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Wayne Balta, Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Product Safety, IBM

By Wayne Balta

IBM yesterday was recognized for its supply chain leadership by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The company was presented with a 2013 Climate Leadership Award in Washington, D.C. by the EPA, the Association of Climate Change Officers, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry.

The award cited IBM for our ambitious emissions reduction goals, and for being at the leading edge of setting requirements for suppliers to measure, disclose and reduce their operational greenhouse gas emissions..

IBM takes environmental leadership very seriously, because it’s essential to building a smarter planet.  In the area of supply chain, the company is committed to doing business with environmentally responsible suppliers. Continue Reading »

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February 27th, 2013
12:00
 

Typhoon Sanba. Credit: NASA

Last September, when Typhoon Sanba smashed into the Korean peninsula, it packed winds so strong that they sent rocks flying through the air like missiles and caused massive power outages.

“Hwangsa” storms, carrying dense clouds of yellow dust from China’s Gobi Desert that are sometimes loaded with heavy metals and carcinogens, sweep across the peninsula from West to East.

Menaced by such destructive weather phenomena, South Korea is upgrading its national weather information system with the goal of understanding weather patterns better and predicting better the location and ferocity of weather events. The upgrade being installed by the Korean Meteorological Administration increases the agency’s data storage capacity by nearly 1000% to 9.3 petabytes, making it Korea’s most capable storage system. IBM provides the storage hardware and software. Continue Reading »

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Chris Steinkamp, Executive Director, Protect Our Winters

By Chris Steinkamp

Last year was the warmest in recorded history. But now we’re experiencing a sudden shift from the unseasonably warm temperatures of 2012 to below-freezing temperatures as we begin the new year.

We all know that what’s happening out the window is weather, not climate, but these radical shifts in temperature are likely to be more frequent due to global climate change – a long-term trend caused by increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And we’re already seeing how nature is responding.

President Barack Obama pledged in his inaugural address last week to respond to the threat of climate change. Looking at the Big Data already generated from scientific researchers from around the world, a level of insight is needed to identify and analyze extreme weather patterns such as raging fires, crippling drought, powerful storms and dramatic shifts in temperature – as well as to outline the steps needed to reduce our carbon footprint. Continue Reading »

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Editor’s Note: This Friday (August 24), be sure to join us for an interactive Smarter Friday conversation about Smarter Cities Challenge on Facebook throughout the business day (New York time). Please Tweet to #SmarterCities.

Nearly four years into the Smarter Planet journey, IBMers have undertaken more than 2,000 engagements with governments and businesses aimed helping them use cutting-edge technologies to make their systems for getting things done work better. These encounters are all over the map, geographically and figuratively. But important lessons are being learned. And, in particular, one interesting pattern is emerging. For organizations of all types, good outcomes depend on addressing the yin and yang of building a smarter planet: a combination of improvisation and preparedness–or long term planning.

Improvisation: In the realm of smarter planet problems and solutions, there’s so much variability that no single blueprint will fit every overtly similar situation. Organizations have to be flexible and creative to get stuff done. They can’t let the need for a master plan or budget-tightening pressures paralyze them.

Preparedness: While creative fixes can help city leaders manage their systems for the short-term, the longer-term vitality of cities, countries and organizations depends on leaders adopting a mission and a strategy for achieving it. But even that’s not enough. They have to anticipate the challenges to come–everything from next year’s big storm to the impacts of climate change to the next big financial shock–and build resilient systems capable of withstanding them.

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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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