Skills: UK nation of IoT marketers, not engineers warns critical report

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The UK has hundreds of thousands of IoT professionals – just not the right ones, suggests a new employment report. Chris Middleton explains why the UK needs to take urgent action to rethink its workforce.

There are 28 qualified professionals for every Industry 4.0 post advertised in the UK, according to a new report.

The document finds that there are an average of 14,368 Industry 4.0 jobs advertised every year in the UK, and nearly 400,000 qualified professionals in total (399,719 people).

Over 150,000 of those professionals are either actively or passively searching for new work, it says, meaning that there is an average of 11 experienced people for every new job opportunity in the IoT and related areas.

The report has been produced by a new organisation called i-AMdigital, which describes itself as a “talent partner” for enterprises working with digital technologies such as IoT systems, robotics, AI, big data analytics, and 3D printing.

A nation of marketers

Delve into the granular detail, and the report reveals a fascinating – if not altogether positive – picture of the UK’s new technology sector.

Despite the prevalence of skilled and talented professionals in analytics, engineering, and IT systems – with degrees from universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, and London’s Imperial College and University College – the UK is overwhelmingly sales and marketing focused, it says.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of the entire Industry 4.0 workforce is in business development and sales positions – in roles such as IIoT or big data sales managers – versus just five percent in research and development, across areas such as AI and robotics.

Over one-quarter of those sales professionals want to change jobs, it finds, while 31 percent of the UK’s researchers are actively looking for new opportunities too. The report implies that the marketers may find it much easier to do that than the researchers.

With recent findings that the UK spends too little on R&D – 1.4 percent or less of GDP – compared with countries such as the US, Japan, France and Germany, the figures are troubling. With Brexit on the horizon, the UK needs to at least double its R&D spend to compete on the world stage.

With its historic strengths in areas such as computer science, AI, and the Web, Internet of Business suggests that the UK should aim even higher than three percent of GDP.

At the recent Westminster eForum on AI policy, attended by figures from government, academia, and business, a senior civil servant told Internet of Business that the UK is now being “actively excluded” from European science and technology research programmes in which it has previously had a central role.

Too many unfilled jobs

So what of the rest of the UK’s Industry 4.0 workforce?

Nineteen percent work in engineering roles, such as data scientist or machine learning engineer, says the report, and a further 19 per cent in more traditional IT positions. In both cases, one-quarter of those professionals are looking for new opportunities, says the report.

The remaining seven percent of industry experts are consultants, according to i-AMdigital.

This employment breakdown reveals another big challenge for the UK’s IoT and Industry 4.0 sector: 37 percent of all the relevant jobs advertised in the UK are in traditional IT roles. That’s nearly twice the number that are in sales (20 percent) or specialist engineering (22 percent). Just four percent of advertised jobs are in marketing, and three percent in consulting.

In other words, the UK market is flooded with marketers and sales people when it really needs to be full of qualified IT workers who can fill tech positions.

There are seven active professionals for every sales job, adds the report, and also for every R&D post. However, the survey demonstrates that there are different explanations for this parity: there are far too many marketers and far too few research roles.

This reinforces both anecdotal employer evidence and the findings of several local jobs surveys: the UK has countless unfilled IT vacancies, even in supposed digital hotspots, such as Brighton or Manchester.

In a world of social platforms and surface noise, it seems that the UK is overly focused on selling things that it doesn’t know how to produce or run itself.

The report also finds a strong bias towards London and the South-East. Forty-three percent of Industry 4.0 jobs are in London, it says, versus just two percent apiece in other hotspots, such as Manchester, Birmingham, and Bristol, and just one percent in Edinburgh.

More, the report reveals that many Industry 4.0 professionals are working for a small number of major companies, such as Accenture, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, Boston Consulting Group, and EY. In short, the big consultancies and systems integrators are mopping up the UK’s talent – which is perhaps no surprise.

However, with so little investment being put into R&D nationally, that focus on working for big-ticket, overseas giants is likely to remain – despite the success of innovation zones and startup hubs, such as Tech City, Sensor City, and others.

Internet of Business says

The UK’s track record in innovation is second to none. And it’s good to know that the country’s IoT and Industry 4.0 market has 400,000 qualified and experienced workers: that’s a positive message. But in other respects, these findings ought to ring alarm bells in Whitehall and among employers. 

Here’s why. First, the government has refocused its industrial strategy on AI, robotics, and autonomous systems, with a new Office for AI and other welcome initiatives. This means that digital expertise is critical, and Whitehall is funding new PhD opportunities, and more. That’s good news.

However, it’s clear that – at present – the UK has the wrong workforce mix for an ambitious, independent future. The country urgently needs to refocus on R&D and on nurturing the hard skills and experience in the technology sector. Not just from the top down, but also from the ground up at local level.

At present, the UK has too few research positions for its world-leading experts, too many unfilled digital posts in its big towns and cities, and a job market full of marketers and sales people.

More, the UK is overly reliant on London and on a small number of big companies.

With reports that several banks are reconsidering their positions in London, post-Brexit, and news that Unilever – the UK’s third biggest company – is quitting the country for the Netherlands after almost a century, there is a risk that other major employers and IP owners may follow.

The facts are stark: if the big consultancies, IT giants, and systems integrators think about leaving too, then the UK will be in big trouble. And that’s not a message that will be easy for thousands of marketers to sell.

• i-AMdigital has produced similar reports on the US and European markets, which we will publish soon.

Read more: South Korea most automated nation on earth, says report. The UK? Going nowhere

Read more: IoT sends demand for mobile skills soaring, say recruitment experts

Read more: Inmarsat research: skills gap threatens IoT innovation in energy sector


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The Marshall Islands Is Most Recent Nation to Make Crypto an Official Currency

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On February 26, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (R.M.I.) passed a law approving the launch of Sovereign (SOV), the first cryptocurrency issued as legal tender by a sovereign nation.

“This is a historic moment for our people, finally issuing and using our own currency, alongside the USD. It is another step of manifesting our national liberty,” said R.M.I. President Hilda C. Heine in a media release.

The R.M.I. plans to distribute SOV later in 2018 via an initial coin offering (ICO). David Paul, minister-in-assistance to President Heine, told Reuters the nation will cap SOV supply at 24 million tokens, with that number chosen in reference to the R.M.I.’s 24 municipalities. He noted that a presale for those initial coin offerings will begin “soon.”

Neema, an Israeli startup, is developing the technology to support SOV and will oversee both the presale and the coin offerings.

“SOV will mark a new era for cryptocurrency,” said Neema CEO Barak Ben-Ezer in the media release.

“SOV is about getting rid of the excuses why not to shift to crypto — it’s real money, and it provides the golden path between an open ledger and total anonymity. It gives users the power to decide when and what to disclose,” he added.

New Income

The timing of the R.M.I.’s decision to issue a cryptocurrency is likely linked to budgetary concerns.

The U.S. currently sends the R.M.I. $ 60 million in foreign aid every year, but in 2023, that figure will drop to $ 30 million. According to the R.M.I. media release, the nation’s entire budget is $ 100 million, so it stands to lose nearly a third of that budget just five years from now.

To combat the turmoil the drop in aid is likely to cause, the island nation plans to place 50 percent of what it earns via its initial coin offerings into a national trust fund.

The R.M.I. will split the rest of the money across three areas.

Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. used the R.M.I. as a nuclear testing site, so 20 percent of the remaining funds will go toward providing citizens affected by those nuclear tests with healthcare and support.

The nation will also give 20 percent of the funds directly to R.M.I. resident-citizens in the form of SOV. Those citizen will then have the opportunity to use the crypto as a form of exchange just like they would “regular money.”

The R.M.I. will place the final 10 percent into a Green Climate Fund. The nation is highly susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change, and this fund will help it transition to clean energy and address issues like overfishing.

While it is not the first nation to dabble in cryptocurrencies, R.M.I. insists its SOV is unique, noting in the media release that Venezuela’s petrol (PTR) is not actually the nation’s legal tender. Of the other nations that have recently considered cryptocurrencies — Iran, Russia, and Israel — none have committed as much as the R.M.I. towards the initial venture.

Ultimately, the Marshall Islands could emerge as a shining example for others to follow on the road to legitimizing digital coins, or a cautionary tale illustrating what can go wrong when governments get involved with cryptocurrencies.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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An Inside Look at the First Nation With a State Minister for Artificial Intelligence

Prioritizing the Future

From robots that can flawlessly perform backflips to electric cars that can go over 950 km (600 miles) on a single charge, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the future is far closer than we may have previously thought. If the missteps of the industrial revolution are any indicator, we need to start planning for that future today.

And it seems that this is precisely what the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is trying to do.

The nation’s efforts are mainly concentrated in the city of Dubai, which is already home to a number of futuristic projects, including plans to create a “Mars science city” and build a real life hyperloop, programs for renewable energy and electric vehicles, and tests for flying taxis and even flying jetpacks. Dubai even has an accelerator program aimed at expediting the creation of these various futuristic technologies.

Of course, no plan for the future can be complete without considering the role that artificial intelligence (AI) will play, so on October 19, the UAE became the first nation with a government minister dedicated to AI. Yes, the UAE now has a minister for artificial intelligence.

Dubai: City of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]
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“We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence,” UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said during the announcement of the position, according to Gulf News.

The first person to occupy the state minister for AI post is H.E. Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama. The 27-year-old is currently the Managing Director of the World Government Summit in the Prime Minister’s Office at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, and he holds degrees in Project Management and Excellence from the American University of Sharjah and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the American University of Dubai.

Just days prior to the announcement of this position, on October 16, Sheikh Mohammed officially launched the UAE’s AI strategy. According to the government’s official webpage, it is the first of its kind in the world.

AI as Ubiquitous Tech

The goal is also to make the UAE a leader when it comes to AI research, development, and innovation. “In the UAE, we understand the positives and the potential for AI,” Al Olama told Futurism. “We have visionary leadership that wants to implement these technologies to serve humanity better. Ultimately, we want to make sure that we leverage that while, at the same time, overcoming the challenges that might be created by AI.”

Concretely, the UAE’s AI strategy covers development and application in nine sectors: Transport, health, space, renewable energy, water, technology, education, environment, and traffic.

The technology’s impact on education, in particular, could be quite dramatic, according to Al Olama. “With the internet, we’ve seen a generation that has so much knowledge,” he said. “Imagine if AI was able to help us deliver that content in a way that makes people understand it, memorize it, and be thought leaders in it. I don’t think the future will have tests, exams, or strict memorization. AI will help us actually make a more collaborative and personal learning process.”

He continues by noting that AI can do more than just help us learn new skills — it can help us learn what skills we have a natural aptitude for: “It will help us be able to identify what each person is good at, and then allow us to determine how to make sure that everyone has the information delivery method that they need in order to excel.”

For the UAE and Dubai, the potential for AI is obvious, and education is just the beginning. They hope to ensure that the tech eventually makes its way to all sectors of society that can benefit from it — including almost every single facet of modern governance.

In the official release, the UAE notes that the ultimate goal is to “provide all services via AI and [fully integrate] AI into medical and security services.” According to the same release, harnessing the power of AI would translate to a 50 percent savings in annual government costs by streamlining the nation’s 250 million yearly paper transactions, which currently require 190 million hours and 1 billion kilometers (621 million miles) in travel. Of course, AI’s potential as far as governance is convened goes beyond just this. The UAE’s strategy also includes the creation of a “new vital market with high economic value.”

Building the Future

The UAE hopes its AI initiatives will encourage the rest of the world to really consider how our AI-powered future should look. “AI is not negative or positive. It’s in between. The future is not going to be a black or white. As with every technology on Earth, it really depends on how we use it and how we implement it,” said Al Olama. “People need to be part of the discussion. It’s not one of those things that just a select group of people need to discuss and focus on.”

“AI is not negative or positive. It’s in between. The future is not going to be a black or white.”

To that end, they hope to bring governments, organizations, and everyday citizens together. “At this point, it’s really about starting conversations — beginning conversations about regulations and figuring out what needs to be implemented in order to get to where we want to be. I hope that we can work with other governments and the private sector to help in our discussions and to really increase global participation in this debate. With regards to AI, one country can’t do everything. It’s a global effort,” Al Olama said.

Today’s biggest tech companies, led by Google and Amazon, want to put AI at the core of their businesses, and the UAE and Dubai hope to do the same for an entire nation.

Disclaimer: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.

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“Space Kingdom” Asgardia Says It’s the First Nation with All of Its Territory in Orbit

The self-declared Space Kingdom of Asgardia, a nation founded by a Russian aerospace engineer and billionaire, just deployed its first satellite into orbit.

Asgardia is currently a non-profit non-governmental organization based out of Vienna, Austria. But its leaders want to eventually build a kingdom in space that mines asteroids and defends planet Earth from meteorites, space debris, and other threats.

“Asgardia will be a space nation that is a trans-ethnic, trans-national, trans-religious, ethical, peaceful entity trying to settle the humanity in space,” Ram Jakhu, the director of McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law and one of Asgardia’s founding members, said during a June press briefing.

asgardia 1 nanosat space nation
The Asgardia-1 nanosat. Asgardia; Lena De Winne/Twitter

Its new satellite is called Asgardia-1. The blocky object is technically called a nano satellite or “nanosat,” weighs about as much as a newborn baby, and is roughly the size of a loaf of bread.

Asgardia‘s tiny spacecraft contains a 512-gigabyte hard drive loaded with “the nation’s constitution, national symbols, and the personally selected data of the Asgardian citizenship,” according to a statement emailed to Business Insider.

“Asgardia-1 has now been deployed in a low earth orbit,” the statement said, “making Asgardia the first nation to have all of its territory in space.”

But at least one space law researcher says that, legally speaking, the feat may be “much ado about nothing.”

Asgardia’s first satellite

The plan to launch the satellite was announced during a press briefing and June 13, and the effort was funded by Asgardia co-founder Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian aerospace engineer and billionaire.

Asgardia worked with several companies to make its mission possible. NearSpace Launch helped design and build Asgardia-1, and aerospace company Orbital ATK launched the nanosat inside a Cygnus spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.

The Cygnus left the space station on Wednesday, rocketed to a higher altitude, and shot Asgardia-1 and two other nanosats into space with a spring-loaded cannon built by NanoRacks.

Asgardia-1 won’t do much more than orbit Earth from about 280 miles above the planet, though it does store data submitted by Asgardian citizens. There are currently about 154,000 citizens of Asgardia, and the first 100,000 to register were promised 500 kilobytes of space each for upload on the hard drive (500 kb is less than the data used by one frame of a typical DVD video).

“Maybe the photo of your little cat or of your neighbor, of your mother, or a child… whatever comes to your mind, this will be for as long as Asgardia exists. In other words, forever,” Ashurbeyli said in June.

All the files Asgardians uploaded are visible to fellow citizens, and the platform is accepting more for future spacecraft. So far, nearly 14,000 Asgardians have contributed files, including poems, personal letters, songs, and photos of weddings, cats, dogs, birds, aliens, and even President Donald Trump shaking the hand of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Asgardia-1 will slowly fall toward Earth over the next five years and eventually burn up in the planet’s atmosphere. But Ashurbeyli said in June that the data uploaded will be copied to future Asgardian satellites, as well as spacecraft that go to “the moon and anywhere in the universe … Asgardia will be.”

‘Much ado about nothing’?

With the satellite successfully deployed into space, the nation will now turn to its parliamentary elections that run through March 2018, according to Asgardia’s statement.

“Anyone who is 18 or older, and has accepted the Constitution of Asgardia, will automatically be assigned to an electoral district which represents their spoken language,” the statement said.

asgardia space nation website logo
An illustration of Asgardia’s original emblem.

Asgardia has enough people who’ve applied for citizenship to qualify for consideration as a state by the United Nations, since the minimum is 100,000. But it’s unlikely the world will acknowledge Asgardia as a sovereign nation, even now that it has claimed territory in space.

“Legally speaking this is much ado about nothing,” Frans von der Dunk, a professor of space law at Nebraska College of Law, told Business Insider in an email. “The concept of territory has been pretty well defined in international law, and it does not include ‘artificial’ territory such as satellites anymore than it does include ships, aircraft or oil platforms.”

Asgardia, he added, is “nowhere near a state in the classic sense of the word — even if you accept that the satellite has quasi-territory.”

But the biggest problem for Asgardian sovereignty, von der Dunk said, is the lack of a permanent population in space. Even then it’s a stretch, he said, citing several examples of nations, including Palestine and Taiwan, which have territory and a large permanent population, yet lack a functional government — and thus aren’t recognized as states. (Legal experts also see other issues beyond Asgardia’s territorial claims and statehood, as Motherboard previously reported.)

Business Insider previously contacted the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs(UNOOSA) for clarification on whether current space law would permit the existence of a nation and territory in space, but UNOOSA representatives did not answer our query.

Instead, UNOOSA directed us to the text of five UN treaties that govern activities in outer space. Article II of the first and most important part of that legal framework, called the Outer Space Treaty, prohibits “national appropriation” of anything in outer space “by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

But von der Dunk doesn’t think Asgardia, or something like it in the future, couldn’t eventually form a recognized nation or state in space.

“This may be the germ that 50 years from now will create a true nation in outer space,” von der Dunk told Popular Science last year.

How to build a space kingdom

asgardia space nation colony inside illustration
An illustration of a space colony. Asgardia/James Vaughan

For now, Asgardia’s proclaimed territory — i.e. Asgardia-1 — is actually bound by US law, since American companies launched it from US soil aboard a primarily NASA-funded mission.

But Asgardia’s founders eventually want to launch a space station and have people live there permanently.

“We’ll start small and eventually people will be going there, and working, and having their own rules and regulations … This facility will become an independent nation,” Jakhu previously told Business Insider.

No public details exist yet as to what an early colony might look like, how big it will be, or what expense it’d incur. However, building space stations of any size or kind and putting people on them is a very, very expensive proposition. The football-field-sized ISS, for example, took 18 nations and more than $ 100 billion to build. Meanwhile, the cheapest ride to orbit today is SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which costs between about $ 43 million and $ 65 million per launch.

An Asgardia spokesperson declined to disclose the organization’s funding when Business Insider asked in October 2016, but claimed billionaire backer Ashurbeyli had put forth a substantial amount of money (via his company, Aerospace International Research Center) to keep the Asgardia project going.

Asgardia’s organizers have drawn plenty of criticism, but Jakhu brushes it off.

“Anyone who tries out-of-the-box things is initially ridiculed,” Jakhu previously said. “Everything that’s amazing starts with a crazy idea. After a while, science fiction becomes science fact, and this is an idea which is just being initiated.”

This story was updated with new information after its original publication on December 7, 2017.

Disclosure: The author of this post registered as a citizen of Asgardia as part of his reporting.

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The World’s First “Space Nation” Just Launched a Satellite Into Orbit

One Small Step for Asgardians

The Asgardia-1 satellite launched aboard the NASA commercial vessel OA-8 Antares-Cygnus from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to the International Space Station (ISS) on November 12. If you’re an Asgardian, you’d probably note the date as November 12, 0001.

In October 2016, Russian scientist Igor Ashurbeyl set out to create the first “space nation.” His creation, Asgardia, is now described on its website as a “space kingdom,” and the Asgardia-1 satellite is its first presence in space.

Piece by Piece: The International Space Station (INFOGRAPHIC)
Click to View Full Infographic

While it’s a rather small presence — the “nanosat” is barely the size of a loaf of bread — the satellite does fulfill a promise Ashurbeyl made to early supporters of his new kind of nation.

“I promised there would be a launch,” Ashurbeyl, who was present during the launch, told CNN. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner…because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.” From the ISS, Asgardia-1 will be deployed into low-orbit space, where it will stay for around five to 18 months before burning out and disappearing.

Indeed, sending Asgardia-1 to space is an achievement for the space nation’s citizens, who are still based on Earth. The nanosat contained 0.5 TB of data from 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, including family photographs and digital representations Asgardia’s flag, coat of arms, and recently ratified constitution.

The launch of Asgardia-1 wasn’t just about fulfilling a promise or sending data into space, though.

To be considered for admission into the United Nations, a nation must meet four conditions. According to an Asgardian press release, three of those conditions — a constitution, a government, and a currency — have already been met: “Asgardia’s Constitution has already been accepted; its cryptocurrency, the Solar, is registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office; and the government formation is underway.”

By establishing the nation’s sovereign territory in space, Asgardia-1 meets the final condition: a territory.

Space Nation-Building

Asgardia is as much a scientific mission as it is a social experiment.

Concretely, it’s a nation-building effort, which is why citizens are working toward recognition from the United Nations. However, whether they gain this recognition or not, setting up a space nation requires more than just a political identity. First of all, Asgardia has to actually be in space. Otherwise, it risks becoming just a group of people who think of space as their home.

Image Credit: Asgardia

To do this, Asgardia plans to establish an orbital space station and a colony on the Moon.“It will be a four-level orbital station. I think the technical details will be defined by the Ministry of Science, which I hope we will have in the autumn of this year,” said Ashurbeyl at a press conference back in June.

How long before that space station and lunar colony come to fruition is anyone’s guess, but the number of people joining Asgardia is quite telling. Today, there are some 114,000 Asgardians from 204 Earth-based nations. That’s a drop from the 211,000 back in June, but Asgardia is only including those who ratified their constitution.

With Asgardia accepting anyone above the age of 18 — even convicts so long as they are clear of charges — what the nation represents, perhaps, is a chance to start over and participate in the formation of an “ideal” society, whether it actually gets off the ground or not.

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Virtual nation Asgardia has launched itself into space

Last year, Russian scientist Igor Ashurbeyli announced the formation of Asgardia — a new virtual nation that will ultimately exist entirely in space. Since its debut, Asgardia has attracted over 300,000 registrants, created a constitution and, as of…
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European Nation Set to Be 100% Renewable in Two Years

Scottish Power Leads European Pace

Last week, Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly met to debate how the country could establish itself as a world leader in the fight against climate change. During the gathering, members heard how the nearby European nation of Scotland has managed to get on track to supply 100 percent of its electricity via renewables by 2020.

Over the past fifteen years, Scotland has gone from garnering 10 percent of its electricity from renewables to 60 percent. The country hit its emissions targets for 2020 five years earlier than anticipated, and looks set to preserve that momentum going forward.

Scotland’s transition to renewable energy has been made without any negative impact on the country’s finances – its accomplishments serve to demonstrate that there’s no longer a need to decide between ecological and economic considerations.

Part of its success can be attributed to a focus on making sure that improvements were implemented in a way that had a positive impact regionally, as well as across the whole country. For instance, the government set a target for the construction of 500-megawatts’ worth of locally-owned energy generation plants. This was attained well ahead of time, so the goal has now been increased to 1,000-megawatts’ worth of facilities.

Clean Sweep

Scotland isn’t the only place looking to end its reliance on fossil fuels. However, most other countries aren’t quite as ambitious in terms of timescale.

In June 2017, an entire province of China was able to run on 100 percent renewable energy for seven days straight. This is part of a wider effort for the company to clean up its act when it comes to the environment.

Renewable Energy Sources Of The Future [Infographic]
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In the US, California has pledged to make a complete transition to renewable energy by 2045, despite being the third-largest state producer of oil and gas. Similarly, the city of Atlanta expects to end its usage of fossil fuels by 2035.

These changes are taking place all over the world. Indeed, a recent study laid out a method for as many as 139 countries to become powered solely by wind, water, and solar energy by 2050.

Establishing the necessary infrastructure for this transition to take place will be no small feat. However, we’ve seen time and time again that the cost of holding off on these changes will be steep – as well as financial and broader ecological concerns, our current energy practices are prompting a loss of human life.

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New Zealand’s New Prime Minister is Promising a Zero-Carbon Nation by 2050

Going Zero-Carbon

New Zealand’s new Prime Minister elect, Jacina Ardern, is not wasting time to commit to fighting climate change. With the help of her coalition government, Ardern has set a target for New Zealand to become a zero-carbon nation by the year 2050. This includes promises to reduce overall carbon emissions and to offset what remains with international carbon credits and tree planting.

“I believe that this will be a government of change,” Ardern said Friday at a press conference after her first caucus meeting. “We have found allies in this parliament who wish to join with us in building a fairer New Zealand. A country where our environment is protected.”

Image credit: Pixabay/Creative Commons
Image credit: Pixabay/Creative Commons

Battling climate change is a topic of great importance to the people of New Zealand, one that crosses party lines. The move is part of a potential surge in the number of countries moving toward carbon neutrality.

Turning the Tide

Other nations have recently made similar pledges. Sweden passed a law early this summer to become carbon neutral by 2045. Not to be outdone, Norway has pledged carbon neutrality by 2030. Other nations, like the North American countries, have made promises to significantly curb carbon emissions within the next few decades, but stop short of pledging carbon neutrality.

Can We Come Back from Climate Change’s Brink?
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Scotland has pledged to become independent from fossil fuels as an energy source by 2020. Granted, this is a different pledge than making the entire country carbon neutral, but it will offset a great deal of carbon emissions for the country.

New data published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) shows some promise that the fight against climate change is working. The evidence indicates that CO2 emissions remained static in 2016.

Of course, this is not a signal that we should hoist a victory banner. On the contrary, it is proof that we can still make a difference — and should continue to do so. National pledges to become zero-carbon are great first steps, yet we must hold our leaders accountable to make good on those promises.

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One Nation Is Single-Handedly Inventing the Future of Transportation

What Does the Future of Transportation Look Like?

All over the world, the way people get around is changing quickly. However, it’s possible that there’s no greater hub for developing the future of transportation technology than the Netherlands.

The country is uniquely poised to facilitate this kind of work. It’s got great technological infrastructure, with complete 4G coverage that helps vehicles grab routing information and other updates quickly and efficiently. Moreover, it’s relatively small, making it easier to implement big changes to the transport network than it would be in a country like the US.

Coupled with strong governmental backing, these factors are incubating a lot of interesting projects that could have a profound effect on how the Dutch get from A to B.

From Hyperloop to Hire Cars

At the inaugural SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2016, a team from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands managed to come out on top in terms of overall score. The Netherlands is a promising hotspot for research into Elon Musk’s potentially groundbreaking new form of city-to-city transport.

Hardt Hyperloop was born out of the team that aced the SpaceX competition, and the company is now looking to push forward with the first commercial route using the technology. Hardt is collaborating with some of the biggest corporations in the Netherlands in an effort to construct a large-scale test facility by 2019.

However, we’re not just seeing projects that aim to completely reimagine transport. There are also ongoing efforts to use technology to improve upon existing methods of getting around.

In a major metropolitan area, it doesn’t always make sense to own a car if it’s only going to be in use every now and again. That’s why car sharing programs are so popular — and Dutch startup Next Urban Mobility wants to go beyond what’s currently available to produce a “Netflix for transportation.”

Such a platform would give users on-demand access to hub spanning everything from cars to bicycles, public transport to delivery drivers.

Using public transport also makes things safer because there’s fewer drivers on the road, and if self-driving cars become the norm, traffic accidents and deaths caused by them could go down substantially.

Green Machines

One major focus for the organizations looking into new modes of transport in the Netherlands is sustainability. Various governments are set to enforce a ban on the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles in the next decade. Alongside that process, there’s a lot of ongoing research into other ways of making travel more environmentally friendly.

Eurocarbon is producing composite materials commonly used in the automotive industry that consume up to 40% less energy, without sacrificing anything in terms of strength and quality. Solliance is producing high grade thin film solar panels that could harvest the energy that powers tomorrow’s vehicles.

Crucially, organizations like Connekt and Amsterdam Smart City are helping to forge partnerships between people from all walks of life and companies with this kind of expertise in order to promote projects that will benefit communities. The future of transportation is going to require collaboration between various different specializations, so bringing high-spec manufacturers together with the designers and engineers that might utilize their materials is hugely valuable.

The Netherlands seems to be taking a very proactive stance on the future of transport, in all its forms. In many ways, this is a win-win — the best prospects look set to make travel easier, faster, and safer, but they should also be a major boon for the environment.

The post One Nation Is Single-Handedly Inventing the Future of Transportation appeared first on Futurism.


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