On Thursday, February 17th, Andrew Shapiro will be speaking at the The Economist: Ideas Economy's Intelligent Infrastructure conference on the cultural infrastructure that is necessary to support technology innovation. Follow Andrew's appearance at the event in real-time on Twitter #IdeasEconomy.
In advance of the conference, as part of their ongoing look at infrastructure, The Economist asked Andrew and other speakers to deliver a "Flash interview" -- three short questions relevant to the events' themes. Andrew's interview, re-posted here, originally appeared on the Ideas Economy blog.
What one idea could most improve life in cities?
Better transportation. Whether it's improved public transit infrastructure or electric cars, tomorrow's solutions need to benefit our environment, our health, and boost productivity and competitiveness. Technology innovation is important - but it isn't the only thing that we need. At its core, innovation is about more than change; it's about successfully adapting to change and inspiring new behaviors. The history of transportation is filled with examples of innovations whose success and failure depended on inspiring new thinking.
Today, innovative companies in the transport sector are going beyond issues like fuel efficiency. They're asking, "How can new behaviors and mindsets such as shared access to vehicles rather than ownership -- make transportation more sustainable?"
Should governments lead all major infrastructure investment, or should the private sector lead?
Both! Effectively addressing our interrelated energy, environment, and economic challenges requires changing the way that government and business leaders engage. Relationships must be collaborative and built on trust and transparency to effectively spur private sector investment, technological breakthroughs, and behavior change.
An example is a community initiative that Duke Energy (a client of ours) launched called Envision: Charlotte. It involved a close partnership among the utility, Cisco, the City of Charlotte and major commercial building owners, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The installation of smart meters and real time displays of energy use for building owners will lead to savings for individual organizations - but the overall goal for the project is a collective one - 20% energy savings over 5 years. It is the first project of its kind in the commercial building space.
What smart system technology most worries you?
I'm not worried about any specific technology but about whether we have the right frame of mind needed to drive technology adoption. Getting "cultural infrastructure" right is critical to transforming our actual infrastructure.
We have already experienced some cultural challenges around intelligent infrastructure. The rollout of smart meters in the US has been inhibited by some utilities failing to convince consumers and regulators of the value of the new technology. As a result - investments are stalled or rejected, even though the meters in question have proved effective and less error-free than the outdated infrastructure they are replacing. The issue at play is not technology, but how utilities should educate and incent consumers in new ways - and shift our collective thinking about energy.
Andrew L. Shapiro, Founder and President of GreenOrder, an LRN Advisory Group, has been an influential voice on environmental innovation in business for a decade. He has built a career, and a pioneering consulting firm, GreenOrder, around the idea that sustainability can be a critical driver of competitive advantage. He has partnered with GE's leadership on the creation and implementation of its award-winning ecomagination initiative, worked with GM on strategic issues including the launch of the Chevrolet Volt, and guided environmental strategy at more than 100 other enterprises across diverse industries.