From the gate at 37th and O
Street, across campus greens, stands Healy Hall,
flagship of Georgetown University. Up the wide stairs past the President's
office is Riggs Library, one of few extant cast iron libraries in the
nation. Multistoried shelves of leather
bound journals immediately draw your eyes up the 40 foot walls and windows with
3 dimensional Escher like creatures crawling out of the iron between the panes. This week I met with a Chinese Study Tour in
this National Historic Landmark to discuss how IT technology can help create
smarter buildings, smart grids, and smarter cities.
China is investing
significantly more in upgrading their infrastructure than the U.S. For
example, China is investing
five to six times more than the U.S.
in renewable energy projects($208B.) China is investing more than ten times what the U.S.
is on government sponsored stimulus packages for smart rail transportation
($100B.) And the Chinese have set timetables as well.
For example, they have made smart grid construction a national priority,
setting 2020 as the target date to complete renovations. China's State Grid Corp., which controls
electricity distribution in nearly all of China will begin nationwide grid
upgrades next year.
rapid growth is becoming more and more dependent on technology and innovation.
The old resource intensive pattern is not sustainable. They are looking for new ideas and have
organized study tours composed of government leaders, policy makers, and
technologists from across China
to explore ways to move forward.
I met with the Chinese delegation at the Riggs Library on the Georgetown campus this
week. The room was packed and what was
scheduled as a 45 min presentation on smart grid, smarter buildings, smarter
cities turned into a three and one half hour interchange including an intensive
one on one with China’s
Ministry of Industry and IT. The study
group consisted of District Committee heads, City Mayors, Policy makers, and
Industry representation including; Finance, Banking, and Technology. Their
questions were thoughtful, probing, and focused on practical aspects of
The idea of the world reaching a tipping point generated much discussion. This
tipping point is supported by the number and price point of smart sensors and
the bandwidth and processing power of today’s computers and networks needed to
process this data. One of the delegates asked, "Could this in fact really signal a threshold of a new era of
computing?" We are fast approaching
the 1 Trillion mark of connected things in the world. By some estimates 6
Terabytes of information is exchanged on the internet every second and there
are 1 Billion transistors in the world now for every human on the planet. This inflection point is not so much a result of a recent
technology breakthrough but rather of a rapidly evolving acceleration and
adoption of technology, particularly in this last decade.
'Smarter' infrastructure leverages this instrumentation, these sensors,
integrates, correlates, and enriches it, and makes intelligent use of it. This provides the opportunity to sense &
respond to opportunities and risks in ‘real time’ and can drive industry transformation
when tied to business process management, event processing & business
optimization. So, it is this tipping point of number of smart sensors that now
instrument our world (beyond IT) and the processing power and bandwidth to
handle this enormous volume of data and turn it into meaningful information
that enables us to better manage our utilities, buildings and cities.
There was also a lot of discussion around the Climate Group’s Smart 2020 Study findings
that Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) could save 7.8 Gt CO2e
or 15% of global emissions by 2020. According to the Climate Group, energy
efficiency is an area where improved building-level service management can
deliver truly impressive results. Estimates are that smart buildings, in which
energy efficiency is managed intelligently, can reduce overall energy
consumption, as well as carbon dioxide generation, by 50 to 70 percent —yet
maintain all services and target service levels. This study projects a potential cost savings
of 341B in the next decade. But to achieve it, a new service management
solution will be required to successfully merge building management and IT
systems. It is not just about changing light bulbs and installing thermopanes,
although that is always a good place to start. This solution should be able to
converge traditional IT services such as data, voice and video along with
traditional facilities services such as security, space, cooling and lighting,
and then manage them on a single platform for an enhanced overall space
management & facilities management tied to energy management.
I presented the concept of Bright Green , a relatively new concept to the study
group that also drew much discussion.
According to CABA (Continental Automated Building Association) bright
green buildings are ones that leverage intelligent technologies to support
environmental sustainability while providing a significant return on
investment. A bright green building is one that will leverage intelligent
building automation to not only control costs but reduce energy wastage. Bright Green buildings integrate disparate
building systems to enable control by a centralized common user interface for
single buildings or a set of buildings.
High-performance buildings technology and strategies also add long-term,
sustainable value to the property.
The sociological implications surrounding smart grid was another big topic
of discussion. We discussed customer
fears about privacy, security, price control, and even harmful radiation from
the wireless transmission of smart meters. There has been some recent news in California around
consumer distrust and lack of confidence.
Although the study tour had already talked to US energy companies they
were still debating the value to customers. We discussed customer advantages
such as: how increased visibility to the consumer can help drive lower prices,
how portal based interfaces can allow remote control by the owner and by the
power company for trouble shooting, and how this is an enabler for renewable
power sources and net metering.
We discussed how IT technology can make a building smarter. Examples included: Data modeling and
analytics tools which can be leveraged to suggest areas of possible improvement.
Asset management tools for assets of every class, at every stage in their
lifecycles. Data aggregation and warehousing for generating new classes of
performance reports that uncover emerging trends, and holistic monitoring tools
to track the status and performance of both IT assets and facilities assets,
and then drive a rapid and cost-efficient response.
In summary, China’s
growth has averaged 9% a year since 1978.
To maintain growth and leadership there is a renewed emphasis on
technology and education. IBM has a history of working with China that dates back to 1934 when punch card
tabulators were provided to a Beijing
hospital. Today we are working on many
fronts within China
with a major research lab and innovations centers in the country. Earlier this year, IBM
announced its Energy & Utilities Solutions Lab in Beijing,
where IBM will bring together advanced analytics skills, industry-specific
offerings and best practices to help China achieve their goals. This
study tour was testament to the focus China's
leadership is placing on technology for a smarter China.