Tag Archives: Wharton

The Malaysian Airlines Flight Disappearance and the Future Epic Battle between Data for Good and Evil

By Gary Survis*

It was only a matter of minutes after the discovery of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that questions began to be asked about the data.  How could a Boeing 777 jet airliner disappear without a digital trace?  What about the data the airplane collected?  What about the tracking data?  The transponders?  How about the satellite “pings”?  What can  the cell phones’ GPS’s tell us?  It was assumed that the quickest path to answering questions about the mysterious flight disappearance was to decipher the big data digital stream that the plane must have created.  One response was a “crowd sourced” effort to use big data to locate the plane.  People believed that in this age of data omnipresence that leveraging data to solve the mystery was the obvious next step.  Some of the same people who feared the NSA’s intrusions and monitoring, were hoping that data held the answer to this enigmatic puzzle.

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But, as the story began to unfold, it became apparent that whoever was perpetrating this “deliberate” act also understood the power of data.  The slow discovery that the transponder and ACARS system (used to transmit maintenance data to the ground) were “turned off” showed a high level of sophistication and knowledge of the data a modern jet creates.  In fact, during a typical 6 hour flight, an airplane will create between 250 and 500 Megabytes of data.  Those responsible for taking action on this flight understood data, how it might be used to locate the plane, and the need to control it.

And so it seems that we are embarking on a journey to a new era where there will be an epic battle between those that will use data for good and those that will seek to control it for evil purposes.  Today, when we talk of big data, we recognize that we are only in the early stages of this transformation.  The internet of things promises even more data in the future from a multitude of industrial devices and sensors.  Who controls this data and for what purpose will be one of the defining discussions of our age.

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One area where there is hope for data being leveraged for good is in the area of sustainability.  We face many seemingly intractable challenges to our future including feeding our population, evolving to respond to the reality of global climate change, and managing our finite resources in the face of unrestrained development and growth.  The list of projects where big data is being used to attack these issues is encouraging.  Space Time Insight is using geospatial visualization to help utilities deliver the smart grid and integrate more renewables into their mix.  Google and the University of Maryland are partnering to develop satellite driven high resolution interactive maps that can track deforestation due to fire, logging, and other sources.  Companies like Monsanto and DuPont are developing “prescriptive planting” technologies that gather and then feedback data to farmers on everything from planting depth, distance and farm machinery productivity.

And these are but a few of the many very promising uses of big data in sustainability.  On March 27th, the Wharton School’s Initiative for Environmental Leadership (IGEL) will be hosting a conference to examine this topic entitled Sustainability in the Age of Big Data.  Companies such as Shell, SAP, IBM, Dow, and others will be grappling with both the power and promise of big data in the sustainability space.  The hope is that business will begin to harness the immense potential of big data to be used for good and begin to solve some of our society’s most pressing problems.

It is still early days in defining how we will use all of this data that we will be creating in virtually every aspect of our lives.  At Syncsort, where I work, we are helping the Fortune 100 begin to discover how to employ this data in transforming their business.  I remain optimistic that good will prevail over evil.  But, I am also realistic.  With open source technologies like Hadoop, massive open data projects, and increasingly inexpensive computing technology, it has never been easier for those that wish to use data for evil to have sophisticated tools previously available only to governments and the largest commercial enterprises. As with the Malaysian Airlines flight disappearance, people want data to be used for good, but it can also play a more sinister role.  Let us hope that we truly understand data’s power and that good prevails over evil in this epic battle for the future of big data.

*Gary Survis is Chief Marketing Officer, Syncsort Data Integration, leading Syncsort’s global Big Data integration marketing team. Gary is a seasoned marketing executive with experience combining traditional and digital marketing tools to provide practical solutions to today’s marketing challenges. He is also currently a Lecturer at Wharton and a Senior Fellow at Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. 

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Professional Sports Teams Win Big on Sustainability

By Sara Drexler*

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Panelists and Moderators from Friday’s Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry Conference. Courtesy of NRDC.

Last Friday, the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative to host representatives from the professional sports industry to share ideas around “Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry: Raising the Bar for Sustainability.” Allen Hershkowitz from NRDC, a senior scientist who is a thought leader in sustainability efforts in the sports industry, opened the panel with a remarkable statistic: 13% of people follow science, over 63% follow sports. The sports industry has a unique opportunity to influence trends in sustainability through its significant fan base across all types of sports. Additionally, the sports industry’s unique facilities and operations present significant opportunity for long-term cost savings through investments in environmental sustainability. This combination of financial incentives and a large base of loyal fans positions the sports industry for maximum impact on sustainability. Continue reading

PennSustains Competition

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The Penn sections of the Society of Women Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, and SEAS Green proposes a competition centered around sustainability. Sustainability is supported by three pillars: people, profit, and the planet. By maintaining these factors and practices that contribute to the quality of environment on a long-term basis, we can support the growth of our community and society as a whole. Continue reading

Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry Conference – Wharton IGEL, NRDC, WSBI

GreeningSportsConfHeaderWant to know more about greening sports?

Join the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL), the Wharton Sports Business Initiative (WSBI), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) at the Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry Conference on Friday, September 20, 2013.

The conference will feature speakers from the Yankees, the Miami HEAT, the Seattle Mariners, NASCAR, and more, in addition to a closing keynote from Frances Beinecke, President of the NRDC. The event’s objective is to examine the best business practices for sports organizations to improve environmental performance and become leaders in sustainable development. Discussions will highlight leadership, corporate partnerships, communications, fan engagement, resource management and merchandise, as well as potential future business opportunities.

This event is open to the public and free of charge: click here to register.

Sustainable Brands 2013 – From Revolution to Renaissance

By Silvia Schmid

McDonoughWilliam McDonough at the Sustainable Brands Conference “From Revolution to Renaissance” in San Diego (Courtesy of Sustainable Brands)

Sustainable Brands’ 2013 Conference “From Revolution to Renaissance” took place this past week in San Diego, bringing together hundreds of professionals and thought leaders in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Sustainable Brands is a supporting member of the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL).

Though many topics were addressed, three of the most salient themes from the conference were:

  • Transitioning towards transparency and full disclosure
  • Maintaining initial values while navigating through big data
  • Changing perspectives on sustainability

Continue reading

Energy Efficiency: Still Wasting in the Building

by Silvia Schmid

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Last week’s conference “Building Energy Efficiency: Seeking Strategies that Work” offered the opportunity to discuss the many barriers to advancements in energy efficiency beyond current standards. The event was cohosted by the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), the Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, and the Wharton Small Business Development Center, in partnership with the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub and sponsored by SAP. Speakers and panelists provided valuable insights on the current status of energy efficiency in buildings, addressing topics ranging from consumption measurement and increased transparency, to some of the psychological challenges inherent in adopting more energy efficient behavior. The common message throughout the day was how much remains to be done to make energy efficiency a mainstream priority.

Continue reading

The 2013 Wharton IGEL Conference Workshop

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Thank you to all the speakers and participants of our 2013 Wharton IGEL Conference Workshop! Please make sure to visit the conference page for pictures and speaker presentations. In addition, a Knowledge@Wharton Special Report on the conference will be released soon, so stay tuned!

In the meantime please check out the following blog posts from Oikos Penn students Ruchi Shah and Leah Khaler, who covered our 2013 IGEL Conference:

Love Coca-Cola not for its taste but for its efforts

by Ruchi Shah
Businesses and brands are increasingly obliged to healthy communities and constituents for their bottom-line growth. On March 21, 2013 at the IGEL Conference-Workshop on The Nexus of Energy, Food and Water, Coca- Cola talked about their sustainability goals and accomplishments. Continue reading →

Local Economy in a Global World

by Leah Khaler
Entrepreneur, activist, and White Dog Café founder, Judy Wicks provided a different perspective at the 2013 IGEL conference at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Continue reading →

Of Climate Change and International Policy Architecture

by Samantha Guidon*

StavinsERobert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, Harvard University. Courtesy of Stephanie Nam/Penn Law.

On February 27, 2013, Harvard University’s Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government Robert Stavins came to Penn for a presentation entitled “Climate Change, the IPCC, and International Policy Architecture” as a part of the Risk Regulation Seminar Series, an initiative jointly sponsored by the Penn Program on Regulation, the Wharton Risk Management & Decision Processes Center, and the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL). Continue reading

Challenges and Opportunities of Investing in Cleantech and Renewable Energy

By Zhan Zhou*

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Based on the database of the Cleantech Group, there are about 19,200 cleantech companies in the world, of which over 1/3  are based in the United States.[I] Despite some minor setbacks, there is no doubt that cleantech has become one of the most targeted sectors for both public and private investment. A few numbers can shed light on the fact that the cleantech industry has emerged to be a fast-growing industry of great political and environmental significance:

  • During 2012 alone, cleantech companies around the globe raised $6.56 billion of venture capital across 732 deals [II]
  • For the global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the cleantech sector ranked as the second largest sector after oil and gas by attracting $12 billion from the global FDI into the U.S. in 2011, making it the fastest growth sector for the past decade [III]
  • Through July 20th, 2012, the §1603 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program had awarded $13.0 billion to nearly 45,000 renewable energy projects [IV]

Market Challenges
With a seemingly growing appetite for investment in cleantech, some important market challenges lie ahead. Continue reading

Peeking into Sustainable Paper and Packaging

by Silvia Schmid*

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To some, the idea of a sustainable paper and packaging company can produce an uncomfortable cognitive dissonance, perhaps conjuring up imagery of clear cutting and Styrofoam. Yet as much as we would like to think, do not print emails and traveling mugs are hardly going to replace the paper and packaging products that consumers want, firms demand, and on which the economy relies every day. Although this doesn’t mean that there is nothing being done. There are plenty of efforts to nudge consumer behavior toward the more sustainable, and, as attendees at a recent lecture at Wharton found out, the paper and packaging industry itself certainly considers issues of sustainability.

The Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) invited David Kiser, Ph.D., Vice President, Environment, Health, Safety, and Sustainability at International Paper (IP) and a member of the IGEL Corporate Advisory Board, to speak about the company’s sustainability initiatives. The lecture was cosponsored by the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Continue reading