"If we can reconceive of our government so that the interactions and the interplay between private sector, nonprofits, and government are opened up, and we use technology, data, social media in order to join forces around problems, then there's no problem that we face in this country that is not solvable," said incumbent US president Barak Obama.
During Obama’s two term presidency great strides were taken in the fields of smart technology and the internet of things (IoT). Obama raised billions for Smart Grid development in 2011; he initiated the ‘Smart Cities Initiative’ in 2015; and has consistently supported green technologies such as renewable energy, electric vehicles and energy storage, through tax credits and subsidies.
Earlier this month, in case you missed it on the news, Donald J. Trump won the US presidential election. Trump garnered much of his support on “reversing everything Obama did,” which begs the question, for those of us in the smart technology space; what will a Trump Administration mean for the continued development of smart buildings, cities, grids, and green technology?
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said during his second inaugural address, in January 2013.
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive,” tweeted Trump in 2012, suggesting a stark contrast between the outgoing and incoming presidents. Trump is heavily invested in the oil and gas industry, including the controversial keystone pipeline. Conflict of interests aside, his stance on clean energy practice is a worry for green technologists.
Trump pledged to "unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves", and it has been suggested that clean energy subsidies may be sacrificed in order to achieve that.
Despite his unfriendly attitude towards environment concerns Trump’s background and experience in construction and real estate development, may provide some positive signs for the sector.
Under President-elect Trump’s latest proposal, up to $550 billion in federal funds could be invested, presumably over a five-year period, in infrastructure and publics works projects. “The broad proposal for increased federal funding should support the public works sector, either directly or indirectly, by keeping attention focused on the need to upgrade infrastructure,” said Robert Murray, Chief Economist, Dodge Data & Analytics http://construction.com/.
Bill Sandbrook, CEO of U.S. Concrete, a company that is expected to generate $1.2 billion in sales this year, is excited about what Trump will mean for his business. He said, "there hasn't been enough political will to increase funding. Washington needed an outsider and oversized personality to not just talk about infrastructure but to get it funded and enacted," Sandbrook said. "It's not going to be a cakewalk. But I'm optimistic."
President-elect Trump’s emphasis on upgrading and developing public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, airports, transit systems and ports will, with the approval of the 115th Congress, bring much needed revitalization to US infrastructure and create favorable business conditions across the design and construction industries.
The US technology sector, however, is less excited about Trump’s victory. In an open letter during the elections, an army of technology leaders warned against Trump’s potential impact as president.
On Trump’s well-publicized stance on immigration the letter points out, “40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.” It also calls for concern over Trump’s claim that he will be shutting down parts of the Internet as a security strategy, the letter suggesting he is simply “demonstrating both poor judgment and ignorance about how technology works.”
Privacy and encryption have long been challenges the tech industry has tried to overcome with debate, discussion and caution. When the FBI called on Apple to weaken encryption in order to assist the investigation into the San Bernardino shooters. The company refused, saying the personal privacy of its users should take precedent. Trump’s response, "Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information."
How this will impact the privacy concerns in the complex, and sometimes disturbingly pervasive, world of smart buildings and the IoT, remains to be seen. However, privacy concerns have long been a major obstacle for adoption of smart technology and Trump’s stance may well increase those concerns, even if his actions don’t. On the other side of that coin, will Trump push technology through these privacy barriers at a speed that public discussion could never achieve?
Trumps promises the re-negotiation and/or withdrawal of the US from almost all their international trade agreements. Trump, for example, promises to “quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership” on his first day in office. This move, however, seems to ‘make China great again,’ or at least makes the Chinese government very happy.
China was not included in the TPP, in fact President Obama went out of his way to remind the region that this was no accident. “TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st Century, which is especially important in a region as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific.”
As Smart-tech savvy China seeks to develop its influence across Asia, US withdrawal from the TPP will lead to Asian nations reassessing improved agreements from China against whatever new arrangements Trump’s administration plans to offer. The US technology sector will be anxiously waiting for Trump to shed light on his new plan.
Those of us in the smart technology sector will likely have strongly mixed opinions on what impact President Trump will have on our sector. Will booming construction drag smart cities and buildings along with them or cast them aside? Will fossil fuel expansion make energy efficiency irrelevant or more important than ever? Will invasive privacy policies damage the emerging IoT sector or is that the bulldozer it needed?
Questions will remain for many in the sector until Trump’s presidency is well underway. At least those involved in US video surveillance and access control will be feeling optimistic, as Trumps ‘great wall’ on the Mexican border, becomes a tech-rich “smart fence.”
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