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I’m bullish on the opportunity for digital disruption in the construction industry, but a bit skeptical that Rhumbix will be on the one to capture that value. Rhumbix seems to require significant data logging and site visibility in order to provide value to its customers – creating a pretty big behavior change challenge. I’m more excited about several drone analytics startups that are providing a birds-eye view of progress and problems on construction sites. The advantage that these startups have is that low-cost drones make it incredibly cheap to survey a construction site and provide real-time visibility of where work is progressing on schedule or falling behind, without requiring a construction site foreman to enter information. Drone surveying is also proof against falsified data or overly-rosy progress reports – in truth a single drone-picture is worth a thousand words, or a thousand-hours of data logging.

On November 20, 2016, JJR commented on Volvo: Making People’s Lives Easier, Safer, Better :

Volvo has been a quiet leader on autonomous vehicles and vehicle safety technologies. Their pilots in Sweden and in the United Kingdom are pushing the envelope on how close we can get to fully self-driving cars. What people may not realize, however, is that their approach relies – as is this case with many automakers – on extensive mapping of the routes their self-driving cars will take, as well as, on using robust data from Sweden on common accident types to avoid. Sadly, this approach, while more rigorous than others, requires significant upfront investment to expand it to broader areas. The true technology challenge may very well be not how long it will take Volvo to advance its driving technology, but rather how quickly can we scale up high-quality, detailed mapping.

My favorite part of the Flywheel vs. Soul Cycle rivalry is that the founder of Flywheel was originally one of the founders of Soul Cycle. In this case, the competitive response between the two companies is very personal – and the philosophy behind their differentiation is as much why Flywheel has adopted personalized tracking as anything else. But regardless of their motivation, Flywheel has taken significant steps forward with personalized fitness tracking. The challenge with personalized fitness tracking is that so many of us are inconsistent in using it – how often does your Fitbit sit in the drawer instead of on your wrist? With Flywheel, by automatically logging workouts and giving you two points of comparison – your historic performance plus your peers’ performance – they’re removing many of the barriers to effectively using digital tracking as a workout tool. It will be interesting to see if more gyms, including those that rely on multiple pieces of equipment, could adopt a similar approach.

Very cool to see that British Columbia has built an integrated case management system across its social services. We are still a long way off from an integrated system in the United States, but even small integration has had some significant benefits. For example, one of the biggest challenges for getting citizens access to benefits is establishing eligibility – but for many of our social safety net programs, the eligibility criteria are the same or highly similar. Some Federal agencies have begun sharing eligibility lists to help identify citizens who could benefit from additional services – and to automatically qualify those citizens to receive services rather than forcing them to go through a second application process. Let’s hope that in the future we can follow British Columbia’s example.

On November 20, 2016, JJR commented on e-Estonia: How Estonia is digitalizing an entire country :

Very cool article. It’s very helpful for Estonia to set an example as a small trailblazing country. Their experience in integrating citizen records, including in their healthcare system, helps demonstrate what could be possible if other countries follow their lead. In the trade data space, the United States has been able to apply Estonia’s “Only Ask Once” principle through the International Trade Data System. Instead of 200+ paper forms collected by over 40 different federal agencies, exporters and importers now only have to file trade data once through a single online portal, significantly accelerating the trade declaration process. However, even with this success there is still a cautionary tale – it took over a decade to complete the regulatory and IT work necessary to eliminate the original forms and streamline them into one data collection. Sadly, in a large country like the United States, replicating Estonia’s model is no easy task.

On November 7, 2016, J.J. Raynor commented on Preparing for Climate Extremes at PotashCorp :

Your post drives home just how pervasive the effects of climate change will be. When even resources like potash – which will be critical ingredients for ensuring sufficient food supply in an age of climate-stressed crops – are impacted by increased risks from climate change, we have to reckon with how vulnerable our entire food supply is to climate change. Thank you for calling attention to a little realized issue, and yet one more example of the scale of the challenges we face.

I guess this means that at the end of the world we’ll all be drinking beer . . . On a more serious note, I appreciated your post about a company that has proactively identified climate change as a key strategic challenge and begun to adopt far-sighted mitigation efforts. Given the typical productive lifetime of a vineyard, plantings today can already be expected to mature under very different climate conditions. Knowing that some companies are starting to prepare – rather than viewing climate change as purely a regulatory issue – gives me hope that we can avoid some of the enormous economic losses expected from rapid climate change.

How the insurance industry will adjust to climate change is a fascinating question. Already, we’ve seen the average economic damage caused by extreme weather such as storms and floods annually increase 10x in the United States from the 1980s. I’ve often wondered if this meant that in many places insurance companies would just stop writing policies – as they often do today when residential areas are reclassified flood zones. Sadly that sounds like what is happening. As you describe it, the primary response from one of the leaders in the insurance industry has been to adjust their risk models – not to use their underwriting standards to drive changes in building or infrastructure resiliency to adapt to likely future events. I really would like to hope that rather than just retreating from areas at risk some novel insurance models will evolve that could incentivize consumers to take the actions they need to harden their homes and other assets against the coming changes.

On November 7, 2016, J.J. Raynor commented on Vail Resorts, Inc: The Cold Business of Beating Climate Change :

Glad to see that Vail is hedging its bets through new resort acquisitions (and shocked to see how concentrated the snow sport industry already is). However, I would caution against blindly adding in European ski destinations as part of a geographic diversification strategy for grappling with climate change. One of the more surprising facts I learned in reading up on climate change is that the Alps, unlike the younger U.S. Rockies, are held together in large part by permafrost. Take the Matterhorn for instance – that beautiful ridgeline you think you see actually has actually had an ever increasing rate of rock fall because of melting permafrost. Basically, the mountain is becoming unglued, creating new risks for businesses beneath the rock fall. Finding ways to diversify the length of the ski season is one thing – seeing the mountains fall down around your ears is another.

On November 7, 2016, J.J. Raynor commented on Stylish and Sustainable: Can Zara’s Fast-Fashions be Both? :

Great post, Caroline – and very interesting for anyone concerned about the impact of our personal fashion choices on the planet. It strikes me reading your post that we spend too little time thinking about the embedded energy content of the manufactured items that we purchase. Extrapolating from analysis produced by the U.S. Department of Energy, in the U.S. manufacturing produces one fifth of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, despite accounting for only 12% of GDP. And that is before accounting for the energy required to warehouse and distribute these products. Sadly, most of our energy transparency efforts for consumers are focused more about the energy usage of products – take EnergyStar ratings, for example – and not about the energy that went into make the product.

To read more about greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. manufacturing: http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/11/f4/energy_use_and_loss_and_emissions.pdf