspective — it looks like BCG following the trend of *everybody* moving into the startup investing/incubation space. There was a similar trend of “old world” companies moving en masse into venture investing during the dot-com bubble, and it ended badly for almost everyone. Not saying BCG is necessarily an old world company, just something I’m thinking about. Another concern is conflict of interest. If I’m a BCG client, and they recommend a product in which the company is invested, I would be highly skeptical of its true value. To me, a lot of the value of consulting firms is their objectivity. Anything that could call that into question is a risk.
American sports leagues are making so much money they don’t know what to do with it, so I’m not surprised the NFL is embracing data analytics. The NBA rolled out its data gathering system, SportVU, in 2013. Football being a more chaotic game, it’s usually a step or two behind. SportVU made available huge amounts of data and resulting performance metrics — to teams that were receptive to it. With a few years of sample size it will be interesting to see whether teams in both the NFL and NBA that embrace data actually perform better, or if nonbelievers like Charles Barkley (“analytics is crap”) will be proved right.
I’m also bullish on nuclear. It’s a carbon-free source of base load electricity and I don’t see how we reach our carbon emissions goals without it. To address the capital expenditure problem of developing new nuclear capacity, there is a lot of attention on small modular nuclear reactors. My former company was involved in a project called Generation mPower which was trying to develop a commercially viable SMR. Another promising one is NuScale Power.
Interesting article Maverick, I didn’t know you liked planes so much. F-35 seems pretty serious compared to something like the old F-15s. Our Watson discussion today had me thinking about onboard intelligent assistance. What kind of flight assistance systems are built into these planes and how are those on the F-35 any different (if they are)? On the topic, this article was really interesting https://www.wired.com/2016/06/ai-fighter-pilot-beats-human-no-need-panic-really/
Blaine, nice post. I worked on the Riyadh project in a joint venture with Siemens so its close to my heart. The performance specs of driverless trains are pretty amazing compared to what we’re used to in the US. Stefan hit the nail on the head in talking about what’s possible when building new metro versus updating existing systems built in the 1970s (or earlier for New York).
One subtlety I would highlight is the difference in operating conditions between metro systems and intercity rail like Amtrak, which you allude to. Speed restrictions on Amtrak are mostly due to track alignment (tight curves) and the presence of freight trains on the same track as the passenger rail cars. Driverless trains could improve safety, but not other metrics of performance — making the large capital outlay for new trains a tough sell. Driverless trains on metro systems, however, would help alleviate right-of-way conflicts, which are the main cause of delay, thus improving system performance directly.
Nice take on a niche industry that will be hit hard by climate change. It seems like the hardest part for vintners is not a gradual change in temperature, but the unpredictability of temperature and drought conditions season by season. There are some interesting technological innovations that you suggest, but I wonder if they can fully counteract the drop in quality that might result from weather variations. Not to mention water shortages that are likely to increase in severity, especially in Northern California. One takeaway — start collecting now as we might be at the peak of a golden age of wine.
You brought up some really interesting ideas for Uber to increase its sustainability profile. I like the green/EV car option. I think Lindsey is right that the sustainability of Uber will depend on how it changes user behavior. Uber and car sharing are a great solution to the “last-mile” problem in public transportation — i.e. how we get users of public transportation from the train/bus station to their final destination. However, I could see a scenario where Uber changes behavior such that users forego public transportation altogether and take Uber for the full journey. Maybe there are some incentives that can be put in place to encourage the joint use of Uber and public transportation.
Desalination is a tough one. Water scarcity is real and given global population growth and the effects of climate change on freshwater supply, we are eventually going to depend on producing freshwater through some desalination process. Conservation is important but won’t get us the whole way. Desal technology is advancing quickly — some recent innovations are low-temperature desalination, which can be powered from the waste heat of a neighboring power plant, and distributed solar desalination (WaterFX is one company working on it).
I like your ideas for making Indian Railways more sustainable. Another big one is railway electrification, which gets trains off of diesel engines. The question then becomes — where does the electricity come from. Electricity produced by coal-fired power plants is just as bad for the environment as using diesel engines. If IR contracted with renewable energy producers for power produced from wind/solar, then it could create a carbon-neutral rail network.
Hudson Yards is an amazing development. I agree with your criticism of LEED and would go even farther. Not only should Related publish data on building performance, but USGBC should have the ability to pull LEED certifications for buildings that don’t perform as advertised. Energy Star (the EPA system for green building rating) requires buildings to prove performance before certification — makes more sense than LEED certs which are based on computer models. Overall it feels like LEED is more a marketing scheme than actual attempt at energy efficiency. Your stat about LEED buildings being 29% less efficient than alternatives speaks volumes.