We are living through an information technology revolution set against a context of sustainability, energy concerns, and the fourth industrial revolution — the meshing of the digital world of people and machines as internet meets production. This era of innovation is taking all the technological developments of the last hundred years and finding ways to make them sustainable for centuries to come.

Green electricity is great, but does it guarantee a truly renewable future? Cars may be indispensable, but can we drive them without polluting the locations that are worth the road trip? Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in the blossoming global green economy, but to get there, we cannot afford to focus on just one thing. We need to look around us, behind us, below us, and always ask: Could this be better?

The most innovative technology companies of today are wrestling with these questions and Canada is increasingly becoming the home to many of the answers.

Opportunity blooms in Canada

The effects of the current transformation are already being felt across the nation. In the Maritimes for example, they have traditionally drawn their electricity from fossil fuel plants, emitting hazardous pollution into the ecosystem. Now, with a new clean energy link between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, much of the demand is being supplied by renewable energy. This is how change begins.

But advancements of this scale must also fit into the way that today's business world operates. That means digitalization — ensuring that new green technologies play well with the digital paradigm in a way that maximizes their effectiveness and reach. We need to consider how our industries can be supported in complete digital transformations – reinventing business models, processes, technologies, and the way we work, to reach goals for energy efficiency, zero waste, and reduced emissions.

We need billions of dollars of investment to update and modernize our energy infrastructure simply to maintain current levels of reliability and safety performance without taking into consideration the integration of charging infrastructure for cars, electric buses and trains. This goes to the heart of creating a sustainable and competitive economy for Canada.

Canada has what it takes to become a digital champion, and our industrial sectors are flowing with untapped potential.

In the James Bay region of Quebec for instance, Nemaska Lithium’s innovative mining operation is supplying essential lithium for clean batteries destined for electric vehicles, consumer electronics and future power grid storage solutions. ABB Ability digital solutions will provide the electrical and automation infrastructure needed to run this process, integrating real-time monitoring from smart sensors and analytics applications with their core business and management processes. Digital implementation will enable faster project execution and faster production while ensuring that, at every step in the process, nothing is wasted, and nothing is unaccounted for. It's a new way of doing business that demonstrates the untapped potential of digitalization. This is just the beginning of a new age.

The energy and fourth industrial revolution

We are at a time when two historic economic and technology revolutions are changing the world at an unprecedented pace: the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. These revolutions present opportunities not seen since the dawn of electrification and the beginning of mass production. Mastering them presents us with a tremendous opportunity to raise productivity, stimulate private enterprise, and reduce unemployment.
Today’s major players are seeking to bring our industrial foundations up to date. Whether it's assembly lines or mining operations, there's a significant push to modernize these processes.

Take Coast Guard ships for example. Yes, there have been advances in how we design, build, and operate them, but much of the core technology has gone unchanged for decades. Today, we are modernizing 10 out of Canada's 14 Medium Icebreakers and High Endurance Multi Task vessels. With our integrated solutions, we have enabled digital connectivity for over 800 ships worldwide. The integration of sensors and software into a ship’s critical equipment and control systems enables real-time monitoring of the ships performance. The data gathered provides insights and timely support to increase efficiency and pre-empt operational issues, extending the lifespan of these ships by two decades. This is critical because they not only provide indispensable defense and search and rescue functions, but are also instrumental in arctic research, one of the touchstones for understanding the impacts of climate change.

Putting green innovation into high gear

We are a nation rich in fossil fuel resources, and one of the wealthiest countries when it comes to natural landscape and biodiversity. In recent decades, Canada has been reinventing itself as a green powerhouse and our deep pool of scientific talent has helped drive that reinvention. We will continue to be a country of eco-friendly innovation and lead the global transition to a cleaner future.

Canadians have their ear to the ground when it comes to clean transportation. It makes sense — we are the second biggest country in the world, and yet we are incredibly connected. Canadians are shuttling back and forth across our prairies, tundra, and mountains all the time. We are a travelling people who embrace our trucks, trains and cars. And that is why in 2017, ABB made a $90 million investment in Canada by inaugurating our new Canadian headquarters and North American Centre for Excellence in e-Mobility in Montreal. This investment represents not just an endorsement of Quebec's leadership role in clean innovation, but also our pride and commitment to Canada’s innovation ecosystem and powering the industrial systems of the future.

From the ways we travel, to the ways we defend and study our oceans and the ways we get crucial electrons into our light bulbs, Canadians are overseeing a tidal shift in how our most fundamental technologies function. We're building a more sustainable future with all the benefits of modern innovation but at lower cost with fewer drawbacks. We should be proud that we are driving green technology forward and bringing the rest of the world along with us.

Technological advances have delivered this historic opportunity to run the world without consuming the earth. As the environmental and public health concerns of our longstanding reliance on fossil fuels have grown, it is clear just how much we stand to gain by embracing new and improved methods for manufacturing, services and transport. The faster we can make this happen, the better.

So, yes, we can have green electricity. We can have efficient and affordable electric vehicles that get us where we need to go. And we can enjoy these things without putting the health of the country and the planet at risk if we remain committed to constant innovation, and asking ourselves: Could we do better?