This year’s edition of mCloud Connect was one of a kind in a number of ways. Most notably, as we decided to make the entire conference virtual, we were able to connect with people across North America and around the world, making it easy to deliver one of our best speaker lineups ever, directly to our customers, investors and stakeholders no matter what time zone they were in.
To kick off the event, Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Officer, delivered a stirring talk about de-coupling acceleration in economic growth from an acceleration in carbon emissions. And while many industries such as auto manufacturing, mining and energy have begun to accept this new reality, there is still much work to be done to achieve our goals and preserve our environment for future generations. Luckily, there are now a number of new technologies emerging which can be used both to monitor emissions, forest conditions, particles in the air and a wide range of other factors.
Joppa told mCloud Connect attendees “This represents an unprecedented economic opportunity to transform our society and our economy” and preserve the planet all at once.
ESG and the path to Net Zero
Later in the morning we presented another terrific talk on cutting emissions. Sarah Marshall, VP of Sustainability at NOVA Chemicals and Liam Stone, HOP/Sustainability at TransAlta, joined our very own COO Arnel Santos, for an important discussion amongst industry leaders on getting to net zero emissions.
Ms. Marshall made clear NOVA’s position, highlighting the work her company has done to push for a circular economy, one in which most, if not all, of the plastics her company makes are recuperated and recycled. She also pointed to the importance of C-level leadership on sustainability issues in the industry, as a number of recent climate reports from groups including the UN will likely lead to more aggressive climate policy. Therefore, it is important for companies to begin to get in front of this impending change as soon as possible.
Mr. Santos added that the global economy needs to begin to eliminate hydrocarbons, which will clearly be a huge challenge. However, he too pointed out the incredible economic opportunity to help business and governments around the world, particularly in emerging economies, to adopt innovation which can help them continuously monitor and curb emissions over the near and long term.
The Future of Connected Work
The morning was capped off by another insightful panel discussion featuring Sanjay Jhawar, President of RealWear Inc., Duane Svenson, Team Lead for Midstream OT Systems at AltaGas, with Colin Sewell, CEO and Founder of Prosaris and Helen Hosang, Vice President, Mobility Technologies at mCloud. They discussed the future of connected work and how technology can enable workers in the field to stay safe while accomplishing more, all while reducing operating costs.
RealWear, for instance, offers a hardhat with a video camera mounted on the side and a small screen that an operator can use to coordinate with colleagues and see what they see live, while in the field. For its part, Prosaris has developed a portable and highly accurate ultrasonic detector for gas and air leaks. This helps find and cap leaks much quicker than traditional methods, reducing emissions and keeping workers safe.
With benefits like those, it’s no surprise we’ve seen a significant uptick in the rate at which these types of products are being adopted. The pandemic of course has further accelerated this trend, but the value these products deliver is clear and many businesses intend to stick with connected work even once the pandemic subsides.
The Cybersecurity Challenge - Protecting Data and Systems
After the lunch break attendees were treated to a third panel discussion on securing IT infrastructure and cybersecurity, featuring Jim Kootnekoff, President, CEO and Founder of SecuSolutions, Paul Smith, Founder of Stealth X Industrial Cybersecurity and Michael Anaka, Director of Information Technology at mCloud.
Smith told the audience that a minimum of 99% uptime is required for cloud control systems, and that even a single breach can cause significant damage. Therefore, security is job one when it comes to setting up these systems.
In the oil and gas sector, malicious state actors may have motives to attack and disable systems. Look no further than the Colonial Pipeline crisis in the US earlier this year. Protecting against this kind of attack requires more than just the right hardware and system configuration. In many cases, humans are the weakest link. This is why identity and access management are paramount for systems administrators as well as regular employee training on how to avoid fishing attacks and develop complex passwords.
The Intersection Between ESG, Digitalization and Finance
Climate issues were a recurring theme throughout much of the day. Early in the afternoon Chantal Schutz, mCloud’s CFO was joined by Nadia Narain, Associate at Owens Wright LLP and Matthew Joehnk, Startup Advisor at Frog Ventures for an in-depth discussion of the impact of ESG programs on financial reporting systems. The panel underscored the fact that there has been a strong financial case behind ESG for many years. However, today we are beginning to see more organizations adopting some kind of ESG program, as many businesses seek both a financial edge and credibility on sustainable practices, to attract investors.
For those organizations which are just starting out on their ESG journey, Ms. Narain offered three keys to consider when developing your plan:
- Determine what your reporting obligations are.
- Identify what is material for your organization in terms of what you want to communicate about who you are and where you're going with ESG .
- Strike a balance between where the organization is today and where you're going in future... and making sure stakeholders understand your ESG plan over the near, medium and long term.
The last interactive session of the day was a fireside chat with mCloud President and CEO Russ McMeekin, whose session covered his views on digitalization, ESG, the future of connected work and where he sees opportunity for the company. He explained that mCloud’s biggest competitor is not another supplier of ESG or connected worker solutions, but rather industry “doing nothing” as the alternative choice.
McMeekin told the audience that it is events like mCloud Connect itself that are crucial to educating industry partners on the importance of taking action today to set up ESG initiatives within their own businesses. He added that the cost of inaction is already greater than the cost of taking steps to tackle climate issues, and that imbalance will grow significantly year after year. For these reasons, investors are likely to favour companies which take swift action on ESG in the near term as it is good for their balance sheet, as well as our climate. Early adopters are likely to be rewarded long-term, with host Mark Jeffries adding, “The worst time to repair a hole in your roof is when it’s pouring rain!”
Accelerating Change with Colonel Chris Hadfield
“How is it that one can take small ideas, and a poorly understood vision of the future and set out on a path to achieve incredible goals?”
Those are the words of our closing keynote speaker at mCloud Connect 2021, Colonel Chris Hadfield. He was referring to himself as a boy, when he decided that he wanted to become an astronaut, which he of course did. However, in the sense he describes, he draws parallels between his own personal career journey and the challenges the world is now facing with regard to curbing its emissions. Nothing is certain, but we need to make the right decisions today to put us in position to achieve our goals down the road. An inspirational talk to be sure!
Watch mCloud Connect On Demand until October 14
For those of you who were unable to join us for the live mCloud Connect event on September 14, you can still access individual sessions online, and on demand. Simply click here and register yourself for the event. You’ll receive a confirmation number you can use to log into the on-demand portal and watch the event at your leisure. But hurry, the on-demand sessions are only available until October 14.