Environment

Why cognitive sustainability makes good business sense

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As a leader, you constantly have your eyes peeled for ideas to accelerate growth, reduce cost and identify ways to improve customer satisfaction. These are common goals across every industry, whether in the private or public sector, and they’re becoming more challenging to achieve in a changing world. As inequality, poverty, and environmental pressures rise, there’s a growing expectation that businesses and government use their resources to address these societal issues.

Consumers are becoming increasingly more willing to pay a premium for sustainable brands, investors are beginning to shift capital toward more sustainable business models and the brightest young leaders entering the workforce are gravitating to organizations with sustainable practices (even at lower starting salaries). Add to that the fact that there will be increasing cost pressure as governments begin to respond to environmental risks, and it becomes clear that a sustainability focus is good for business.

So how can cognitive computing and the Internet of Things help?

The opportunities that cognitive IoT solutions can deliver in the sustainability space are enormous, and early adopters are gaining a competitive advantage.

One example in a particularly competitive market is this automobile manufacturer who saw pollution avoidance as an opportunity to differentiate their product portfolio to gain market advantage. Air quality monitors in vehicles weren’t new but lacked a predictive capability, which means the best they could do is provide “in the moment” readings. This company sought to combine a much broader array of factors that could predict pollution conditions and actively help drivers reduce their exposure. Data from sources such as IoT sensors and weather maps was overlaid on road network topology. From there, cognitive analytics were applied to discover patterns across the data sources and enable predictive services. These cognitively derived air quality readings provided the basis for specific driver recommendations.

Moving from air quality to water conservation, this winery had long sought a way to fine-tune its irrigation practices to become more sustainable and help address the water crisis, but massive data complexity and prohibitive costs had been roadblocks in the past. Traditional irrigation practices require winemakers to water uniformly across an entire vineyard, and to manually monitor the growth of, and trim back, leaf canopy as needed. Their new cognitive IoT solution automatically provides different vines with the optimal amount of water based on remotely sensed moisture data. The solution automatically detects when plants don’t need water, which slows the growth of leaf canopy and reduces the need to manually trim it back. By applying cognitive IoT technologies to help achieve their water conservation goals, they achieved better business outcomes as well – increased crop yields of 36% – and enhanced their long-term growth prospects.

As sustainability moves into the mainstream on Wall Street, particularly with millennials, organizations that are able to harness the power of cognitive technologies to advance their goals while helping the planet will lead the way.

Want to learn more?

To read more case studies and discover how cognitive solutions can address your individual goals, solve problems, and drive innovation, chat with the IBM Watson Business Coach.

To learn more about how early adopters are driving business value with cognitive technology, read the latest market study, The Cognitive Advantage.

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