Tag Archive for: Blockchain

Locus at 25 Years: Blockchain for Emissions Management

From its founding, Locus recognized an opportunity to think bigger about managing the environmental data and squeezing more value. In 1999, Locus introduced the first cloud-based ecological data management software, EIM. In 2000 Locus offered the first generation of the Locus Platform to house EHS compliance apps. Over the last 25 years, Locus software has expanded to cover more and more aspects of environmental compliance, sustainability (ESG), energy and water quality management, air emissions, waste, mitigation, and stewardship for the companies that use it. We provided software that helped Locus’ customers be credible with their environmental and ESG reporting. 

Locus wants to give companies software tools that enable them to be proactive in their environmental stewardship; to date, most organizations have incorporated environmental policies reactively, primarily driven by regulations. Greenwashing, “a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization’s products, aims, and policies are environmentally friendly,” seems commonplace. 

To paraphrase Sam Cooke, change is coming, and it can’t be stopped. Today, we are experiencing new environmental challenges. EHS compliance is being replaced by a much stronger driver–the existential threat to the planet Earth arising from climate change caused by human activity and the burning of fossil fuels. New tools are needed to help organizations comply with expanded governmental regulations and manage the growing avalanche of data to assess sustainability issues, calculate GHG emissions, etc. Locus’s ESG platform is well-positioned to meet this need and is used by many companies for these purposes.

Locus’ vision extends well beyond the current requirements that ESG is constructed to address.  Our company is looking at longer-term applications for its software by considering the role of technology in combatting the collective environmental challenges that beset us. Given the heavy and relentless toll of human activities on the planet, we need to address how we can gather and analyze sufficient data to accurately assess where we stand and what changes are required to alter our course? Collecting and tracking all these data, examining them in the aggregate, and understanding how all our activities are affecting climate change, habitat erosion, and public health issues can, in the end, help society address these challenges collectively. Without adequate data to measure emission levels and the rate of changes we see in the environment doing and at what rate, without a sound factual basis, it’s going to be impossible to mitigate the damage at the correct scale. 

At first glance, the convergence of Blockchain with ESG reporting might seem to be contradictory, but a more in-depth analysis of trends shows its value. Blockchain has rapidly transformed into a financial reporting and attestation tool that has caught the attention of many vital decision-makers and technology drivers. At the same time, the importance of ESG has never been more pronounced. Combining the two could be the key to making ESG reporting more straightforward and more meaningful. The broader trends are alike: each has been steadily making inroads into organizational management and the reporting landscape. The difference is that now, with accelerated digital transformation and automation, both broader trends have moved into a much sharper focus. 

Blockchain technology is ideally suited for the complexities of tracking a global supply chain. Improving the traceability of supply chains is old news in terms of goods, but supply chains are much bigger than that. Securing the information that drives business decision-making is where Blockchain can deliver significant value.  

Blockchain technology will allow companies to track resources from the first appearance in their supply chain, certifying their products’ compliance with regulations and their quality. Blockchain technology would enable government agencies to effectively aggregate emissions quantities and origins across geographies, industries, and other criteria. More importantly, all parties would need only one record software system to avoid constant synchronization, submittals, and reporting requirements.  

Though their data may be more transparent, corporations benefit considerably from adopting a technology in which all their emissions and other data reside in a single record system. Along the way, companies would undoubtedly lower their operating cost and, at the same time, reduce the dizzying number of unconnected, heavily supported, siloed software applications they currently operate to keep in compliance with existing environmental regulations. 

This is the fifth post highlighting the evolution of Locus Technologies over the past 25 years. The first four can be found here, here, here, and here. This series continues with Locus at 25 Years: A Unified Approach to EHS and ESG.

Artificial Intelligence & Blockchain Applied to Water & Energy


There are two promising technologies that are about to change how we aggregate and manage EHS+S data: artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain. When it comes to technology, history has consistently shown that the cost will always decrease, and its impact will increase over time. We still lack access to enough global information to allow AI to make a significant dent in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by merely providing better tools for emissions management. For example, the vast majority of energy consumption is wasted on water treatment and movement. AI can help optimize both. Along the way, water quality management becomes an add-on app.

AI is a collective term for technologies that can sense their environment, think, learn, and act in response to what they’re detecting and their objectives. Possible applications include (1) Automation of routine tasks like sampling and analyses of water samples, (2) Segregation of waste disposal streams based on the waste containers content, (3) Augmentation of human decision-making, and (4) Automation of water treatment systems. AI systems can greatly aid the process of discovery – processing and analyzing vast amounts of data for the purposes of spotting and acting on patterns, skills that are difficult for humans to match. AI can be harnessed in a wide range of EHS compliance activities and situations to contribute to managing environmental impacts and climate change. Some examples of applications include permit interpretation and response to regulatory agencies, precision sampling, predicting natural attenuation of chemicals in water or air, managing sustainable supply chains, automating environmental monitoring and enforcement, and enhanced sampling and analysis based on real-time weather forecasts. Applying AI in water resource prediction, management, and monitoring can help to ameliorate the global water crisis by reducing or eliminating waste, as well as lowering costs and lessening environmental impacts. A similar analogy holds for air emissions management.

The onset of blockchain technology will have an even bigger impact. It will first liberate data and, second, it will decentralize monitoring while simultaneously centralizing emissions management. It may sound contradictory, but we need to decentralize in order to centralize management and aggregate relevant data across corporations and governmental organizations without jeopardizing anyone’s privacy. That is the power of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology will eliminate the need for costly synchronization among stakeholders: corporations, regulators, consultants, labs, and the public. What we need is secure and easy access to any data with infinite scalability. It is inevitable that blockchain technology will become more accessible with reduced infrastructure over the next few decades. My use of reduced architecture here refers to a replacement of massive centralized databases controlled by one of the big four internet companies using the hub-and-spoke model concept with a device-to-device communication with no intermediaries.

This post was originally published in Environmental Business Journal in June of 2020.

Emerging Technology and the Environmental Industry

Locus Founder and CEO, Neno Duplan recently sat down with Grant Ferrier of Environmental Business International to discuss a myriad of topics relating to technology in the environmental industry such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Multi-tenancy, IoT, and much more.

[icoLocus name=”list”]  Use the video chapters to navigate to areas of interest.

Neno Duplan is founder and CEO of Locus Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based environmental software company founded in 1997. Locus evolved from his work as a research associate at Carnegie Mellon in the 1980s, where he developed the first prototype system for environmental information management. This early work led to the development of numerous databases at some of the nation’s largest environmental sites, and ultimately, to the formation of Locus in 1997.

Click here to learn more and purchase the full EBJ Vol XXXIII No 5&6: Environmental Industry Outlook 2020-2021

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Artificial Intelligence and Environmental Compliance–Revisited–Part 4: AI, Big Data + Multi-Tenancy = The Perfect System

AI and Big Data to Drive EHS Decisions via Multi-tenant SaaS

With data and information streaming from devices like fire hydrants, there is little benefit from raw data, unless a company owning the data has a way to integrate the data into its record system and pair it with regulatory databases and GIS. That is where the advancement in SaaS tools and data sources mashups has helped set the stage for AI as a growing need.

Humans are not very good at analyzing large datasets. This is particularly true with data at the planetary level that are now growing exponentially to understand causes and fight climate change. Faced with a proliferation of new regulations and pressure to make their companies “sustainable” EHS departments keep adding more and more compliance officers, managers, and outside consultants, instead of investing in technology that can help them. Soon, they will be turning to AI technology to stay on top of the ever-changing regulatory landscape. 

Locus - Big Data - IoT - AI

AI, in addition to being faster and more accurate, should make compliance easier. Companies spend too much time and effort on the comprehensive quarterly or annual reporting—only to have to duplicate the work for the next reporting period. The integrated approach, aided by AI, will automate these repetitive tasks and make it easier than just having separate analyses performed on every silo of information before having a conversation with regulators.

In summary, whether it is being used to help with GHG emissions monitoring and reporting, water quality management, waste management, incident management, or other general compliance functions, AI can improve efficiency, weed out false-positive results, cut costs and make better use of managers’ time and company resources.

Complex data - Data redundancy

Another advantage of AI, assuming it is deployed properly, concerns its inherent neutrality on data evaluation and decision making. Time and time again we read in the papers about psychological studies and surveys that show people on opposite sides of a question or topic cannot even agree on the “facts.” It should not be surprising then to find that EHS managers and engineers are often limited by their biases. As noted in the recent best-seller book by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics laureate Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” when making decisions, they frequently see what they want, ignore probabilities, and minimize risks that uproot their hopes. Even worse, they are often confident even when they are wrong. Algorithms with AI built-in are more likely to detect our errors than we are. AI-driven intelligent databases are now becoming powerful enough to help us reduce human biases from our decision-making. For that reason, large datasets, applied analytics, and advanced charting and data visualization tools, will soon be driving daily EHS decisions.

In the past, companies almost exclusively relied upon on-premise software (or single-tenant cloud software, which is not much different from on-premise). Barriers were strewn everywhere. Legacy systems did not talk to one another, as few of the systems interfaced with one another. Getting data into third-party apps usually required the information to be first exported in a prescribed format, then imported to a third-party app for further processing and analysis. Sometimes data was duplicated across multiple systems and apps to avoid the headache of moving data from one to another.  As the world moves to the multi-tenant SaaS cloud, all this is now changing. Customers are now being given the opportunity to analyze not just their company’s data, but data from other companies and different but potentially related and coupled categories via mashups. As customers are doing so, interesting patterns are beginning to emerge.

The explosion of content—especially unstructured content—is an opportunity and an obstacle for every business today.

The emergence of artificial intelligence is a game-changer for enterprise EHS and content management because it can deliver business insights at scale and make EHS compliance more productive. There are numerous advantages when you combine the leading multi-tenant EHS software with AI:

  • Ability to handle the explosion of unstructured content where legacy on-premise EHS solutions can’t.
  • AI can organize, illuminate, and extract valuable business insights if all your content is managed in one secure location in the cloud.
  • Locus helps you take advantage of best-of-breed AI technologies from industry leaders and apply them to all your content.

We are seeing in the most recent NAEM white paper, Why Companies Replace Their EHS&S Software Systems, that people want the ability to integrate with other systems as a top priority.  Once the ability to share/consolidate data is available, AI is not far behind in the next generation of EHS/Water Quality software.

This concludes the four-part blog series on Big Data, IoT, AI, and multi-tenancy. We look forward to feedback on our ideas and are interested in hearing where others see the future of AI in EHS software – contact us for more discussion or ideas! Read the full Series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

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    Artificial Intelligence and Environmental Compliance–Revisited–Part 3: Multi-Tenancy and AI

    SaaS–Multi-Tenant Cloud Architecture

    Multi-tenancy offers distinct benefits over traditional, single-tenant software hosting. A multi-tenant SaaS provider’s resources are focused on maintaining a single, current version of the application, rather than having its resources diluted in an attempt to support multiple software versions for its customers. If a provider is not using multi-tenancy, it may be hosting or supporting thousands of single-tenant customer implementations. By doing so, a provider cannot aggregate information across customers and extract knowledge from large data sets as every customer may be housed on a different server and possibly a different version of software. For these reasons, it is almost impossible and prohibitively expensive to deliver modern AI tools via single-tenancy.

    Locus Multi-Tenant Software
    View Infographic | Download White Paper

    Multi-tenancy has other advantages as well. Because every customer is on the same version of the software and the same instance, machine-learning (a prerequisite for building an AI system) can happen more quickly as large datasets are constantly fed into a single system. A multi-tenant SaaS vendor can integrate and deploy new AI features more quickly, more frequently, and to all customers at once. Lastly, a single software version creates more of a sense of community among users and facilitates the customers’ ability to share their lessons learned with one another (if they chose to do that). Most of today’s vendors in the EH&S software space cannot offer AI, sustain their businesses, and grow unless they are a true multi-tenant SaaS provider. Very few vendors are.


    Almost 30 years after the publication of our paper on the hazardous data explosion, SaaS technologies combined with other advancements in big data processing are rising to the challenge of successful processing, analyzing, and interpreting large quantities of environmental and sustainability data. It is finally time to stop saying that AI is a promising technology of the future. A recent Gartner study indicates that about 20 percent of data will be created or gathered by computers by 2018. Six billion connected devices will acquire the ability to connect and share data with each other. This alone will fuel AI growth as we humans cannot interpret such massive amounts of data.

    Gone are the days where EHS software was just a database. There are two factors that are fueling the adoption of AI technologies for water quality management and  EHS compliance. First, there is a vast increase that we have mentioned of data that needs sorting and understanding (big data). Second, there is the move to true multi-tenant SaaS solutions, which enables the intake and dissection of data from multiple digital sources (streaming data) from multiple customers, all in real-time.

    AI has entered the mainstream with the backing and advocacy of companies like IBM, Google, and Salesforce, who are heavily investing in the technology and generating lots of buzzes (and we are seeing the consequent talent war happening industry-wide). It is remarkable to observe how quickly AI is proliferating in so many verticals, as CBS’s 60 Minutes segment showed us.

    For our purposes, let’s look at where AI is likely to be applied in the EHS space. The mission-critical problem for EHS enterprise software companies is finding solutions that both enhance compliance and reduce manual labor and costs. This is where AI will play a major role. So far, companies have largely focused on aggregating their data in a record system(s); they have done little to interpret that data without human interaction. To address the ever-changing growth in environmental regulations, companies have been throwing people at the problem, but that is not sustainable.

    Locus Artificial Intelligence

    AI and natural language processing (NLP) systems have matured enough to read through the legalese of regulations, couple them with company’s monitoring and emissions data, and generate suggestions for actions based on relevant regulations and data. Take, for example; a CEMS installed at many plants to monitor air emissions in real-time. Alternatively, a drinking water supply system monitoring for water quality. In each of these systems, there are too many transactions taking place to monitor manually to ascertain which ones are compliant and which ones are not? I see no reason why similar algorithms that are used for computerized trading (as described in the recent best-seller “Flash Boys”) to trade stocks in fractions of a second cannot be used for monitoring exceedances and automatically shutting down discharges if there is an approaching possibility of emission exceedance. It is an onerous task to figure out every exceedance on a case-by-case basis. Intelligent databases with a built-in AI layer can interpret data on arrival and signal when emissions exceed prescribed limits or when other things go wrong. The main driver behind applying AI to EHS compliance is to lower costs and increase the quality of EHS compliance, data management, and interpretation, and ultimately, to avoid all fines for exceedances.

    For example, a large water utility company has to wade through thousands of analytical results to look for outliers of a few dozen chemicals they are required to monitor to stay compliant. Some of these may be false-positives, but that still leaves some results to be investigated for outliers. Each of those investigations can take time. However, if a software algorithm has access to analytical results and can determine that the problem rests with a test in the lab, that problem can be solved quickly, almost without human interaction. That is powerful.

    Combing through data and doing this by hand or via spreadsheet could take days and create a colossal waste of time and uncertainty. Hundreds of billable hours can be wasted with no guaranteed result. Using AI-driven SaaS software to determine what outliers need investigation allows compliance managers, engineers, and chemists to focus their expertise on just these cases and thus avoid wasting their time on the remaining ones that the AI engine indicates need no further examination.

    Predictive analytics based on big data and AI will also make customer data (legacy and new) work harder for customers than any team(s) of consultants. A good analogy that came to me after watching 60 minutes is that the same way the clinical center in North Carolina used AI to improve cancer treatment for their patients, engineers and geologists can improve on selecting the site remedy that will be optimized for given site conditions and will lead to a faster and less expensive cleanup with minimum long-term monitoring requirements.

    A final example where AI will be playing a role is in the area of enterprise carbon management. SaaS software is capable of integrating data from multiple sources, analyzing and aggregating it. This aggregated information can then be distributed to a company’s divisions or regulatory agencies for final reporting and validation/verification, all in real-time. This approach can save companies lots of time and resources. Companies will be able to access information from thousands of emission sources across the states, provinces, and even countries where their plants are located. Because each plant is likely to have its set of regulatory drivers and reporting requirements, these would have to be incorporated into the calculation and reporting engine. After data from each plant is uploaded to a central processing facility, the information would be translated into a “common language,” the correct calculation formulae and reporting requirements applied, and the results then returned to each division in a format suitable for reporting internally and externally.

    Blockchain for EHS—Looking ahead

    And finally, another emerging technology, blockchain, will further augment the power of AI for EHS monitoring and compliance. While blockchain is in its infancy, its decentralized approach coupled with AI will bring another revolution to EHS compliance and water monitoring.

    Blockchain technology

    Parts one, two, and four of this blog series complete the overview of Big Data, IoT, AI, and multi-tenancy. We look forward to feedback on our ideas and are interested in hearing where others see the future of AI in EHS software – contact us for more discussion or ideas!

    Contact us to learn more about Locus uses IoT and AI


      Company Email


      Tell us about your company's needs

      Locus is committed to preserving your privacy.

      Blockchain: aggregate emissions reporting

      In the next few years, an opportunity exists to make significant advances in how we monitor and manage environmental emissions to the air, soil, and water, potentially resulting in significant disruptions in current approaches. Currently, industries and commercial establishments monitor their emissions and submit reports on a regular basis, often as frequently as quarterly, to federal and state agencies to demonstrate they are meeting regulatory requirements. However, no one on the generating or receiving end of these data dumps and reports is aggregating these emissions to create a more composite, inclusive picture of emissions across sources or media. The reason is that emissions of different types and to different media are reported to separate regulatory entities that, in general, do not interact or talk to one another. And although there are significant potential benefits to both generators and regulators in reviewing integrated environmental data sets, our traditional methods of storing and sharing this information make such integrations a hugely difficult effort.

      Only by integrating all available data can we begin to (1) assess local, regional, and ultimately the global impacts of these emissions, and (2) identify net improvements to our environmental practices that are only apparent when looking at the combined, interconnected body of collected data. Blockchain enables the integration of these data sets for quick, yet comprehensive “big picture” assessments.

      Blockchain technology is a highly disruptive technology that offers an efficient way of storing records (called blocks) which are linked using cryptography. While still in its infancy, blockchain promises to change the world as we know it, much like the internet did after its introduction in 1991. Today, the technology is most widely associated with digital currencies and money transfers. In time, however, blockchain technology will not only shift the way we use the internet, but it will also revolutionize the global economy and almost all transactional business that relies on an intermediary.

      One Environment, Health, and Safety and Sustainability  (EHS+S) sector well positioned to benefit from blockchain technology is emissions monitoring and reporting. I reported more on the technology and its impact on EHS space here.

      Environmental monitoring current practice

      Presently, companies with emissions monitor these following regulatory requirements, input the resulting data into a database or spreadsheet, perform emissions calculations on the entered readings, and then report the results of these calculations to regulators. The entire focus of this process is to (1) determine whether emissions of a single chemical or chemicals exceed prescribed levels and (2) evaluate the effect of these discharges on the media to which the compounds have been introduced by the polluting industry or other sources. There is no suitable software technology or mechanism to look at aggregate emissions across geographical areas or sectors or how emissions of one type interact with emissions of an entirely different kind. Examining such interactions could be far more critical than monitoring and assessing the impacts on human health and the environment of single parameter emissions to only one media, and may reveal new opportunities for optimizing our EHS+S practices for reduced cost with similar or improved performance.

      Aggregate emissions

      To take a hypothetical scenario, consider the possible consequential damages when two incompatible streams of chemicals or waste mix to create even worse chemicals as a result of their chemical reaction.  EPA has only recently started looking into these type of scenarios. Its Envirofacts databases allow the public to retrieve information from multiple sources of Envirofacts’ System Data relevant to your area of interest. However, each database is a separate silo of information (Figure 1). The next step that ought to be taken is to assess and as needed, report on the possible interaction of incompatible emission sources that are nearby, but are independently monitored and stored in disconnected databases (see Figure 2 below).

      EPA Envirofacts 1

      Figure 1: EPA Envirofacts databases allow the public to retrieve information from multiple sources, but only one source at time and disconnected from each other.

      Most everyone taking prescription medicines comes to understand that interactions between drugs are quite common. Imagine something similar to the interaction of drugs in your body happening on a much larger scale in the environment. One does not have to imagine. EPA recently imposed the highest environmental fine ever at the 2,530-acre Eastern Michaud Flats Contamination Superfund site near Pocatello, Idaho. Two adjacent on-site phosphate ore processing facilities, the FMC Corporation and the J.R. Simplot Company, began operations at the site in the 1940s. The J.R. Simplot facility produces solid and liquid fertilizers using phosphate ore, sulfur, air and natural gas. The FMC plant is North America’s largest producer of elemental phosphorus which is used in a variety of products from cleaning compounds to foods.

      Operations at these plants have independently contaminated both the groundwater and soil with hazardous chemicals. Both plants have received numerous environmental violations, many of which were settled with the EPA. Each of the sites has its environmental ills (and fines), but the more significant environmental problem is a combined regional plume. Everyone knows that acids and metals do not play well together. Sulphuric acid from the J.R. Simplot operation has leaked from surface impoundments into the groundwater and, on its way downstream, has leached all kinds of toxic metals from the FMC site, creating a highly poisonous plume of contaminants. An accurate assessment of the environmental disaster that exists in this area requires that the environmental impact of the two plants be examined in toto. Blockchain-based monitoring technology would allow both the public and regulators to see the resultant subsurface commingled plume and possibly pave the way to a more comprehensive remedy.

      Issues involving contamination of multiple media have also arisen at sites where discharges of volatile organic compounds or VOCs have occurred. In Silicon Valley, where I live, many engineering consultants have made their living chasing plumes of VOC chemicals (e.g., TCE) and then, when deemed appropriate, have installed various groundwater treatment plants tucked in the back of parking lots of companies like Google or HP to ameliorate this contamination. Santa Clara, the central county in Silicon Valley, is home to more Superfund sites than any other county in the United States.

      The process is analogous to rinsing detergent from a sponge. After many rinses, it still seems to have more in it. It is an endless process with little environmental benefit. Has anyone looked at the additional impact of the high energy demand for treatment systems that have minimal effect on improving groundwater, but can contribute significant CO2 equivalents to the atmosphere?

      With blockchain technology, we could simultaneously measure the positive effect of the treatment plant removing contaminants from water and the negative impact that this same plant produces by contributing to the CO2 emissions. Quantities of removed chemicals over time could be plotted in real time vs. CO2 emissions produced resulting from high energy usage of the treatment plant. This would allow companies operating treatment plants and regulators overseeing them to determine at what point in time continued treatment could be harming, not helping the environment. It is these type of analyses that would benefit society and help with the decision to shut down a remediation process when diminishing returns of the treatment system are reached.

      EPA Envirofacts 2

      Figure 2: Interaction of incompatible emission sources is better managed if emissions are aggregated than if independently monitored and stored in disconnected databases.

      How would blockchain technology help in a scenario like this? Chemical removal rate would be tracked in one block (of the chain) and CO2 emissions in another. Owner and regulator would agree on the formula to determine when the treatment process ceases to produce a significant environmental benefit. At this point, the system would be shut down. All of this would be monitored and measured in real time, and more importantly, it would be transparent to the owner, regulator, and the public.

      Emissions measures should be preemptive, not reactive

      When you think about emissions, they are generally (except incidents and accidents)  operating problems that can be managed and optimized before discharges even happen. It is to the benefit of companies to do it this way. Every process that has an exhaust or smokestack for dispersing air emissions or pipelines for discharging liquids to surface receptors or water bodies could be managed to reduce harmful emissions coming out the system regardless of regulatory prescribed permissible levels. As an organization with a legacy environmental site knows, it is far more cost-effective to eliminate the original cause of emission than to spend decades of effort to remediate after the fact.

      Unfortunately, many businesses are currently not genuinely looking at the aggregated data they collect about their emissions, wastewater, and energy use alongside their operational metrics. Current practices for EHS+S data management only allow for very simplistic comparison of normalized indicators between these disparate data sets.  But it would benefit these operators to gather, aggregate and analyze data, and then make better, more cost-effective decisions as part of their risk-management protocols, while still maintaining their environmental compliance requirements. Blockchain technology allows for review of more detailed data when making decisions with aggregated data sources so that managers can look beyond the simple normalized performance indicators. For example, many organizations only review their environmental and sustainability performance on an annual basis, mainly because the current tools to aggregate this data require them to be evaluated on a consistent time frame, and there is a significant investment in bringing all of the relevant data together. But through blockchain technology, the data maintain their connection at every level.  This allows for trend evaluation at other time frames not currently being examined. So if some short-term operational practice causes a spike in emissions, that issue can be identified and resolved immediately, rather than waiting for the end of the year, when the emissions have already happened, and the effect may not even be apparent when averaged out on an annual time frame. Then, even looking beyond the facility or organization, blockchain also allows for data aggregation across industry, region, and country, so that we will be in a better position to forecast the future and assess the viability of different measures to ameliorate the problems confronting us.

      A bigger picture

      There is a growing need for companies to bring together information from their vast disconnected databases, single tenant clouds, and spreadsheets, and then mine the data they collect from these sources. In a decade or so, planet Earth may be a meshed grid of static sensors coupled with movable ones installed on people, animals (yes animals roaming in the wild), transportation devices, and other moving objects to collect data in real time. The conversation about the environmental landscape has evolved drastically over the last 50 years as we continue to understand the extent to which human activity has affected the planet. Companies and society need a collective and holistic understanding of the problems we face.

      The only way to understand the full picture, and in turn to act meaningfully on a global level, is for all individuals and companies to understand the impact of their activities. It’s impossible to mitigate the net risks and effects of these activities on the planet when we have not fully assembled the data to characterize the problem and understand the full picture. Blockchain technology offers the best path forward, making it possible for environmental data be integrated at multiple levels. Any coordinated effort of this magnitude will be years in the making, but every journey starts with a first step. There are two impediments to institute a change like this: technology (until recently, blockchain did not exist) and a government with the initiative to require such technology. Just as was the case with the internet revolution of the nineties, the rate of progress in technology is surpassing politicians’ ability to come to grips with its impact on society.

      So far, there have been no imposed data exchange standards; a prerequisite for a broad data exchange, land for implementation of blockchain technology.  But in the meantime, progressive organizations will want to start taking advantage of this technology to look at their operations and make more informed EHS+S decisions.

      Looking forward with blockchain technology

      Perhaps blockchain technology is not ready for prime time. Some may argue that it creates a secondary problem of additional energy consumption much like water treatment systems described earlier. This is a theme that is advocated by some media outlets and blockchain skeptics who argue that the computer algorithms require significant amounts of electricity to power the servers on which they run. Estimates of blockchain’s soaring energy use are likely overstating the electric power used as the current debate on power consumption is not backed by hard data. When it comes to technology, history has consistently shown that the cost will always decrease, and the impact will still increase over time. It is inevitable that blockchain technology will become more accessible with reduced infrastructure over the next few years.

      Blockchain IoT Decentralization

      Blockchain could completely change how companies run their businesses and present new opportunities far beyond sustainability and environmental emissions management.

      We are living in a world where companies and governmental agencies are not able to comprehensively analyze  EHS+S information efficiently. Using blockchain technology will allow organizations to track, store, rollup, gain insights into, and also share their data with other interested parties as needed. It has the potential to put accurate and verifiable information into the hands of companies and regulating agencies more quickly. To make better progress on how we use EHS+S information, regulators will need to find ways that reward positive and proactive behaviors. We are not going to solve these issues by fining emitters until they behave. Blockchain technology can help us move us away from the punitive approach and toward a more collaborative one by assisting companies to reduce their emissions while lowering their operating costs at the same time. Social sharing elements may also play a role here, giving companies that benefit from the fruits of blockchain technology a valuable marketing and PR advantage over those who do not adopt this technology, and as such, lag behind in their progress on environmental issues.

      EHS&S in the age of blockchain technology

      Blockchain is a highly disruptive technology that promises to change the world as we know it, much like the World Wide Web’s impact after its introduction in 1991. As companies look to the blockchain model to perform financial transactions, trade stocks, and create open market spaces, many other industries are looking at utilizing blockchain technology to eliminate the middleman. One sector well-positioned to benefit from blockchain technology is the data-intensive Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability (EHS&S) space.

      In particular, I see three major ways that the EHS industry can utilize blockchain technology to change how they manage information: 1) Blockchain-based IoT monitoring, 2) emissions management, and 3) emissions trading.

      My belief is that blockchain technology will help to quantify the impact of man-made emissions on global warming trends and provide tools to manage it. One cannot manage what one cannot measure!

      Imagine this: every emissions source in your company, whether to water, air, or soil, is connected wirelessly via a sensor or another device (thing) to a blockchain ledger that stores a description of the source, its location, emission factors, etc. Every time that the source generates emissions (that is, it is on), all necessary parameters are recorded in real time. If air emissions are involved, equivalent tons of carbon are calculated and recorded in a blockchain ledger and made available to reporting and trading entities in real time.

      Blockchain ledgers may exist at many levels. Some may record emissions at a given site. Others at higher levels (company, state or province, country, continent, etc.) may roll up information from lower level ledgers.

      Suppose that emissions are traded so that they are not yours anymore. In that case, someone else owns them, and you do not need to report them again, but everyone knows that you were the generating source. The same logic can be applied to tier 1, 2, and 3 level emissions. Attached to the emissions ledger are all other necessary information about the asset generating those emissions, financial information, depreciation schedule, time in service, operating time, fuel consumption, operators’ names, an estimate of future emissions—the list goes on.

      To learn more how blockchain technology will impact emissions monitoring, management, reporting, and trading click here.

      Tag Archive for: Blockchain

      Technology Outlook for the Environmental Industry

      Neno Duplan is founder and CEO of Locus Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based environmental software company founded in 1997. Locus evolved from his work as a research associate at Carnegie Mellon in the 1980s, where he developed the first prototype system for environmental information management. This early work led to the development of numerous databases at some of the nation’s largest environmental sites, and ultimately, to the formation of Locus in 1997.

      Mr. Duplan recently sat down with Environmental Business Journal to discuss a myriad of topics relating to technology in the environmental industry such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Multi-tenancy, IoT, and much more.

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