By Peter Williams
CTO, IBM Big Green Innovations
During the past year, we’ve seen extreme weather conditions, from crippling drought in many parts of the United States and Europe to floods in Italy, Thailand, China and more. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change may increase the probability of some ordinary weather events reaching extreme levels or of some extreme events becoming more extreme – so in essence, we can expect a continued rise in extreme weather condition and events.
Even without climate change, floods are not rare; in fact, they are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Although we typically have some advance warning of their arrival, thanks to satellite forecasts, there is always the possibility (and likelihood) that a flash flood will behave in unpredictable ways, causing untold damage. To add insult to injury, dry, desert lands are often the hardest hit by floods, in areas where water is the most precious.
Clearly, we can’t fight the weather. Floods and droughts are a fact of life. We can, however, better predict how they affect us and protect ourselves from harm. Most flood modeling systems look at the main stems of large rivers. These forecasts provide valuable information, but often times the real action is in the thousands of small river branches and the tributary networks where flooding actually starts.
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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Rio De Janeiro is a bustling metropolis in a booming country–and, increasingly, an example of how government and business leaders can cooperate to make cities work better. Join the live blog today for a second day of coverage of speeches, panels and hallway discussions.
Here’s Ginni Rometty, IBM’s senior vice president for Sales, Marketing and Strategy (and IBM’s next CEO) talking about how to build a smarter city.
Rio De Janeiro is a bustling metropolis in a booming country–and, increasingly, an example of how government and business leaders can cooperate to make cities work better. Join the live blog today and tomorrow for coverage of speeches, panels and hallway discussions.
Here’s Sam Palmisano’s speech:
By Marie-Anne (Kui) Kinyanjui
IBM external relations, Kenya
What seems like a random question was actually a something that was being asked this week by leaders from government and business that attended the Smarter Cities Roundtable in Nairobi this week. Stakeholders from the Kenyan government, private sector and civil society gathered to identify Nairobi’s most significant challenges in order to frame discussion on technology could ease the city’s transitional growth.
In the next 20 years, Nairobi’s population – already the largest on the East coast of Africa – is set to exceed that of these three mega cities in coming years. The Kenyan capital’s population will balloon by 65 per cent over the next decade to stand at between 8-10 million, presenting a unique challenge to a city that is already struggling under to accommodate the needs of its residents. The main challenges are transportation, utilities, safety and security and urban planning.
So as leaders from government and business look for best practice from other cities for how have tackled their urban challenges, the examples of Rio, London and Singapore are actually more relevant than we might have suspected.
By Robert Atkinson
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Robert Atkinson, president of the non-partisan public policy think-tank ITIF, today moderated a panel of experts on emerging technologies in the fields of health care, transportation and energy at IBM’s Frontiers of IT Capitol Hill briefing.
Here’s the Washington Post’s Post Tech blog curtain-raiser on the event.
Recently considerable attention has been drawn to the emergence of “Big Data”—large scale data sets that businesses are using to unlock new value using today’s computing and communications power. As a McKinsey Global Institute study recently showed, Big Data offers a wide range of commercial opportunities in virtually every sector of the economy for the United States. To take one example, the authors estimate that better use of big data in health care could generate an additional $300 billion in long-term value, with approximately two-thirds of that coming from a direct reduction in national health care expenditures.
The use of Big Data should not be confined to just the private sector; data offers incredible new opportunities to the public sector as well. Policymakers have the opportunity to use Big Data to improve government in areas such as public safety, public health, public utilities and public transportation. ITIF has discussed many of these opportunities before.
Consider the following:
- Electric power utilities can use data analytics and smart meters to better manage resources and avoid blackouts,
- Food inspectors can use data to better track meat and produce safety from farm to fork ,
- Public health officials can use health data to detect infectious disease outbreaks,
- Regulators can track pharmaceutical and medical device safety and effectiveness through better data analytics,
- Police departments can use data analytics to target crime hotspots and prevent crime waves,
- Public utilities can use sensors to collect data on water and sewer usage to detect leaks and reduce water consumption,
- First responders can use sensors, GPS, cameras and better communication systems to let police and fire fighters better protect citizens when responding to emergencies, and
- State departments of transportation can use data to reduce traffic, more efficiently deploy resources, and implement congestion pricing systems
“Hidden beneath the highways and streets of Washington DC is a sprawling infrastructure of hundreds of thousands of assets — water distribution pipes, valves, collection pipes, man holes, water meters and fire hydrants . . . ”
Here’s another true story from IBM’s First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) program, which pairs IBM researchers with clients to bring incredible discoveries and possibilities into view.
As DC Water discovered, bringing greater intelligence and connectedness into its operations would go a long way toward creating a truly integrated and smarter water system; and, most importantly, satisfying its thousands of customers.
And as all the FOAK projects are proving, it is the dynamic nature of this close interaction with IBM clients and the changing forces of the real world that drives innovation and brings it to market at an ever-quickening pace.
The following is a guest post authored by Ben Hodges, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin Center for Research in Water Resources.
Although many of us are sweltering in record-breaking heat, a recent Wall Street Journal story about the race to shore up aging, damaged levee systems along the Mississipi River reminds us that flood season is just around the corner. And according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the multi-billion dollar restoration won’t be done by spring.
Deciding where to begin is a complex task. But with the right mix of technology and expertise, engineers could have a snapshot of how a river and its tributaries will behave in flood situations and other extreme weather conditions, allowing them to prioritize levee restoration efforts according to which areas are at highest risk of flooding, and when that’s likely to happen.
This new flood prediction technology can simulate tens of thousands of river branches at a time and could scale further to predict the behavior of millions of branches simultaneously. By coupling analytics software with advanced weather simulation models, such as IBM’s Deep Thunder, municipalities and disaster response teams could make emergency plans and pinpoint potential flood areas on a river.
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, but traditional flood prediction methods are focused only on the main stems of the largest rivers – overlooking extensive tributary networks where flooding actually starts, and where flash floods threaten lives and property.
As a testing ground, the team is presently applying the model to predict the entire 230 mile-long Guadalupe River and over 9,000 miles of tributaries in Texas. In a single hour the system can currently generate up to 100 hours of river behavior.
By combining IBM’s complex system modeling with UT Austin’s research into river physics, we’ve developed new ways to look at an old problem. Unlike previous methods, the IBM approach scales-up for massive networks and has the potential to simulate millions of river miles at once. With the use of river sensors integrated into web-based information systems, we can take this model even further.
In addition to flood prediction, a similar system could be used for irrigation management, helping to create equitable irrigation plans and ensure compliance with habitat conservation efforts. The models could allow managers to evaluate multiple “what if” scenarios to create better plans for handling both droughts and water surplus.
By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications
San Jose, California, has nearly 30,000 storm drain inlets leading to 1,200 outfalls that pour into 136 miles of creeks and streams. James Downing, one of the city’s three Stormwater Management Program supervisors, helps monitor all of it. He works to keep the water that drains from the city’s streets into all those creeks clean — and keep the city of San Jose compliant with some pretty stringent state and federal water quality regulations.
Big job. Huge responsibility. Luckily, help has arrived in the form of Creek Watch, an iPhone app from IBM Research that empowers citizens to monitor and report on local water conditions.
“We need all the help we can get to protect our watershed. No municipality can do it alone,” Downing said. “Volunteers have long helped the city with various environmental projects and now Creek Watch offers a new opportunity for countless citizens to collect and share meaningful water quality information.” Continue Reading »