Wednesday, March 30, 2016

ETS16 - Day 1 Quick Hits

Things are moving fast here at Zpryme's ETS16 - Energy Thought Summit - and I'm wearing a few hats. I've been producing a lot of thought leadership content in advance of the summit, and this morning, I hosted the first session - an Open Mic panel that was a lot of fun. Today I'm also doing a series of video interviews with industry execs, and these will turn up soon on the ETS Insights page.

Time is short, and for now I can only manage a few photos with brief commentary from yesterday, plus some late additions from the Open Mic session. Here we go...

Early start yesterday, with a tour of the power plant site, which was decommissioned a few years back, and has been totally reinvented as a different kind of community asset. Very impressive, and Austin is really leading way for integrating energy and the role of utilities into the fabric of everyday life in the digital age. Kind of ironic to see two letters below not illuminated - not sure if that's Austin humor, or nobody noticed these lights are out.  :-)
Another cool vibe about Austin is the arts scene. It's more than just a music town, and creativity is everywhere here. I believe it's actually a key part of the secret sauce that makes the tech startup scene here so dynamic. If that's not on your radar, it really should be. Check out what they've done with these huge metal tubes - as I understand things, it's part of how they cool the water when producing steam to drive the turbines. Not any more, and I love what they've done here. Perhaps it symbolizes a prison break, escaping from the legacy energy model, or more likely reinvention - for both the energy sector and repurposing an industrial site to something with great aesthetics. I'm reaching, but I also see the bodies of two guitars here, and that wouldn't be out of place in this town.
Another example of repurposing the site and 21st century urban renewal. Dormant cooling tower next to a high rise condo, making this a very hip neighborhood now.
Another part of the tour was to see what they're doing to promote alternate forms of transportation and energy - electric vehicles and e-bikes in particular. They're doing lots of leading-edge things in these areas, and here's a fast charging station, with a Nissan Leaf with the lid flipped up for charging.

Nothing really radical here, but I really like how the charger has the look and feel of the pumps we all use at gas stations. I asked about this, and they are in fact, looking at partnerships with gas stations to put in some chargers, even one that serves BBQ. Why not? Fast chargers only take about 20 minutes, so it's about the right amout of time to get a bite to eat and get back on the road.
Now, here's the interesting part for me. The experience of using an EV charger totally has the same look and feel as if being at a gas station. They didn't have to design it this way, but when you think about the activity you're trying moving people away from, it's much easier to do that when the user experience is so familiar.

If EV charging looked different - or weird as they say in Austin - or complex, people wouldn't use it so readily. The UC&C space is going through this now, and the vendors definitely get it, and that's really helping drive adoption. Great to see that here with energy, and when other points of contact in the home have the same thinking - smart meters, thermostats, home networks, etc. - that's going to make smart grid adoption move a lot faster.

Show time at the Paramount - they don't make 'em like this any more.
ETS President Drew Johnston welcoming everyone and setting the tone.
Dr. Thomas Wagner from NASA - great talk, more about that later - and some visual art happening in real time. I didn't catch the name of the illustrator, but over the course of the morning sessions, she created a visual narrative that captured the essence of what the speakers were sharing.
Voila! The finished product - very cool, huh? And, between sessions, there is a musical performer to serenade us - different ones each time. In this case, we had classical music. Loved it, but am not sure if she was playing a cello or a viola. Anyhow, I don't think you're going to see this mixing of arts, creativity and music - all acoustic, all live - at any other event. Again, you may call Austin weird, but it totally works for me, and really engages all the senses.
For star power, we had Dr. Vint Cerf, via remote connection. Too bad he couldn't be on stage, but it was great to hear his thoughts. The experience was just so-so, though, and Google Hangouts was probably not the ideal choice for such an esteemed speaker. That's another conversation, but I'm wearing my smart grid hat right now.
Finally, some me time. This was from today's 8am session, so it's really a bonus add-on for my Day 1 recap. I MC'd the Open Mic session, and I grabbed this photo that was posted on twitter earlier. Thanks for that! We had a full house, and was very happy to have a local pianist accompany us during the transitions from speaker to speaker. Maybe it's just an Austin thing, but it was a nice touch.
Here's the piano man, Adam Lozoya. Literally, he was discovered playing on the street the day before, and next thing you know he's at my session. Great guy, and nice of him to let me play a bit too - I can't not do that if there's a piano in the room. Here he is with Act II, performing outside the theater during our morning break. Gotta love the electric candles sticking up, and of course the tip hat. Man's gotta make a living!

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