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Icons of Progress

Deep Thunder


The ability to get accurate, detailed 24-hour weather forecasts, when coupled with business data such as asset management tracking, can transform the way any number of industries manage their processes. They can tailor services, change routes and deploy equipment—anticipating and minimizing the effects of major weather events on clients and constituents, reducing costs, improving service and even saving lives.

City emergency management

On April 5, 2010, a coastal storm in Rio de Janeiro with heavy rains and mudslides killed more than 200 people and left 15,000 homeless. In addition, there was widespread disruption of transportation systems, including road closures, and airport and rail delays. The storm was one of the events that prompted the city to develop a plan with IBM to create a new operations center to improve responsiveness to emergencies. The center will include high-resolution weather forecasting, which can predict heavy rains up to a day or two in advance. It is expected to be extended to include a hydrological modeling system for flood forecasting. The system is being designed initially for forecasting severe storms and related emergencies, but it is extensible to any event in the city—and is being implemented with an eye to the World Cup in 2014.

Wind energy management

IBM operates a virtual wind farm—with 25 turbines, control room, maintenance shop and substation—that can be viewed at a lab in Austin, Texas. IBM is working on extending this wind farm to incorporate Deep Thunder so users can understand expected wind speeds and directions along the length of the turbine blades. With such data and IBM ILOG ® software, operators can optimize production in terms of 12- to 24-hour decision-making, such as planning for “ramp down” days, and maximize their return on investment. Utilities and independent system operators (ISOs) gain the insight needed to stabilize the intermittent aspect of wind, making it a more attractive and viable alternative energy source.

Helping utilities respond to outages

A North American utility company with some 90,000 poles, wires and transformers worked with IBM, using data from IBM Business Partner Earth Networks, to develop a weather and outage prediction service that now can pinpoint—to a degree unimaginable before—the damaging effects of incoming storms that bring down trees, poles and lines. The Deep Thunder service can be used to call repair crews into action and stage them next to the nearest utility substation from where the damage might occur. The program can predict the number of jobs that will be needed up to 72 hours before a storm.