Schneider Electric: Bringing greener cities to life through connectivity and innovation
Tackling climate change and creating sustainable cities in the face of rapid population growth, ageing infrastructure and the pace of technological change has never been more important. Cities make up 2% of the world’s surface but house more than half of the world’s population and consume 75% of energy resources. By 2030, urban areas are projected to host 60% of people globally. Very soon, one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants, as the world’s population is expected to grow by over 1bn people over the next thirteen years, reaching 8.6bn in 2030.
Meanwhile, the increasingly digital, connected and electric nature of our lives means that we each as individuals have greater energy needs than ever before. Is this pace of growth sustainable for urban centres and cities like London or Paris, let alone megacities? The answer is yes, but only if we make our cities ‘smarter’.
Incorporating renewables into our energy mix is a vital part of reducing our environmental impact, but their potential is being wasted by our inefficient use of that energy. Modern technologies, smart sensors and services that can help us identify and tackle energy waste can and must help to improve cities’ efficiency, sustainability, and resilience.
For any city, going ‘smart’ can be difficult. The sheer size and complexity involved in building a truly integrated and sustainable smart city is difficult to comprehend. In India, Schneider Electric is helping to build Naya Raipur, a project which aims to build an entirely new capital city for the newly created state of Chhattisgarh. The funding, expertise, organization, planning and collaboration to create this smart city from the ground up is incredible. Smart cities at this scale require multi-level governance, expert consultants, technology firms and vendors working together to make the concept a reality. But the vast majority of the world’s population live in existing towns and cities, not brand-new developments.
Ageing city infrastructures pose connectivity and network management challenges. At the same time, a 24/7 society and a wide array of IoT-enabled devices and electric vehicles (EV) are fuelling greater energy demand. While cities are tasked with improving services and building new transport networks, hospitals, schools, and homes to accommodate population growth, they do so with tightening budgets. Critical infrastructure (old or new) – such as hospitals, airports, live entertainment venues, schools and office buildings – must be reliable, functional but also efficient if we are to build a sustainable future. And it is in efficiency where there is potential to unlock huge financial savings that could, in turn, reduce running costs, helping to fund future investment.
Developed cities considering going ‘smart’ simply don’t have the option to rebuild everything from the ground up. They are busy, functioning ecosystems that need to continue to work whilst improvements are made. As a result, a piecemeal approach to making cities smarter is the only option. It is essential, therefore, that incentives and regulation are introduced to drive organizations and individuals to incorporate efficiency as a core pillar of projects to improve their water systems, local or regional energy grids, transport infrastructure or buildings. These precincts or district-scale developments are not city-scale, but they are large enough to form multiple smart city domains and become a visible and useful reference point to encourage future investment. Indeed, by working collaboratively with both public and private sectors, Schneider Electric has successfully delivered smart city project applications to more than 250 cities worldwide.
One such example is our recent partnership with Tottenham Hotspur to help build and manage the energy distribution and consumption at the club’s new state-of-the-art stadium – a landmark in sports venue efficiency and connectivity. As the stadium’s official Energy Management Supplier, Schneider Electric performs 60,000 automated checks every five minutes to ensure that every aspect of energy usage is monitored and optimized, ensuring such aspects and optimal temperature and lighting conditions. Designed for visitor enjoyment and comfort, the stadium is also helping to regenerate the surrounding area of Tottenham, bringing the smart city reality one step closer.
The ripples of projects such as these, ambitious in scale and innovative in nature, not only improve energy efficiency, but also set a new standard of living and urban regeneration, whilst also starting to change perceptions of energy use. Take for example the Edge building, Deloitte’s headquarters, in the Netherlands. This building not only delivers a cutting-edge digital workspace and meets the highest environmental standards, but it was created with the goal of being a ‘net neutral’ building and the potential to be ‘net positive’. The Edge is a building that is self-sufficient in terms of the energy it requires to function, and at times (such as at night or weekends) returns excess energy produced to the grid.
Forward-thinking projects such as these start to enable us to imagine a future where perhaps the majority of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals could be at worst net neutral and ideally net positive. Imagine receiving an income from your home or place of work, instead of paying bills. It would completely change the way we think about energy generation, distribution, and consumption. Digitization paves the way for more and more net neutral or net positive buildings, generating their own energy on-site with smart systems that give excess energy back to the grid.
Whilst net neutral and net positive buildings are currently just a dream for all but a few, the road to achieving this starts with tackling waste. Something that every government, business or individual can do. With demand for energy rising, unlocking untapped energy efficiency potential has never been more urgent, or easily achieved. Investing in smart systems that monitor energy use and efficiency across every aspect of your energy infrastructure is something that can be realized today.
By understanding how, where and when energy is used, opportunities for efficiencies can be identified and actioned. Our Global Digital Transformation Benefits Report 2019 identified 12 ways that the digital transformation of energy management and automation drives benefits in CapEx, OpEx, based on interviews with 230 businesses. These companies have realized savings in energy consumption of up to 85% and up to 80% on energy costs. Energy efficiency projects are becoming a C-suite priority, as board members recognize the competitive edge that projects can deliver, at the same time as delivering on sustainability commitments which employees, customers and governments are driving for.
Projects like these demonstrate that rethinking energy is not only a major enabler of innovation. It powers progress and life.
As the global population grows and our world and lives become increasingly electrified, creating sustainable cities means creating smart cities, powered by clean energy that is responsibly consumed and saved. The fact is it is far easier to save a unit of energy than it is to create one. The only way we will tackle climate change and create cities fit for the future is by rethinking our relationship with energy as individuals, businesses and nations.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.