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global warming

By Joe Cahill
CFO, UgMO, an IBM Business Partner
and
Michael Sullivan
IBM Smarter Water Program Director

Cahill

Across North America, drought-stricken farmers are facing historically small harvests, raising concerns about global shortages and increasing food prices. This summer’s drought should be a strong reminder that we have to manage our water resources more carefully.

In many countries, the competition for water between the countryside and cities is intensifying.  Farmers  face an uphill battle in the competition for water since industry can afford to pay much more than they can, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

This battle over water is likely to intensify. As the world’s levels of CO2 emissions continue to rise, the frequency of extreme weather phenomena such as heat waves is expected to intensify. Heat waves are expected to further strain the world’s water resources, especially in areas where water demand is increasing and water supplies are shrinking. The challenge worldwide is to meet today’s water needs while putting in place innovative strategies to address future requirements.

One of the best ways to promote sustainability is to make consumers aware of the true cost of water.

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By Harry van Dorenmalen
Chairman, IBM Europe

Recently, IBM detailed two new computers that will help change the way the world, literally, works.

The first, Sequoia, is the world’s most powerful supercomputer, capable of calculating in one hour what would otherwise take 6.7 billion people using hand calculators 320 years to complete if they worked non-stop. It is installed at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

The second is the first commercial machine, cooled by hot water, built for the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre in Germany. It will be used by scientists across Europe to drive a wide range of research ­­− from simulating the blood flow behind an artificial heart valve, to devising quieter aeroplanes.

What’s impressive about these machines is not just their massive processing power alone, but  they are remarkably energy efficient, too.

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New York City may seem an unlikely hot spot for solar energy, but think again. Consider the fact that there are 20 million square feet of usable solar farm space on top of the city’s 1,100 public school roofs alone–enough to generate 170,000 megawatts of electricity. So its no wonder that city government and business leaders are taking solar seriously.

Market forces are cooperating. Prices for solar panels are plummeting. But there remain some major impediments to solar adoption. All things considered, it’s still more expensive than traditional energy sources.

That’s where data analytics comes in. As part of the SMART NY, IBM is working with CUNY Ventures, a for-profit offshoot of the City University of New York, to create a system for gathering and analyzing information about the entire solar ecosystem within the city. The goal is to bring down the cost of installing solar.  “We’re looking to make solar competitive with other sources. We need to mainstream this technology to make it easy to adopt,” says Tria Case, CUNY’s director of sustainability and coordinator of  SMART NY.

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Tonight IBM will receive the World Environment Center’s Gold Medal, so this week we asked students at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to share their  views on sustainability (we’ve included a video to show what IBM is doing to make the world smarter).  Here’s the final post in the series, from Lawrence Han:

People complain that my generation’s “addiction” to technology will lead us down the path of unsustainability.  I think they are wrong.  While it is true that my generation, Gen Y (those born after 1980) is the quickest demographic to adopt new computing trends, the advances that we are adopting—mobile, cloud, big data—are intrinsically greener.  So, as white-collar Baby Boomers step away from their life in front of a computer, and the new wave of Gen Y workers step forward to take their place, the computing landscape will move to a more energy efficient and sustainable future.

Consider that a decade ago, Baby Boomer households joined the Internet Revolution by purchasing hulking desktop computers. But over the past decade we have seen a shift with laptops overtaking the personal computing market. And that means less energy use—a typical laptop uses 45 watts  while your typical energy guzzling desktop computer uses a whopping 100 to 300 watts of electricity.

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This week IBM will receive the World Environment Center’s Gold Medal Award, so we asked students at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to share their views on sustainability (we’ve included a video to show what IBM is doing to make the world smarter).  From Berry Kennedy:

Corporate sustainability strategies are common practice in today’s corporate America, going far beyond a company’s environmental footprint, to becoming a central part of company strategy.  Sustainability challenges companies to think about themselves as part of an integrated social and natural network. This type of “systems thinking” drives the emergence of new ways of business thinking.

Systems thinking includes an array of techniques that consider process, product or strategy within a larger context. Two of the more familiar concepts linked with systems thinking are industrial ecology and life cycle analysis.  But a third concept — ecosystem services – is the next big challenge, requiring that companies consider how nature’s interacting pathways lead directly back to business success.

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Back in 1995, when PC companies were experimenting with small laptops called subnotebooks, designers faced a conundrum. If they made the machines as small as users seemed to want them, the keyboards would be tough to touch-type on–especially for guys with big hands. IBM engineer John Karidis came up with a solution that became part of tech industry lore. He invented a two-piece keyboard that folded up when the computer was closed and spread out to full size when it was opened. IBM produced a computer based on the design, the ThinkPad 701C, nicknamed the “Butterfly.”

The Butterfly has long been in the permanent collection of the design department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and will be featured in an exhibition, Born out of Necessity, that’s running from today until January 28, 2013. The show contrasts designs like the Butterfly, which were created out of immediate necessity to address a problem, and designs that anticipate a problem that may be coming years in the future.

Credit: Jason Evan

A number of the items in the exhibition are examples of Critical Design–where designers focus on the possible consequences of new technologies and new policies. Paola Antonelli, the show’s curator, explains that the Critical Design process does not immediately lead to useful objects. Instead, it produces concepts and artifacts that show the promise of new developments or warn of their potential negative side-effects. The MOMA exhibition features Foragers, a project by designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, which explores the idea of future humans, short of food, outsourcing their digestive tracts to machines so they can consume barely edible things. (See photo on left.) “It’s important to show the predictive and conceptual aspects of design. It’s useful to policy makers, politicians and corporations,” says Antonelli.

Which got me thinking: How might IBM Watson-type technologies help people anticipate problems in the future so we can plan and design for them?

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Jonathan Steel, Energy Aid


Guest post by
Jonathan Steel,
CEO of UK-based charity Energy Aid

Jonathan is also founder and Chairman of technology consultancy The Bathwick Group, and Chairman of Change London, a social enterprise focused on sustainability and youth unemployment.

 

As we enter the United Nations Year of Sustainable Energy for All, Pauline Latham OBE MP hosted the Parliamentary launch of the newest Global Energy NGO, Energy Aid, at the Houses of Parliament in London.  We were supported directly at the launch by DFID, IBM, Practical Action, Seeds for Development and The Ashden Awards.

The evening was one of the first major landmarks for Energy Aid as we continue to expand our presence in the international development field and the energy industry and strive to raise awareness of the need to ensure universal energy access. During the launch we stood among 150 of the UK’s leading business people, academics and political figures and called on them to help support us in our mission to eradicate global energy poverty. Continue Reading »

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Gerry Mooney, General Manager, IBM Global Smarter Cities
Smarter Cities 2.0: The Next Wave.

Much of the growth in new markets comes from the entrepreneurial companies who are building the new applications.

IBM is an integrator. In the Smarter Planet sphere, the integrator can take new technologies and services to market more quickly than the startups can. So IBM has a strategy of forming partnerships with innovative startups, and, in some cases, buying them.

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By Margita Madjarova,
Researcher,
London School of Economics

Today news of a brand new global charity called Energy Aid will start spreading around the world. Given that nearly half of the world’s population lacks access to modern sources of energy, the charity has an impressive mission to provide universal energy access. This means people in the world’s poorest areas including South America, South Asia and sub Saharan Africa could have their lives changed forever if they had access to energy for heating, lighting, cooking, communications and mechanical work.

With IBM and international development charity Practical Action already on board as founding partners Energy Aid plans to provide investment and resources including data, technology and skills to support charities and agencies running or planning energy projects in the target areas.
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We asked on the People for a Smarter Planet Facebook page what IBM’s next grand challenge should be–now that a team at IBM Research accomplished the previous grand-challenge goal of creating a computer that could beat past champions at TV’s Jeopardy! quiz show. More than 750 people responded with ideas and votes. And the winner, with 303 votes, is: “create a working quantum computer.”

This quest would be plenty challenging. Computer Scientists have been developing theories about quantum computing ever since physicist Richard Feynman first proposed the concept of computing based on quantum mechanical phenomena in 1982. Nearly 30 years later, there are no quantum computers.

Another proposition came in a close second, with 277 votes: “fight global warming.” (This one got my vote.)

Other suggestions ranged from the earnest, such as “take healthcare to the next level,” with 18 votes; to the ridiculous, “time travel,” with 97 votes.

We’ll pass along the top suggestions to the folks at IBM Research.

To read what it’s all about, see two previous posts, this one by IBM researcher Dario Gil about the effort to create learning systems, and this one, the live blogging stream from IBM Research’s colloquium, the Frontiers of IT.

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