Every April, millions of individuals mobilize in support of Earth Day, the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement and now the largest secular observance in the world. It is to be expected that the significance of Earth Day and its ardent message of environmental protection grow stronger year by year, in response to the escalating climate and ecological crisis. Earth Day 2021, however, is unique within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a heightened sense of community and interconnectivity between us and the natural world. This year’s theme, Restore Our Earth, centres our personal responsibility to play a positive role in the environment by harnessing our ingenuity as humans to revive the world’s ecosystems.
There can be no question artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to proliferate all types of compute. The enterprise use of AI is growing at an exponential rate. Fueled by the need to deliver better customer experiences, increase financial performance, streamline operations, improve clinical outcomes, or push the boundaries of research and development, organisations are investing in AI infrastructure to get insights faster.
One of the most important advancements that we see in computing today is the continued march forward of computational efficiency. There is no better stage for monitoring these advancements than the Green500. The Green500 is a biannual ranking of the TOP500 supercomputers using the efficiency metric of performance per watt. Performance is measured using the TOP500 measure of high performance LINPACK benchmarks at double-precision floating-point (FP64) format. Unofficially tracked since 2009 and officially listed since 2013, the Green500 metrics show the trajectory for the advancement of computational efficiency in supercomputers.
As I speak to customers, I am struck by a profound misconception about the banking and financial services industry. Traditional as they may be, technology laggards they are not. Innovative companies are creating and processing data at industrial scale. They are deploying machine learning for everything from risk assessment models to personalised user experiences to fraud detection. The need to analyse these vast and complex data sets is resulting in applications that are both data- and power-hungry.
As we speak, Antarctic iceberg A68a is making headlines as it cruises towards South Georgia, having been of interest to scientists since its separation from the Antarctic peninsula in 2017. Undoubtedly, the North and South pole environments are ever-changing: this is partly due to natural cycles, such as the decadal ejection of bergs like A68a from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, but also influenced by unnatural global warming. The polar regions comprise large, complex ecosystems whose ecological relationships are threatened daily by climate change. Applying AI to scientific research in this field helps to uncover hidden relationships within environmental data and monitor the changing habitats of polar wildlife.
2020 was a tumultuous year, but despite the turmoil, significant progress was made in decarbonizing our global energy economy. Yes, there is a long way to go, and tens of trillions remain to be spent to accomplish this global transition – the largest effort humanity has ever collectively attempted. At the end of this year, it’s a good time to take stock, assess what was accomplished in the energy sector (with a focus on electricity), and to attempt to prognosticate what we will see in 2021.
At Verne Global, we know Iceland’s 100% renewably powered energy grid is an ideal choice for the high performance computing and AI technologies driving today’s data center demand. Abundant, scalable power, is delivered by one of the world’s most modern grids. Iceland is also at the forefront of geothermal energy development by continuing to push boundaries in how its energy is extracted and used.
In early October, the three agencies charged with overseeing and coordinating California’s electric grid provided a preliminary report to Governor Newsom on the causes of the electric blackouts of August 14th and 15th.
These blackouts were not the result of sudden and unexpected faults. Rather, they were preemptive rotating power outages launched by California’s grid operator in order to avoid a much larger and potentially system-wide problem. On August 14th, the early evening blackout lasted as long as 150 minutes and affected 492,000 customers. The following evening’s event left 321,000 customers without power for as long as 90 minutes.
In 2020, medical research is more important than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened eyes to the flaws of our global public health mechanisms and demonstrated the need for earlier, faster diagnosis - especially in the case of infectious diseases. The opportunities for AI within healthcare are infinite, enabling drug discovery, management of medical data, clinical trialling and more. AI is being deployed in thousands of medical initiatives, each that vary in approach and focus. Wider integration of these developments into the healthcare model could optimise the system and ultimately save lives. I’ve been looking into a variety of AI startups powering healthcare and discovering their ability to transform the pace, accuracy and success with which we conduct medical research in today’s world.
I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a team from Dell Technologies talking about high performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads within enterprise organizations. The scale and complexity of HPC is growing tremendously. Even with a predicted slowdown for 2020, analyst firm Intersect 360 is still anticipating the market to grow to $55B by 2024.
Over 90% of the world’s data is transmitted around the globe by submarine fibre optic cables. Over 400 of these cables sprawl across our planet’s ocean floors, often hundreds or even thousands of miles long. There are over 1.2 million kilometres of subsea cables currently in service, ensuring that nearly every square metre on our planet is ‘connected’.
One of the unexpected silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic has been recognition of the role data centres have played in keeping our communities functioning during global lockdowns. Organisations scrambled to get their employees up and running in a work from home environment. Sadly, many realised their data center infrastructure was not up to the challenge.
Many businesses are recognising the potential and importance of colocation data centre facilities. Prior to the pandemic, colocation was a key – often growing – element in their overall IT operations; complementing or even replacing on-premise data center facilities and cloud-based services alike. In the last six months, the major hyperscalers - who have their own vast facilities - have turned to colocation facilities to quickly ramp capacity needs as the world turned online practically overnight.
Would a robot suit the role of a personal stylist? Whilst the latest vogue changes each month, the fashion industry wreaks environmental havoc. It's a huge culprit of overproduction, making it the 2nd largest water polluter in the world and also responsible for 300 million tonnes of waste each year. As ever, technology has an answer to this dilemma. Developing AI promises a brighter future for the fashion industry: one of invariably popular clothing lines and a personalised customer experience. Already, the current political climate has seen shoppers becoming more eco-conscious, and naturally, clothing brands are responding to this marketing incentive with environmentally-friendly changes. A new system, empowered by technology, could change fashion’s sustainability game for good... and all without being at the expense of a nice outfit.