By Uyi Stewart
In an interview with Wired magazine, the English musician, Brian Eno, complained that there is not enough Africa in computers.
“How does one Africanize…or otherwise liberate a computer?” he wanted to know.
Maybe Brian would like to visit us at our new research laboratory in Nairobi, because this is more or less what we are doing. Although our focus is not to build computers, per se, we are building technology solutions for Africa— with uniquely African flavour. Africanized solutions, if you like.
IBM Research—Africa, officially opens its doors next week. It’s our 12th global research laboratory, and the first in Africa. It feels like a pivotal moment. It certainly is for me. Continue Reading »
By Amitabh Kant
By Steve Hamm
Over the past decade, the use of wind power has exploded–driven initially by demand in North America and Western Europe. But a variety of factors, including the economic slowdown in Europe and low-cost natural gas in the United States, have slowed wind adoption in developed economies. So now the emerging nations are driving growth. Now, aided in part by sophisticated weather science, those countries could play a huge role in blunting the effects of climate change.
In fact, a test project that’s being launched in China’s windy northern Hebei province could help clear the way for accelerated wind power adoption worldwide. Jibei Electricity Power Company, working with scientists from IBM Research-China, is using new technology to analyze weather and wind farm operations data in an effort to increase the reliability and economies of using wind energy on utility grids. “This is more than just business. It’s very important for society, for the whole of mankind,” says Henry Yu, a veteran of the Chinese utility industry who now works for IBM.
Today, coal provides about 80% of China’s electricity. Smog chokes the major Chinese cities and huge clouds of soot from the country’s coal-burning power plants have spread as far as the West Coast of the United States. The government is determined to do something about the situation—through a combination of subsidies and directives. As a result, last year China overtook the United States as the world’s largest user of wind power.
By Alán Aspuru-Guzik
What if you could capture and convert sunlight into electricity with a material as inexpensive, versatile and easy to produce as the one used for plastic bags? What if a liquid version of this material could be used to coat surfaces for solar energy production? What if these materials were light enough and thin enough for use in portable devices? And finally, what if these materials were so inexpensive that they could help provide electricity to people in the developing world and others without access to power grids?
Organic solar cells offer us the potential to realize these highly desirable outcomes. With that in mind, we launched the Clean Energy Project at Harvard to discover suitable materials from which to develop devices for generating electricity from sunlight. The Clean Energy Project uses massive amounts of computing power to screen an unprecedented number of organic compounds in an attempt to identify potential high-performance materials.
By Deepak Advani
The Internet Age has made it possible for dramatic amounts of information to be available at our fingertips. And as capacity expands and accessibility grows, we push ever closer to the Internet-of-things, where our physical and digital worlds are tightly coupled and leveraged.
With the ability to generate, share, store and access increasing amounts of data – Big Data – the challenge soon becomes one of management and analysis. Left alone, the mountains of seemingly disparate information are useless. But when mined intelligently, they become treasure troves of insight that can unlock benefits, such as improved customer service, equipment-saving predictive maintenance, and new business opportunities, to name a few. Continue Reading »
By Andrea Pedretti
It would take only two percent of the Sahara Desert’s land area to supply the world’s electricity needs. Unfortunately, current solar technologies are too expensive and slow to produce, require rare Earth minerals and lack the efficiency to make such massive installations practical. To address this, scientists at Airlight Energy have teamed up with IBM and Swiss university partners to develop an affordable photovoltaic system that is capable of concentrating, on average, the power of 2,000 suns, onto hundreds of 1×1 cm chips.
The prototype system uses a large parabolic dish made from a multitude of mirror facets. The dish is attached to a tracking system that determines the best angle based on the position of the sun. Once aligned, the sun’s rays reflect off the mirror onto several microchannel liquid-cooled receivers with triple-junction photovoltaic chips. Each 1×1 centimeter chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight-hour day in a sunny region. Continue Reading »
IBM today christened a new generation of technology innovators, naming 66 new Distinguished Engineers from across the company. The DE rank recognizes people for their outstanding technical accomplishments, as well as their potential for breaking new ground in key areas such as cloud and mobile computing, Big Data analytics, social business, and many more.
This year’s class includes Dr. Anna Topol, IBM’s Chief Technology Officer for the Energy and Utilities sector. A native of Poland and mother of two young boys, Topol holds a doctorate in physics from the State University of New York Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and has earned nearly two dozen patents. She joined IBM in 2001. The Smarter Planet editorial team recently sat down with Topol for an inside chat with one of the company’s newest DE’s.
Smarter Planet: Where do you see the biggest potential for breakthroughs in your current area of specialization?
Anna Topol: There is a lot of innovation happening in the energy and utility sector. What has been learned from other industries such as telecommunications and retail, where the use of data analytics has had transformational benefits, is now being applied to help us be smarter about how we generate, consume and conserve energy. Right now, there is a focus on automation and the use of smart meters, devices and sensors. For energy consumers, this translates into a decrease in change-related outages through increased efficiency and reduced mean time to repairs. Continue Reading »
By Eoin Lane
People often say that water is the new oil, but really, it’s not. Oil is a fossil fuel that takes millions of years and a lot of pressure to create. When we burn oil – for example, by driving our cars – it is gone forever (or at least for a few more millions of years before it can be created again!).
Water, on the other hand, cannot be created or destroyed (this is not strictly true, but bear with me). The same amount of water is around today that was around when the Earth was formed. The truth is there is a lot of water on Earth – just not a lot of drinking water. Continue Reading »
By Jack Kardys
Miami-Dade County Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 260 parks and 12,825 acres of land. It is made up of 17 miles of beaches, the renowned Zoo Miami, golf courses, marinas, large athletic stadiums, campgrounds, pools and more.
As Miami-Dade County looks at new ways to re-vitalize the region, create jobs and spur business growth while benefiting residents, the parks system is at the epicenter. In addition to making sure we’re good stewards of the environment, we are committed to ensuring social equity with the right distribution of park facilities and programs throughout the community for people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and income levels.
Most of the parks in Miami-Dade County are anywhere from 50 to 75 years-old. Our beachfront parks were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s and the saltwater intrusion has been wreaking havoc on the system ever since. Our community pools were built in the 1960’s and the early 1970’s. The pipe corrosion from chlorine and the chemicals we use to keep those in balance tear up our pipes. It’s a challenge we face throughout the region. Continue Reading »
By Scott T. Rickards
In our data-rich financial universe, a fundamental economic question remains unanswered: at what cost is it economical for the world’s largest cities to bring additional water supply online?
The oil industry will tell you that $100/barrel oil is the value below which capital allocation can earn a return. Given its critical importance in our lives, why does the water industry not have a similar fast answer to the question? Is the ‘global water crisis’ a resource crisis or perhaps a capital crisis?
Precisely because of its critical importance, the water industry has been given a pass on cost transparency by everyone from politicians, to Wall Street, to economists due to the unimaginable consequences of not having an abundant supply of fresh water. As a result, the subject of water production costs remains largely unexplored and water has taken a back seat to virtually every other resource in the battle for private investment dollars. Continue Reading »