Day two at GEC
How technology can support other industries to be greener
This morning's keynote speakers included Yeming Wang, General Manager for Alibaba Cloud, EMEA, the European cloud computing arm of China’s largest online commerce company.
As a speaker from a prominent business, he offered a unique angle on sustainability.
Wang discussed the potential for sustainable growth, emphasising the profit for businesses while responding and contributing to the SDGs.
He pointed to Alibaba Cloud’s work as an enabler, using technology to support other industries such as agriculture to be more green.
He also shared Alibaba Cloud’s work to support the Kenya Intelligent Wildlife Conservation.
The conservation uses AI, cloud and IoT technology to track the movement and health of animals, and to analyse and identify suspicious activity, such as illegal poaching.
Speaking exclusively to ICE following his keynote speech, Wang said: “Because the economy and technology evolves so fast, our engineering needs to have a broader vision … engineering should go hand in hand with the social aspect.”
Engineering institutions have an important role to build capacity
In a second keynote, Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineers (RAEng), spoke about the role engineering institutions can play in building capacity.
“We [RAEng] believe engineering is a fundamental enabler of development and that engineering capacity is one of the key factors limiting economic growth and social development in many developing countries,” she said.
She also addressed the important role professional engineering organisations play in continuing professional development.
“Learning doesn’t end when a graduate becomes successfully employed,” she said.
“Healthy institutions can significantly improve the quality of the engineering base by providing lifelong training on issues that are fundamental to a successful engineering career.”
She also hoped that events like GEC were a sign that previously “fringe” challenges of engineering will now be considered core to the profession.
“Our hope is that sooner, rather than later, the issue of engineering capacity building will move from the fringes of conversations about international development to the mainstream.
“just as today’s event demonstrates that the Sustainable Development Goals are moving from being an interest held by environmentally and socially-conscious engineers, to a central concern of the entire profession.
RAEng unveils new partnership to carry out research into engineering safety
Dame Ann also announced a major new partnership between RAEng and Lloyd’s Register Foundation at GEC.
She said that the agreement will allow the organisations to “build new global alliances to carry out research on difficult engineering safety problems”.
This results of this research will be translated into practical outputs that engineers can “easily absorb” she said, such as new standards, codes of conduct, textbooks and videos.
GEC day 2: RAEng unveils £15m partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation
Connecting resources with those who need them
Alexander Anderson from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) spoke at the morning's Energy session, Smart Villages and Cities.
Anderson, chair of IEEE’s Smart Village Partner Engagement, talked about the programme, which integrates sustainable electricity, education, and entrepreneurial solutions to empower off-grid communities.
“Energy is the entry point for all other critical infrastructure,” he said. “Without energy, we can’t run computers, or industrial systems, or teach digital education.”
Over 1.4 billion people around the world don’t have access to reliable electricity. IEEE aims to help address this problem, and other sustainability issues, by creating strategic partnerships.
It aims to connect those who need resources with those who have them and are seeking to make an impact.
Anderson said the programme worked from a systems-to-systems standpoint, proving consultancy services and a forum for sharing best practice and knowledge.
Smart cities of the future
Eveline Kokx, vice chair of the Stadswerk association, spoke about how the Netherlands has created a smart city strategy to take cities into the future.
“Creating smart cities aren’t just about tech-data and hardware, it’s about leadership and citizen involvement.
“Engineers in the Netherlands have been working must work with citizens and politicians – those inside and outside city halls – to achieve smart cities,” she said.
Some cities in the Netherlands are already running smart initiatives, she revealed.
For example, one area has a smart waste collection system. Rubbish bins, located in the ground near residential buildings, can be activated by residents with a smart key, allowing them to drop off waste.
Through sensor technology, when the bins are full, a notification is then sent to the city authorities to empty them.
Understanding where the full bins were also offered an opportunity for efficient routes for collection to be mapped.
Why we should embrace the life-changing, AI era
Liming Chen, Chair, IBM Great China Group, talked about the important role that technology can play in improving lives around the world.
China, he said, is a very relevant example. As a country, China has undergone a massive transformation over the past few years. It’s changed from rural to urban, quantity to quality, from following to defining, in a bid to meet the basic needs of its more than one billion population.
“IBM has been a forefront runner of technology development and has changed the world in many aspects.
"One such example of this is the barcode. Every day more than five billion barcodes are scanned – this small code you see every day has, for over 40 years, fundamentally changed how retailers and organisations work, and the overall customer experience,” he said.
Chen also spoke about the concerns some had raised about job security with the development of artificial intelligence (AI).
He said, like all technological developments, there would be a change in the types of jobs the world would need.
“Jobs will be lost or change with the development of AI. However, 20 years ago nobody knew there would be 20 million software developers – so jobs will also be created. It’s likely these jobs will be something unimaginable today.
“At IBM, we say ‘it’s not where you start – it’s where you finish. The AI era is coming and instead of waiting for it, we should all be looking to embrace it.”
Diversity is an ‘everybody’ issue – not just women’s
In the afternoon's Inspire session, the panel discussed how diverse leadership teams boost innovation.
Panel moderator, Dato Lee Yee Chong, spoke about the importance of UN SDG 5, gender equality, in the engineering industry.
“If you can achieve gender equality you are exercising all human resources to achieve all SDGs,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hema Vallabh, co-founder of WomEng, said that being a woman engineer can be powerful:
“What I do hear quite often is women saying, ‘I’m not a female engineer – I’m just an engineer’. And I used to feel the same, but then I realised the power of standing in front of a room of students who had never seen a female engineer before.
“We, female engineers, are still somewhat of an anomaly in this industry. We need to use that to bring the need for diversity to the fore so that, maybe, in 50 years, we can say ‘I’m an engineer’, but I don’t think we are there yet.”
She also stressed that getting women into engineering isn’t just a “women’s issue” - it’s an “everybody issue”.
She called on men to promote, sponsor and mentor young female engineers, understanding that there was a lot they could learn by thinking about different perspectives.
WFEO reveals its Engineering Plan 2030
Dr Marlene Kanga, the President of WFEO, used the GEC as an opportunity to present the WFEO Engineering Plan 2030.
This is a plan to develop engineering capacity for a sustainable world through partnerships with educators, government, industry and professional engineering institutions.
WFEO will focus on UNSDG 17 for partnerships but made an additional commitment that all future WFEO meetings will address one of the UNSDGS.
Dr Kanga also presented the audience with the first report against this plan.
Following a session that had focused on collaboration and partnership, she said: “WFEO is all about participation, collaboration and implementation.
“We are serious about Goal 17, which is all about partnerships, because you cannot do it alone. We can leverage our strength and work together to achieve a great deal.”