Sustainability Article

MIT News’s picture

By: MIT News

Buildings account for about 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption, and are responsible for one-third of global carbon dioxide emissions. Making buildings more energy-efficient is not only a cost-saving measure, but also a crucial climate-change mitigation strategy. Hence the rise of “smart” buildings, which are increasingly becoming the norm around the world.

Smart buildings automate systems like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, electricity, and security. Automation requires sensory data, such as indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, carbon dioxide concentration, and occupancy status. Smart buildings leverage data in a combination of technologies that can make them more energy-efficient.

Since HVAC systems account for nearly half of a building’s energy use, smart buildings use smart thermostats, which automate HVAC controls and can learn the temperature preferences of a building’s occupants.

Kate Saenko’s picture

By: Kate Saenko

Last month, Google forced out a prominent AI ethics researcher after she voiced frustration with the company for making her withdraw a research paper. The paper pointed out the risks of language-processing artificial intelligence, the type used in Google Search and other text analysis products.

Among the risks is the large carbon footprint of developing this kind of AI technology. By some estimates, training an AI model generates as much carbon emissions as it takes to build and drive five cars over their lifetimes.

I am a researcher who studies and develops AI models, and I am all too familiar with the skyrocketing energy and financial costs of AI research. Why have AI models become so power hungry, and how are they different from traditional data center computation?

NVision Inc.’s picture

By: NVision Inc.

NVision’s engineering services are helping managers of coal-fired power plants converting to natural gas to determine more quickly where to install updated instrumentation necessary to retrofit turbines to accommodate the new power source.

“By measuring the equipment via laser scanning, then creating precise 3D models of the turbine assemblies for engineers to analyze for optimal installation points, we can significantly expedite the plants’ transitions,” says Steve Kersen, president of NVision. “This can result in huge cost savings for projects that would otherwise have been budgeted for a lengthier period using less sophisticated measurement methods. In one recent project, a Southeast power plant converting to a combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT*) system will increase wattage output by more than 30 percent and save more than $250,000 by using our services.”

Manufacturing USA’s picture

By: Manufacturing USA

The future of advanced manufacturing in the United States is being built at innovative facilities that enable experimentation in process and product development. The people and organizations at these next-generation facilities are part of a collaborative effort to remove barriers of entry and create an ecosystem to build supply chains and provide a path for the commercialization of emerging technologies.

These facilities are working on initiatives that include:
• Using advanced fiber technology to make programmable backpacks that have no wires or batteries but connect to the digital world.
• Using light instead of electronics to power cloud-based data centers, increasing the speed of transfer tenfold while drastically reducing energy use and cost.
• Extending the range of electric vehicles by reducing weight and mitigating energy loss during transfers.

This would not be possible without Manufacturing USA, a network of 16 manufacturing innovation institutes and their sponsoring federal agencies—the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy. Manufacturing USA was created in 2014 to secure U.S. global leadership in advanced manufacturing by connecting people, ideas, and technology.

Multiple Authors
By: Thomas Malnight, Ivy Buche

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted different responses from company CEOs seeking to ensure their businesses survive. Keeping their employees safe has been the first priority, but beyond that, their task has involved understanding the situation, launching countermeasures, and trying to evolve ways of working to ensure their businesses can continue.

We spoke to the chief executives of three major companies in three very different industries. In their responses to the crisis, we found that Winston Churchill’s adage, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” was as relevant as ever, with businesses finding positives during the pandemic.

Accelerate strategy

Shipping giant A.P. Moller - Maersk embarked on an historic transformation in 2016 to become an integrated transport and logistics company—combining its shipping line, port operations, and freight forwarding businesses into a single entity. However, progress had been limited.

Multiple Authors
By: M. Mitchell Waldrop, Knowable Magazine

If you were to contact a group of recycling professionals, as one recent survey did, and ask them to list all the ways that consumer product manufacturers drive them crazy, you’d probably hear a lot about “shrink sleeves”—those full-body, shrink-to-fit plastic labels found on beer cans, yogurt containers, and any number of other items.

Because these sleeves fool the infrared sensors that are supposed to identify plastics by polymer type in recycling facilities (see  “Recycling meets reality”), it becomes difficult to sort the items correctly. And that can lead to all kinds of downstream contamination issues for the recycling facilities that are supposed to turn bales of “sorted” plastic and cans into reasonably pure materials for new products.

Ken Voytek’s picture

By: Ken Voytek

During the past few years, I have written more than a few blogs and papers looking at manufacturing productivity across the 50 states. I wanted to update some of these analyses to reflect more recent data, see what they tell us, and examine how states were performing when looking at the change in real manufacturing GDP since the Great Recession, but before the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, how do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been?

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will be difficult to predict or parse long term due to a number of variables, including sector, changes in demand, or likelihood the manufacturer was deemed essential during the spring 2020 closures. However, despite these variables, we can safely assume that issues existing before the pandemic will still affect manufacturers during and after the pandemic.

Alper Kerman’s picture

By: Alper Kerman

Huh? What? At least that was my response the first time I heard the words "zero trust" when I started working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) in the fall of 2018. Mind you, I was also making a fresh start with an enormous jump to cybersecurity from a career track that had generally been in software engineering.

Sure, I did design and develop secure software solutions and even put together secure systems and platforms at times throughout my career, but zero trust seemed like a different ballgame to me. For one thing, it didn't have a fence.

What do I mean by that? Well, the traditional approach to cybersecurity relies on barriers—firewalls—that control traffic coming in and out of a network. Zero trust, on the other hand, is about assuming no barriers. It is usually mentioned in the same breath as "removing perimeters," "shrinking perimeters," "reducing perimeters," or "going perimeter-less." These are common references to the idea of "de-perimeterization," which was originally introduced by a group called the Jericho Forum back in 2005.

Victor Piedrafita’s picture

By: Victor Piedrafita

During the last decade, we’ve witnessed the emergence of sustainability issues among the most important business concerns in a firm’s supply chain. An increasing number of firms have reexamined their relations with suppliers and moved forward to build a more sustainable supply network, by not only monitoring their suppliers’ compliance, but also fostering their capabilities to properly address various environmental and social challenges.

FIBS, a Finnish organization that fosters sustainability, states as one of the key results of its Corporate Responsibility Survey 2017 Summary that sustainable and responsible supply chains have become strategic goals for Finnish companies. However, implementing this remains a challenging issue, as does the need for resources, systematic training, and learning from the best practices developed by others.

What is ‘sustainability?’

The most extended and accepted definition of sustainability was put forward in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development. According to the commission, sustainability is ‘‘a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’’

John Keogh’s picture

By: John Keogh

Almost all businesses involved in the food supply chain have experienced effects ranging from a mild shock to severe disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and further disruptions may be ahead this winter.

Yet not all organizations have learned critical lessons, and history shows us some companies are destined to remain unprepared for the next wave.

Many companies have taken decisive action to survive the pandemic and enhance their supply chain resilience. In doing so, they are protecting their interests and those of their business customers or consumers. We believe that successful firms are taking what’s known as a systems thinking approach to enhance food supply-chain resilience.

In the systems engineering world, systems represent the interconnected complexity of ecosystems that are connected both internally and externally.

For example, a food production business is connected to numerous ecosystems internally and to those of its suppliers, business partners, and customers.

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