The idea of megatrends – by which we mean powerful forces that transform the way we live and work – has been around for quite some time now. But ever since the birth of the public Internet in the ‘90s, debate around megatrends has seemed increasingly important if we are to understand the huge changes taking place.
It’s entirely logical for a global firm like accountancy and professional services company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to devote time to analysing megatrends. But their five-factor definition1 is also one of the most concise and useful for all kinds of organizations. Two of the factors that they identify – rapid urbanization and demographic/social change – are continuing trends that have been in progress for decades now. The shift in global economic power is more recent and will bring greater prosperity for countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific – although an ageing population will herald challenges to nations worldwide.
That leaves us with two factors – climate change & resource scarcity and technological breakthroughs – that are highly interdependent. With global temperatures rising, there is a recognition that energy must be used more responsibly and our dependence on fossil fuels come to an end. In order to bring these changes about, we must complete an energy transition that achieves ‘net zero’ carbon emissions via the use of renewables and other green technologies. All over the world, companies – including multi-national brands – are rapidly publishing their ‘net zero’ commitments. The question is, how will they achieve their ambitions in the timeframes that they (and governments) have set.
As challenging as this might appear, the PwC overview points to several recent developments that will work in our favour. For example what PwC describes as “maturing technologies” are having an impact. Whilst noting that “embracing the new is important, but not for its own sake,” the organization notes the transformative potential of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning; augmented reality; and blockchain. The harvesting of data through AI will be especially critical as it will allow us to make much more informed decisions – even within the built environment.
The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) is similarly pivotal. Although it brings fresh security risks, the combination of sensors and connected devices will give us much greater control of systems at work and in the home. One obvious example here is the use of sensor-enabled heating and lighting in commercial buildings. These can be connected to a centralized control system that allows staff to address areas where energy is being used unnecessarily – for example, a floor of a large office block that is currently unoccupied.
Continued innovation will bring further benefits, and it is with this in mind that we have recently launched the Priva Lab for Innovation (Lin). Lin’s purpose is to develop and encourage technology and software solutions that enable healthier buildings and smarter approaches to energy use. Given the complex nature of the current megatrends, it is clear that we must embrace new approaches to intelligent technology if we are to enable the energy transition to be successful.
Precisely how this can be achieved will be covered in future blogs and case studies on this website.
With operational emissions from building and construction responsible for 28% of all carbon emissions, the need for this industry to pull its weight is quite apparent. But with many of the underlying technologies now reaching maturity, the savvy business should not be daunted – rather, it should look at the future as being one of tremendous opportunity.