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.
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?
Guest post by
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 »
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.
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.
Continue Reading »
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.
Brazil has a tremendous amount of positive momentum these days. It’s fast emerging as one of the world’s important economies and has a huge wealth of oil, minerals, water, timber and agricultural land. Yet in this world of looming resource constraints, Brazil’s leaders are acutely conscious of the need to make the most of their abundance–while addressing the negative impacts on the environment.
IBM Research – Brazil, which was established last year as the company’s first research lab in the Southern Hemisphere, has aligned its research agenda with Brazil’s national priorities. It’s focusing on natural resources management, complex human systems such as the World Cup and Olympics events coming up in Brazil, low-complexity microelectronics of the type used in appliances and cars, and quality improvements in services–another area where Brazil is intent on expanding.
Natural resources management is the subject of the IBM Research – Brazil Colloquium, where IBM researchers and scientists from other organizations will speak about the potential and challenges they face. The colloquium is part of an IBM Centennial program designed to convene thought leaders – including leading researchers and scientists, academics, leaders of industries, public policy makers and key IBM clients — for a series of talks and panel discussions on transformational technologies and their potential impact on the world.
The Brazil colloquium is not only intended to foster knowledge and collaboration. “We want to be provocative,” says Fabio Gandour, the Chief Scientist at the Brazil lab, who is in charge of organizing the event.
The ‘chasm’ is defined as the gap between what it takes for early adopters to adopt a new technology versus what it takes for the early majority to buy into it. Moore believes visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations, and he attempts to explore those differences and suggest techniques to successfully cross the “chasm.”
A similar ‘chasm’ exists in the area of sustainability for companies trying to transition from early adopter (stick your toe in the water) projects to successfully planning, executing and achieving sustainability goals. A recent study by TRIRIGA, a recent IBM Smarter Buildings acquisition, finds that although 92 percent of the world’s largest corporations and government agencies have set environmental and energy reduction goals, two–thirds failed to achieve them. While a majority of organizations have yet to achieve their goals, one-third demonstrate that it is possible. What did these organizations do to cross that chasm?
TRIRIGA evaluated survey data from 130 sustainability–focused executives and professionals, all from companies and agencies with revenues or operating budget greater than $1 billion, and found that 75 percent of organizations that achieved their environmental and energy management goals invested in three clear activities:
· 91% improve facility energy efficiency,
· 77% improve equipment servicing and maintenance, and
· 75% improve space utilization (i.e. space optimization)
This serves as a great indicator where to begin and how to prioritize activities. But there are other factors to be considered.
A sustainability program, like most strategic initiatives, is much more likely to succeed with strong executive management support from its first stages and with specific resources dedicated to its implementation. Involving executive management in all stages of the strategy with regular reviews and celebration of milestones is key to crossing this ‘chasm.’
Establishing sustainability as a top priority within real estate and facilities is fundamental to success. Real estate and facility assets consume more than 77 percent of electricity and consume 49 percent of total energy according to the US Energy Information Administration. They are also responsible for approximately 48 percent of global carbon emissions and research identifies that buildings have the highest growth in CO2 emissions since 1960. Research from McKinsey also finds that they provide the greatest opportunity for reduction at the lowest cost – they are the low-hanging fruit of sustainability. Based on these staggering statistics, there was little surprise that companies crossing this chasm placed a high priority on sustainability within real estate and facilities.
To learn more about the strategies and tactics used by leading organizations to achieve their sustainability goals, join our webcast “Crossing the Sustainability Chasm” on Wednesday, September 14th at 10:00AM PST which will include the following content:
· Best practice examples on achieving energy management & environmental goals
· How IBM achieved more than $29 million in energy cost savings in 2010
Click to register: and you can also look for the webcast replay option following the event.
IBM has plenty of company when it comes to deep concern and deep thinking about the future of cities. Today, at the Intelligent Cities Forum in Washington, D.C., hundreds of urban planners, city leaders and data mavens are gathering to share insights on ways to make cities more successful and sustainable using data, analytics, collaboration and foresight. The A Smarter Planet blog will feature live blogging from the event, so please return here frequently to see updates.
Anne Altman, general manager, Global Public Sector, IBM, talks about why cities are so important to having a sustainable planet.
After much talk, cloud computing is finally gaining traction in developed nations. Corporations are gradually moving more applications to cloud data centers where they can take advantage of pooling of computing resources, more efficient use of data processing power and increased flexibility. Of course, the cloud model is already standard for consumer-oriented social networking Web sites.
But the place where I see cloud computing having a transformational effect on societies and economies is in emerging markets. In places where money isn’t plentiful, the ability for companies, governments, and universities to share resources offers the opportunity to bring massive computing power to bear in ways that were not possible before.
One of the biggest opportunities will be in mobile services. Carriers will increasingly use clouds to develop innovative new services, launch them, and scale them up to handle millions of users–services such as banking and small-business listings. A First of a Kind collaborative research project announced today between IBM and the Indian state of Karnataka, home of Bengaluru, India’s Silicon Valley, demonstrates the opportunities that are unleashed when you combine clouds with mobile. Pay close attention. This could be the beginning of a technology revolution–and could lead to a social revolution, empowering the world’s poorest billions of people like never before.