Cloud Computing

How Cognitive Computing Can Drive Sustainability

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Around the world, sustainability is increasingly being adopted as a social objective and a political need. Though approaches and pace differ from region to region, nearly every nation is starting to focus on making electric supply more sustainable.

How sustainability is embraced as a core business element in the electric industry varies globally and ranges from complete adoption, most aggressively by new entrants, to reticence by incumbent utilities heavily invested in fossil fuels. But even the most fossil-dependent utilities do not deny the direction of sustainability. Their argument, however, has changed to one of caution about the potential economic disruption that a fast-paced transition would create.

For electric utility companies, embracing, fostering, and even promoting sustainability is a foundational concept.

According to a recent report from IBM, “The Modern Era Energy Grid and the Role of the Energy Integrator,” now is the opportunity for innovation to be exercised under financial reward structures that need not be regulated in traditional ways.

One way to innovate is a holistic, hybrid cloud strategy that can help energy and utilities organizations identify and prioritize business functions in terms of cloud readiness. The companies can use the cloud to transform the utility network to embrace the role of energy integrator, engage customers as individuals and innovate to drive operational excellence.

At the same time, we’ve entered the age of cognitive computing, where intelligent machines evaluate complex data in new ways to help solve society’s most vexing problems.

For the oil and gas industries, cognitive computing has arrived, and its potential to transform the industry is momentous. A new report from the IBM Institute for Business Value, “A New Natural Resource: Your Cognitive Future in the Oil and Gas Industry,” found that leaders are ready to invest in cognitive capabilities for a digital future in oil and gas.

Oil and gas executives agree that cognitive computing has the potential to radically change the industry. Among those leaders familiar with the technology, 94 percent believe it will play a disruptive role in the industry, 83 percent believe it will critically impact the future of their business, and 91 percent intend to invest in cognitive capabilities.

While the digital age has brought a massive amount of industry data brimming with insights, organizations struggle to unlock its full value. Advances in cognitive computing can help bridge the gap between data access and data insights.

Specifically, oil and gas companies need to enhance their abilities to digest vast amounts of structured and unstructured data to identify new avenues, navigate complexity and implement new ideas at higher velocity with quantitative risk levels. They also need tools that can synthesize contextual, evidence-backed recommendations to support decision making at strategic, tactical and operational levels.

Without new capabilities, the data paradox of having too much data and too little insight will continue. Cognitive-based systems can help because they build knowledge and learn, understand natural language, and reason and interact more naturally with human beings than traditional programmable systems.

Our research found that cognitive solutions are already helping oil and gas companies expand capabilities to meet industry challenges and open up fresh opportunities.

Even so, the benefits of cognitive computing systems are not realized in a single “big bang” when deployed. Rather, these systems are evolutionary and benefits can improve over time. Communicate this reality to stakeholders and specify benefits and realization plans for the top management, and engineers and technicians in the field.

To learn more about the new era of business, visit

Global Program Manager, Cloud Communications; Managing Editor, IBM THINK Blog

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