Watson IoT and the environment: A connected world. A sustainable planet

By and Cate Colburn Smith | 4 minute read | August 31, 2016

Leadspace image of green grass against a cloudy sky

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the approach to a sustainable environment. It is reducing carbon footprints and pollution; enabling us to do more with fewer resources; improving food security; mitigating the adverse impacts of weather and climate change, and changing our behavior based on what our environment and connected world is telling us. It does this by helping us make sense of the ocean of raw data produced every minute by thousands of connected things—sensors, devices, machines, buildings, vehicles, people—that comprise businesses, supply chains, and products. When you understand your physical world, you see opportunities to improve resource efficiency, reduce pollution, create a healthier work environment, and more.

Reduce pollution and become sustainable

According to United Nations Environment Programme, buildings use 40% of global energy, 25% of global water, and 60% of the world’s electricity. Buildings emit approximately 1/3 of Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making them the largest contributor of GHGs.

Optimizing building energy consumption and creating sustainable buildings can have a significant impact on the environment. Smart buildings, using Watson IoT technologies, can analyze real-time data from sensors and use that information to manage energy efficiency and generate insights about how people use building. With machine learning and natural language processing capabilities, Watson IoT provides recommendations that help building owners create personalized experiences and make better decisions on development, management, and maintenance.

Siemens and Watson IoT are working together to build the smart buildings. By integrating IBM Watson IoT analytics and asset management software into its cloud-based navigator energy and sustainability management platform, Siemens intelligent buildings are currently saving 10.4 million tons of CO2 per year.

Improve food security

In 2050, we need to grow 70% more food to feed an additional 2.3 billion people on the planet. Meeting the increasing demands with limited natural resources and the impact of climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Internet of Things is shaping the future of agriculture. Smart farming improves crop yield and resource efficiency with weather predication, real-time plant and field monitoring and better supply chain management. A fully automated irrigation system delivers water and fertilizer precisely, and drives water resource efficiency.

Gallo Winery reduced water consumption by 20% and boosted crop yield by 30% in one season by using advanced analytics based on soil mapping, high-resolution satellite data and farm-level observations. EZ Farm is helping improve food security in Africa. Using the Watson IoT Platform, they collect information about water levels and field conditions for the farmers. Farmers can then make better decisions for water and crop management to increase crop yield.

Understand environmental impacts on health & safety

The 2015 World’s Worst Pollution Problems reported that air pollution negatively impacted the health of 95 million people worldwide in 2015. According to the Global Burden of Disease Project, air pollution causes about 5.5 million deaths per year. Many cities are implementing IoT solutions to improve the quality of air and provide citizens a healthier life. With data from sensors, devices, and mobile technologies, different environmental conditions are easier to monitor, helping government to understand and control air quality.

IBM Research’s Green Horizons was launched to leverage cognitive computing and IoT to enable governments, utilities and companies to improve their impact on the environment.

“With Green Horizons we are applying the most advanced cognitive computing and IoT technologies, combined with world-class analytics to make better decisions that safeguard the health of citizens today while helping to protect the long-term health of the planet”

Arvind Krishna—Senior VP and director, IBM Research.

For one key project, IBM and the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau has established one of the world’s most advanced air quality forecasting and decision support systems to enable densely populated cities to tackle air pollution and climate change issues. Watson IoT is helping the Beijing government to achieve their goal of reducing levels of ultra-fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) by 25 percent by 2017 and to shift towards more renewable energy.

Get to know Mother Nature

Worldwide, weather disasters cost businesses half a trillion dollars every year. According to National Centers for Environmental Information, there have been 8 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States in 2016 (as of July, 2016).

Business leaders across industries need actionable weather insights to make better decisions. The Weather Company combines weather data with traditional business data and data from an unprecedented number of IoT-enabled systems and devices to drive impact on better business outcomes.

Understanding weather data can transform the insurance industry. With the weather-related insights, insurance companies can better engage with customers and reduce claims by alerting customers to take precautions and counsel them to mitigate personal damage. Weather-related insights can help insurance companies to predict climate-related risks and make better decisions on how to allocate capital. Lastly, using in-car telematics with weather data can help insurers to understand driver behavior and improve claims investigations.

Green business is good business

The actions you take to better the environment can help you reduce cost, build brand loyalty, attract talent, provide a healthier work environment, and stimulate new thinking and innovation. As Wayne Balta, Vice President, IBM Corporate Environmental Affairs, put it, “Environmental sustainability must be managed as a strategic imperative, not a feel-good tactic. Success comes from recognizing and managing it as an operational business issue – and making it systemic, not an episodic fad or marketing campaign.” IBM Watson IoT offers the end-to-end solutions to help you achieve your goals and establish a sustainable business. Applying cognitive IoT insights, you can optimize resources efficiency, eliminate waste, increase productivity, and drive business outcomes.

Work with Watson IoT and outthink waste.

Co-authors: Amy Bennett, Cate Colburn-Smith