Back in the late 1990s, it was common to hear people utter the sentence, “The Internet changes everything.” For technoratis, it was a convenient bit of hype, hubris — and hope.
Yet despite the spectacular swan dive of so many poorly conceived, ill-timed, and grossly mismanaged ideas and companies, and despite the crash landing of so many high-flying technologies (WebTV, anyone?), the Internet did change — well, not everything, but pretty much. Today, it’s hard to recall how we bought things, communicated, traveled, worked, researched, entertained ourselves, or kept up to date before the Internet. The hubris turned out to be right.
With that in mind, I’m going to venture that VERGE — our coinage for the convergence of energy, information, building, and vehicle technologies — is going to have a similarly deep and lasting impact. It will change everything. Or, more accurately, it will focus and accelerate the changes already under way.
I’m writing this one week before three high-level VERGE roundtables that my GreenBiz team is convening on June 21 and 22 — in Shanghai, London, and San Francisco. At those events, some amazing people will gather for a series of short, “firestarter” presentations followed by bursts of discussion. You’ll be able to tune in live to all three events, culminating in a free, six-hour virtual event on June 22.
So, perhaps I’m jumping the gun. But having spent much of the past few months talking with some of the world’s leading thinkers in these four technologies, as well as innovators in some of the world’s largest companies, I feel like I’m standing on solid ground. Whether or not the term “VERGE” catches on as shorthand for a vast portfolio of technological innovations, the thinking behind VERGE is en route to becoming mainstream.
Each of the four VERGE technologies is evolving quickly, with its own market, economic, policy, and technological dynamics.
- Energy technology is becoming decentralized, cleaner, better managed, and easier to store.
- Information technology is making every device, building, and vehicle smarter, able to connect into a vast Internet of things that can be addressed, monitored, controlled, and optimized.
- Buildings are becoming more intelligent and efficient, better able to optimize energy and resource use and enhance human comfort and productivity, with the potential of becoming net-positive, from the standpoint of their environmental footprint.
- Vehicles are getting smarter, too, able to communicate with their drivers, other vehicles, and their surroundings, becoming safer and more efficient while connecting passengers and fleet managers to a broader transportation and energy grid.
The convergence of these technologies has happened organically, the natural result of innovations built upon other innovations. Increasingly, however, there is a larger vision: of a highly interconnected world, where information technology infuses energy systems, buildings, and transportation vehicles and networks, tying them together, making each smarter and, as a result, enabling continuous waves of innovation and radical resource efficiency. Together, this convergence also promises to improve lives, both in developed and emerging economies.