--> Gill Blog: July 2004

Gill Blog

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Bangalore's Royal Garden City

In past posts we have discussed smart buildings and the systems required to create a fully functional smart work environment.  The underlying tone has consistently been one suggesting how nice it might be to have a fully integrated smart city.  Well, this morning I received an interesting email from a friend who is aware of the India story we have been telling on this platform, and said I had to put everything aside to open this link.

Royal Indian Raj International Corporation, a Nevada-based development corporation recently unveiled its plans for Royal Garden City, an absolutely mamouth project that will be constructed just outside Bangalore India.  From the sounds of things, this isn't just some large complex, it's an entire city, and a smart one at that:
With a total built up space of 11.4 million sqm, the project is Asia's largest single new city development to date. The completely web-enabled City is the first modern Smart City in India and is touted as the new model for city developments in the country.
Upon completion of the project, the developers will have little time to rest, as more plans are on the backburner:
It is also the first of four major city developments undertaken by RIRIC. The other three Royal Garden City projects in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are expected to commence in 2006/2007.
Projects like this can only move forward if those who do the financing are thoroughly convinced that risks are mitigated and the business case that underlies the project is sound.  In this case, it seems everything is moving ahead nicely.  In the process, this endorsement makes a major statement on the future business viability of India.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Launching the Deep Lake Water Cooling Project

When we published our paper on Smarter Buildings a month after last summer's North American blackout, we focussed on some very innovative ways in which building owners were trying to reduce their dependence on external power. One of the areas we covered was deep lake water cooling, a technology designed to dramatically reduce the amount of power required to air condition buildings during the summer. We cited examples of six projects that were being developed around the world that looked very close to being fully operational.

Well it seems that one of those projects is scheduled for launch on the first anniversary of last year's big blackout. This article from today's Globe and Mail explains the dynamics of the deep lake water cooling project which will be launced in Toronto next month by Enwave District Energy Ltd., whose CEO noted the significance of the August 14th launch:
"We think it's important symbolically for us to remind people of the blackout of 2003, which had a significant impact on the financial well-being and day-to-day lives of all Ontarians. And we want them to know that projects like DLWC, like wind generation and other green projects will actually work toward eliminating that situation from happening again."
Our research indicated that between 25-37% of total energy usage came from buildings. Steps such as those taken by Enwave (an enterprise jointly owned by the City of Toronto, and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) are instrumental in carving a path toward sustainability.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Living with Risk Globally or In Our Own Backyard

Shortly before retiring for the evening the other night, I, like countless others checked the forecast for the next couple of days - we've had a particularly dreary and wet summer, and I was looking to see if any relief was in sight.  The forecast called for rain and cool temperatures.  When I awoke, I was reminded just how vulnerable we can be.
Peterborough, Ontario is a picturesque hamlet of 70,000 located about an hour east of my home in Toronto.  It is nestled in a basin surrounded by hills, and has two rivers that wind there way through the community.  It is also home to Trent University, whose campus sits on the banks of one of those rivers.  As it turned out, the same weather system I had quickly checked before going to bed was the same one responsible for shattering Peterborough's tranquility.  The local geography, combined with a 24-hour deluge of more than 150 mm of rain, clogged sewers and made several tributaries swell.  The resulting flood has created enough damage that local authorities have declared a State of Emergency (see a video report of the flood here in either Quicktime or RealVideo). 
How should we analyze events such as those that occurred in Peterborough this week?  Should they be viewed from the standpoint of a one-off freakish event that occurs once every hundred years, or should we instead view it in the context of something much larger?  I tend toward the latter.  In fact, over the past year I have been of the opinion that the number of catastrophic events causing human and economic hardship seems to have risen (a fact confirmed by The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) - a great source of information tracking events, and forwarding substantive risk mitigation strategies).  Well this past week, this fact was confirmed even further when the United Nations launched its 2004 version of "Living with Risk:  A global review of disaster reduction initiatives?.  The report confirms that these incidents are on the rise, as is their economic impact:
In 2003 alone, over 70,000 people perished in some 700 disasters that affected 600 million men, women and children and caused $65 billion in damages.  Global trends show that disasters will increase because of human activities and more people -- in particular the poor -- will be affected as they grow more vulnerable.  Over three quarters of the 100 largest cities in the world are situated in locations exposed to potential serious natural hazards.
The report is telling, as it states that these incidents cause a greater loss of life in underdeveloped countries (e.g. the earthquakes that occurred in California and Iran within days of each other last year were of the same magnitude, resulting in a catastrophic loss of life in one, and just a few casualties in the other), but causes a much greater economic impact in developed countries.  The report emphasizes that these losses can be reduced if more attention is paid to creating solid risk mitigation strategies.  Click here for more details on the report.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Decentralization Papers Published

Because we were so focussed on providing analysis on the teleworking hearings last week, we didn't have time to make a major announcement. If you navigated the site and went to the research page, you will see that we made some significant contributions. There, you will see a section entitled "Decentralization Series - 2003 White Papers." These were the papers that we wrote last year that provided the initial basis for our discussion on decentralization.

What makes the casual read of any of these papers interesting, is that although some concepts seem a little outdated only a year later (testimony to how lightning fast circumstances can change), we were able to unearth some very interesting topics that have evolved significantly since we wrote them. We hope these will be of some assistance to your organization in planning initiatives either today or on the horizon.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Summary of Congressional Hearings on Teleworking

My last post prompted a client to ask if I could give him an overview of Congressional Hearings on Teleworking (July 8) in advance of our next meeting at the end of next week. That got me thinking - the testimony was so important that I could do even more, so I did just that. Instead of taking advantage of some long awaited good weather over the weekend, I stayed indoors and reviewed the hearing transcripts (let's leave that one alone, shall we?). Based on the readings, I have posted this PDF on the research page summarizing the key points that really resonated with me (if you have trouble accessing the link go to the research page and click on the item that is the third item down from the top with the byline: "Download Summary Congressional Hearings on Teleworking here"). At least that's one less thing for me to do in advance of the meeting.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

'Greatest Hits' from Thursday's Congressional Hearing on Teleworking

After reading the transcripts of Thursday's hearings, it struck me that the assembled gathering was like an all-star team of teleworking professionals who discussed the issue from a number of perspectives. The primary purpose of the hearings was to determine why teleworking is rolling out at a much slower rate than originally forcast four years ago.

First some context. In October 2000 legislation came down in the form of Section 359 of Public Law 106-346 (P.L. 106-346) mandating a 25% per annum increase in teleworking (among those eligible for telework). Under this formula, the math would determine that in 2005 teleworking adoption would be complete. Not so fast - as of this date 751,844 of 1.8 million federal workers are deemed eligible (i.e. 42% of all federal workers), but only 102,921 (or 14%) have in fact complied. Our calendar tells us that at this point, the figure should have been 75%, or 563,883. The purpose of the hearing was to find out what's taking so long. Clearly, this initial gathering was intended to establish some foundation, and for the most part, speakers provided their views from 40,000 feet. That said, there were some great soundbites that came out of the hearings that resonated with us. Here are a few that stood out:

Locational Factors:
"The innovations of the information age continue to make location less relevant in the working world." Chairman Tom Davis

"September 11...seemed to make absolutely clear our pressing national need for a more distributed and secure workforce" James A. Kane, President and CEO, Software Productivity Consortium

"What we call 'telework' is in fact a key enabler of where we -- as a nation -- need to go: toward the systematic deployment of highly distributed forms of collaboration, where physical location of our workforce matters far less than it does today" Kane
IT Security Concerns:
"Protecting small offices and workers connected to the enterprise network requires the same degree of security as the main entrances...end to end security is critical as remote employees may be opening up unguarded 'back doors' into the corporate network" Stephen R. Du Mont, Vice President, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco Systems
Management Challenges:
"Many supervisors cling to the antiquated notion that if they cannot see their employees, they must not be working" Chairman Davis

"(the) mobile environment exists outside the control and sight of corporate management; this introduces complexity in remote managing, supporting and applying policies over a network of widely distributed remote access points" Du Mont
There really was some tremendous insight offered during this session. Although it will take some time to really absorb all of it, it seems as though things are moving in a good direction.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Teleworking Becomes Focus of Congressional Hearing

If you've been following the blog and reading the research on this site, you are well aware of the emphasis we have been placing on fundamental workplace issues including teleworking. Indeed teleworking's profile has substantially increased given organizations' greater emphasis on managing risk . I thought it was timely therefore, when I received this press release detailing what's happening tomorrow in the United States House of Representatives. At 10:15 in the morning a hearing chaired by Congressman Tom Davis will commence on teleworking. This byline from the press release says it all:
Government Reform Committee to Examine Telecommuting within Federal Workforce; Yesterday's "Win-Win" Human Capital Tool is Today's Homeland Security "Must"
Let's see here, tying teleworking to managing risk and in order to keep organizations continually operational. Sounds familiar.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Q2 2004 Newsletter Published Today

In this quarter's newsletter we not only highlight our participation at the G4 Conference in D.C., and the 14th World Conference on Disaster Management, but we also discuss BCP strategies in India, 2004 elections, the regulations governing transportation of hazardous materials, and profile ABS Information Systems Inc. If that's not enough, you can read about Gill's meeting with Todd Bridges. Todd Bridges? The guy from Diff'rent Strokes? Read the newsletter to find out more.

Are We Really Prepared?

Something's been bugging me for the last few days that I have to get off my chest, even it ruffles some feathers. At this year's World Conference on Disaster Management, there was one encounter that made me question the theme of the conference--Are We Really Prepared?

While taking in the many excellent general discussions and breakout sessions, I happened upon a breakout session hosted by a participant from the financial sector discussing BCP. Given all the reform that has taken place within this critical sector, I assumed that all financial institutions must have well-developed plans. As this recent paper from AT&T suggests, most financial institutions have been early adopters of BCP protocols, and expected to remain one step ahead of the pack:
While most organizations are aware of the need for business continuity and the majority of companies have some sort of disaster recovery plan, sectors that are more heavily reliant on IT tend to be further along the BCP path. Take the financial services sector, one of the most progressive industries of all, where outputs, such as certicicates of deposits, commercial paper and checking and savings accounts are, at the most basic level, information products. When comparing industries, the potential revenue loss arising from a network disruption is among the highest for banking and financial institutions.

The moderators for this particular discussion included a representative of one of Canada's five major banks. Over the course of the session, it seemed to me that the material presented seemed quite elementary, considering the audience they were addressing. Was it just me, or were others in the audience feeling the same way? Just then, I got a nudge from the guy beside me, a consultant to the U.S. Department of the Treasury who said to me, "Are these guys really trying to sell this off as preparedness? Looks like they just pulled a list off the net and are running with it?" I guess I wasn't being overly critical of the presentation.

When the presentation ended, the floor was opened for Q&A and my new friend and I asked questions. We were taken aback by the responses we heard. As an example, the bank represenative identified himself as part of a crucial group is charged with emergency preparedness for the bank across Canada. When my friend asked him "What exactly would you do if an incident occurred right now?", our banking presenter shrugged and cooly stated that he was mere steps away from his offices in the financial core (an intensely concentrated area representing the heart of the Canadian financial sector), and his team would convene to map out next steps. At this point I asked, "What would happen if that event took place right in the heart of the financial district?" He said it was a good question, but his team had already addressed it.

In fact, despite the fact that his institution made a net income exceeding $1B in 2003, they didn't feel as though dispersing this critical team across several locations made logistical sense, or financial sense. I expressed concern over the bank's lack of forsight. To me, backup and site redundancy for an emergency team of a financial institution was lesson one in Emergency Planning 101. I was also alarmed because these folks are the ones who manage some of my assets. To assuage my concerns, this banking representative gave me an assurance that whatever decision they arrived at came about as a result of a detailed cost benefit analysis, with the customer being at the forefront of the decision they made. Really, are they prepared?

Before attending this session, I was confortable with the belief that financial instituions are on the cutting edge of innovation with regard to business continuity planning and emergency preparedness. As it turns out, in at least one case, my bank demonstrated their "cutting edge" is about as sharp as a butter knife.