When Technology Meets Sustainability

From October 14-17, San Francisco was home to VERGE, a conference where innovators, entrepreneurs and leading public officials met to discuss the relationship between technology and sustainability. Naureen Kabir from our Urban (co)LAB attended to discuss possible next steps for our Connected Commuting Task Force with our project partners, Waze, Roadify and the University of California at Berkeley.

Microgrid. Source: Greenbiz Blog

Kicking off events was the launch of VERGE Interconnect, VERGE SF’s interactive vendor and technology showcase. In the Gold Ballroom at the Grand Hotel, Interconnect created a temporary microgrid to generate power for all of the exhibition stands. The world’s first-ever ballroom sized microgrid, this acted as a living demonstration of the key themes from VERGE events by encouraging collaboration between technology companies. The microgrid featured renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass), dispatchable generation (fuel cells, microturbines), energy storage (batteries, electric vehicles) and controls to provide power to loads (lighting and other equipment).

GreenBiz Group CEO, Eric Faurot, commented: “VERGE Interconnect demonstrates what’s possible today with off-the-shelf equipment … It gives you the opportunity to see first-hand how these technologies work together and can be deployed in real-world settings.”

VERGE – Source: Naureen Kabir

Our session took place in the afternoon on October 16, where Naureen led a panel on our Connected Commuting Task Force. Phase One of the Task Force was completed in December 2012, revealing the positive impact that commuter-focused smart phone apps can have on the commute. In the discussion, Naureen and her fellow panelists discussed where the project could go in the future. They agreed that the field of gamification holds the most potential for the next stage of our Task Force. How could cities make use of the findings from our Connected Commuting project to build new ways of incentivizing good commuting habits? This was one of the most fascinating areas of the session, providing excellent ideas for our team to work on in the future.

Sustainable 3D Printing – Source: Naureen Kabir

Other highlights from the event included a keynote interview presented by Lyndon Rive, Founder and CEO of SolarCity, as well as talks covering topics such as sustainable 3D printing and gamification. A discussion that particularly stood out for us was When Corporates Outlive Their Usefulness, led by the Chief Analyst of Crowd Companies, Jeremiah Owyang. With successful initiatives such as AirBnb, Etsy, TaskRabbit and Lyft, the sharing economy is on the rise, and this session analyzed just why. The session ended with the suggestion that shared assets are where the future of consumption is heading.

Naureen commented: “The range and variety of examples from the sharing economy have the potential to transform how we live, work, move and play in cities. If we combine the power of gamification principles with the power of people’s appetite for participating in the shared economy, we can revolutionize how people interact with each other and with the physical assets of their environments.”

The event ended with the VERGE 25 awards, honoring 25 world leaders who are making significant contributions towards the convergence of systems in the technology world.

Greenbiz conducted an interview with Naureen at VERGE which will be published in February 2014.

Find out more about our Connected Commuting Task Force here

Find out more about highlights from VERGE here

View Videos from the event here

Find the full program of events from VERGE here