TECH TALK: COP26 is so old tech and Mark Zuckerberg could have his virtual eye on the next summit, says BILL MAGEE
United Nations COP26 Glasgow. Overhead, private planes zooming all over the show, helicopters hover. On the ground chauffeur-driven limos, armoured no doubt, whisk their VIP occupants about within a strictly-secured city centre zone. All have one thing in common: discharging C02 emissions like there’s no tomorrow. Surely, if ever there was a solid case for a global climate change summit to be staged solely on a virtual basis, this is it. What’s more, a COP26 digital solution exists.
Think about it. World leaders and their aides, home-based and totally immersed in key conference business. Inevitable closed-session negotiations, all seamlessly staged securely behind-the-scenes, again online.
We’re talking about more than 20,000 people representing more than 200 countries. For starters, that’s a heck of a lot transporting of people. Not to mention the extra precautions for the likes of POTUS Joe Biden, requiring scores of armed secret services agents. Make no mistake, Glasgow and its environs, is subject to lockdown. Big time.
One didn’t have to look far to find an alternative to delivering this event that would have been more secure, cheaper and more emission-friendly, simply by extending the scheduled public webcasts of key meetings and high-level events to totally live streaming. Furthermore, by making COP26 an online success it would have given worldwide exposure to the massive leaps being made in the virtual world.
Cisco Systems, for example, has just launched a web conferencing (WebEx) hologram system applying Augmented Reality to localised or worldwide events. I’m certain that it would have put on an AR/3D beta showpiece event that bridges the gap between virtual and in-person collaboration.
Such technology makes it possible to deliver hands-on demos where users share digital along with physical content. Cisco describes this as “empowering individuals” seamlessly, able to participate equally wherever they happen to be in the world.
Currently their solution in the hands of a limited number of big customers as part of a pilot programme they applied to be part of.
It is also consistent with green initiatives highlighted in a McKinsey & Company report aimed at reducing energy and waste at the office. Two-thirds of companies surveyed say they are employing such moves often through small changes. Like turning off computers at night and adding more efficient lighting.
There are local examples of “greening” organisations, such as the extended Smart City partnership between Edinburgh City Council and CGI to promote healthier working and living environments while reducing both costs and overuse of resources.
Meanwhile, the alternative Cisco solution to the Glasgow summit is part of a bigger communications picture, with one other big player in tech land possibly a key to how it all emerges.
Facebook has rebranded its parent company Meta and is hiring 10,000 people within the European Union to work on a planned “metaverse”, an online world where headset-adorned participants can work and communicate in a virtual reality (VR) environment which will extend to to augmented reality (AR).
It’s the stuff of “The Matrix” and DC Comics fiction – except Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s vision brings the real and virtual worlds seamlessly together.
The creator of the social network is looking to the next era of communication with the next iteration of the Internet comprising 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.
Likely metaverse ecosystem elements include video conferencing, multi-player games like Minecraft, cryptocurrencies, email, VR, AR, social media and live streaming.
Imagine COP27 with Metaverse running the show. Don’t bet your cryptocoins against it.