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Al Gore: Embedded tech can help heal the Earth

Apr 3, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Former Vice President Al Gore told Embedded Systems Conference keynote attendees in San Jose, Calif. today that energy-efficient IT systems of the future — many containing embedded processors — will be a major factor in helping overcome the climate problems the Earth is now facing.

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“Embedded systems can be the key part of this,” self-styled “recovering politician” Gore told an audience of about 3,000 at San Jose's McEnery Convention Center Civic Auditorium this morning. “We are now embedding more and more intelligence into everything — with the exception of public policy,” he joked.

Change is going to come in the millions and billions of embedded systems that will bring higher levels of performance and lower levels of power consumption to everything we do, Gore said.

Gore envisions what he calls an “electronet, or 'smart' grid, that will serve two functions: Instead of depending on large, 1000-megawatt coal-firing power centers sending power to incredibly inefficient appliances in our homes and businesses, let's have a grid made up of many more micro-power centers that make it possible for small producers to feed into the central power source. Then, take off any (power supply) cap for businesses and individuals who sell into the grid.”

“We might not need to build another huge mega-power system if this grid idea can be designed and built,” Gore said. “If you can build embedded systems that feed into this micro-generator grid, we can empower individuals to quickly identify where the wasteful streams of energy are going, and do something about them.”

Gore said that he believes that the increasing amount of fluorocarbons and CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere, caused by so-called “greenhouse gases” from automobiles, heavy industry, and electronic equipment, is the central reason why global warming is happening and the ozone layer in the atmosphere is damaged.

“The climate crisis is the most dangerous and important symptom of the deeper underlying collision between our civilization as we now see it and the ecological system of the planet,” Gore said. “We are going to need all the scientific help we can muster to turn this dangerous trend around.”

Not only are the poles melting, but microbes that proliferate in the tropics are moving to the higher and lower latitudes, away from the equator, Gore warned.

“Nature is on the run [due to climate change],” Gore said. “You've heard of the manatee? It's an animal that lives in Florida. Well, a manatee showed up recently in Tennessee, halfway up the Mississippi River. Another one showed up in Massachusetts, just off of Cape Cod.

“Thirty new diseases have turned up in the last 30 years — diseases that had been relegated only to the tropics. They are new to us in the higher latitudes. These are other effects of global warming you don't normally hear about,” Gore said.

It is “unequivocal” that humans beings are causing this, Gore said.

“In the last 15 years, all 17 of the world's highest-regarded scientific think tanks agreed, unanimously: Global warming is a very real problem, and we should start trying to fix it now — not 20 or 30 years from now,” Gore said.

“If your doctor told you that you had a 90 percent chance to have a heart attack, would you wait around until the chance became 99 percent? If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant,” Gore said.

“The earth has a fever. We all need to take care of it now, and science and engineering must lead the way.”

Gore said that the solution to all this is beyond simply engineering; it's total system redesign and architecture.

“Engineers have a vision and put it into a real working system to fix problems it is required to fix,” Gore said. “These embedded systems that have increasing amounts of intelligence can be the most powerful part of the solution to this crisis. Future systems will have more power yet run much cooler, saving energy.

“The old systems we rely on today are ridiculously ineffective. For 100 years, the internal combustion engine was really cool, but now we've got to come up with something new and better,” Gore said.

Gore said that our society needs to impress the values of good science and mathematics education upon our children, so they can take part in helping to overcome the climate crisis.

“Our fathers and grandfathers walked through the fire, overcame the Great Depression, and defeated Fascism in World War II,” Gore said. “And when Sputnik went up and surprised us, we took on the challenge that President John F. Kennedy gave to us — to put a man on the Moon within 10 years, and return him safely back to Earth. And we did it.

“Once we realize the challenge, we will find kids flowing into science and engineering classes, wanting to be a part of something larger than themselves, and more important,” Gore said.

“You can lead this vision. Engineering is making visions real.”

Chris Preimesberger

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