Building Smarter Bridges -- and Cities -- with Alcatel-Lucent

Nature of Business Radio

Building Smarter Bridges -- and Cities -- with Alcatel-Lucent

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rich Goode at one of his Boston Area Sustainability Group (BASG) gatherings a year ago -- a group he co-founded with Glenn Grant of G2 Technology Group to bring together like-minded folks in Boston. Rich is also the Director of Sustainability at Alcatel-Lucent and founder of its Office of Sustainability. We had a terrific discussion of his work at Alcatel-Lucent where he is tasked to measure, report, and reduce his company's carbon footprint, his vision of sustainable cities, innovation, GreenTouch, and the active role of the telecommunications industry to change the world as we know it.

As Rich describes it, Alcatel-Lucent is one of those big companies that people have never heard of. But here are the facts:

As a leader in mobile, fixed, IP and Optics technologies, and a pioneer in applications and services, they employee 80,000 people and pull in roughly $20 billion dollars a year. They do so in part by doing things like inventing the lasers that make it possible for you to send email over an optical network and talk on the phone. They even invented the solar panel.

Rich GoodeIf that's not enough, they also generate more patents than any other U.S. company out there. You might describe them as quiet yet effective.

A few years back, Rich successfully made the business case to incorporate sustainability within the confines of his Fortune 500 company. In what he refers to as baptism by fire, he is making it happen. He headed off to Presidio for his MBA and came back to shake things up and do his part to inch our society towards dematerialization and a lower carbon economy. (Be sure to listen to his Hunter Lovins story in the podcast). His Sustainability Office now boasts six employees.

Innovation is a big part of Rich's work and something that Rich loves to discuss particularly in the context of smart cities. As we grow another 3 billion people on the planet in the next 40 years (gulp), technological and sustainable innovation become essential components of this growth. He asks us to think of technology and where it was just a mere ten years ago. The pace of inventing, adapting, and mainstreaming this technology is unparalleled. He uses the ubiquitous IPhone as one example. When a phone switches from 3G to 4G, for example, the technological shift behind this is actually a 50-60x improvement. Innovation on steroids, really.

Then there are smart cities. He describes these cities as ones comprised of technology, talent, and tolerance. You will hear why in the podcast. It's also worth taking a look at Songdo, South Korea. He uses the example of a bridge to further his point. He states,

When you build a concrete bridge and your population doubles, what happens? That bridge becomes a choke point for traffic. A real bridge facilitates commerce, helps people and goods get from one place to another. A digital bridge, a single strand of fiber optic cable, also facilitates the flow of goods and services from one place to another. If that piece of fiber gets filled up, all the infrastructure company has to do behind it is to add another piece of equipment at the ends of the fiber and they've doubled traffic capacity. No traffic jams. That digital bridge is going to handle far more commerce over its lifetime than a concrete and steel bridge.

Then, of course there is China. Rich mentions a staggering statistic. Over the next 40 years, China will build an infrastructure equivalent in size to every building, bridge, rail, tunnel, and house in the entire U.S. The importance of doing this intelligently cannot be underscored.

Listen and learn even more. It's cool stuff and Rich explains it all really really well.

George Papoulias edited this podcast.

Networked bridge photo via Shutterstock.