We apply our expertise, resources, research and innovation to help discover solutions to some of the world’s most challenging environmental problems.
More than ever, organizations are applying new technologies to transform their operations, products and services to become more efficient, innovative and sustainable. We recognize that our greatest opportunity for building a more sustainable planet comes from enabling this transformation for our clients. Our activities reflect our longstanding commitment to environmental leadership and one of IBM’s core business values: “innovation that matters - for our company and for the world.” Examples of IBM solutions that are advancing sustainability follow.
Because water sustains us, water management is as essential as the element itself. As stewards of our planet, leaders and citizens are compelled to act. And as individual users of this essential resource, we are compelled to act together.
The Jefferson Project at Lake George
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM and the FUND for Lake George launched the Jefferson Project in June 2013 in an ambitious effort to model Lake George in New York - its depths and shoreline - to get a holistic and accurate view of everything happening in and around one of the United States’ pristine lakes. The goals of the project are multifold and include understanding and managing the complex factors impacting the lake from invasive species, pollution and other factors, to developing a template to use in other fresh-water bodies around the globe.
The three partners previously developed preliminary models of key natural processes within the watershed. As part of the first phase of the project, a network of 12 sensor platforms including vertical profilers and tributary monitoring stations were deployed around Lake George and its tributaries in late 2014, providing an unprecedented amount of data for researchers. With the Jefferson Project’s sophisticated lake environmental monitoring and data analysis capabilities, scientists are learning how the lake has changed in the past, observing how it functions in real time, and will be able to predict how different variables could impact this valuable resource in the future.
In addition, a new 2,000-square-foot data visualization laboratory at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing unveiled in October 2014 features advanced computing and graphics systems that allow researchers to visualize sophisticated models and incoming data on weather, runoff and circulation patterns. The data visualization laboratory displays streaming data from various sensors in and around the lake in real time. Within the new laboratory, scientists are able to zoom in as close as half a meter on high-resolution 3-D models of the lake and surrounding area, a degree of detail unprecedented for a lake of this size.
Preliminary models of the lake’s circulation and runoff, developed with data from existing bathymetry and a 30-year study of Lake George, will be refined and enhanced with the new high-resolution bathymetric and topographic survey data. In addition, a combination of shore-based weather stations and lake-based sensor platforms - connected via an advanced cyber infrastructure - will be deployed to monitor the temperature of the air and water, flow rates of tributary streams, lake currents and the amount of oxygen and algae in the water as well as additional water quality indicators. The sensor data not only improves the accuracy of the early models, it also opens opportunities for future analytics. To gain a complete view of the lake’s ecosystem, project partners will combine biological data with the circulation and other models, to create a “food web model” that simulates the biological impacts physical and chemical changes have on fish and other species in the lake.
Using big data and analytics technology for seamless water distribution in India
The government of Kerala, India, is using IBM analytics and mobility solutions to analyze, monitor and manage water distribution in the city of Thiruvananthapuram.
With a population of more than 3.3 million, providing connections with equitable water supply to 210,000 households across divisions and subdivisions was a challenging task due to aging pipes, leaking infrastructure, and unauthorized use of water. There were huge losses in water distribution, with close to 45 percent of fresh water unaccounted for or wasted due to leakages. In addition, the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) faced challenges in revenue collection because the billing system was unable to track water consumption by consumers accurately. And without systems in place to monitor and provide real-time visibility into water consumption, it was difficult to track the performance of water treatment facilities and the effectiveness of the water supply network.
KWA is working with IBM to put in place the necessary infrastructure, monitoring and analytics to help identify potential issues proactively, in an effort to dramatically reduce water waste, improve customer satisfaction and increase the efficiency of maintenance and business operations. IBM will help KWA establish a water management center using the IBM Intelligent Water software to bring all the distribution and consumption data from meters to a central dashboard - where water usage can be effectively and predictively monitored and managed, thereby reducing billing anomalies and improving revenue collection by more than 10 percent. This provides the city’s water supply networks and KWA management with a unified and real-time view of the transmission and consumption of water across the city of Thiruvananthapuram. Smart sensors, working in conjunction with the IBM Intelligent Water software, enable workers to receive alerts through their mobile or smart devices or laptops, so they can respond immediately to irregularities in water supply and react more quickly to repairs that are needed. With the solutions, KWA aims to achieve 100 percent success in equitable water supply.
Today more than 3.9 billion people - 54 percent of the world’s population - live in urban areas, and that amount is expected to increase to 66 percent by 2050. Smarter cities of all sizes are capitalizing on new technologies and insights to transform their systems, operations and service delivery to operate more efficiently and sustainably.
Transforming China's energy systems and protecting citizen health
China’s economic growth over the past several decades has raised the living standards of hundreds of millions of its citizens. However, the resulting environmental impact, particularly air pollution, has become a priority for the Chinese government. IBM announced a 10-year initiative to support China in transforming its national energy systems and protecting the health of citizens. Dubbed “Green Horizon,” the project sets out to leap beyond current global practices in three areas critical to China’s sustainable growth: air quality management, renewable energy forecasting and energy optimization for industry.
- Air quality management — IBM is partnering with the Beijing Municipal Government on a system to enable authorities to pinpoint the type, source and level of emissions, and to predict air quality in the city. By applying supercomputing processing power, scientists from IBM and the Beijing government aim to create visual maps showing the source and dispersion of pollutants across Beijing 72 hours in advance, with street-scale resolution.
- Renewable energy forecasting — The Chinese government has announced increased investment in solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy in a bid to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels. To support the objective, IBM has developed a renewable energy forecasting system solution that combines weather prediction and big-data analytics to enable utility companies to forecast the amount of energy that will be available to be directed into the grid or stored - helping to ensure that as little as possible is wasted.
- Energy optimization for industry — China’s economic growth over the past 10 years has led it to become the biggest energy consumer in the world. As part of the transformation of Chinese industry, the government has committed to reducing the country’s “carbon intensity” by 40-45 percent by the year 2020 compared with 2005 levels (equivalent to 130 million tons of coal per year). To support this goal, IBM is developing a new system to help monitor, manage and optimize the energy consumption of industrial enterprises - representing over 70 percent of China’s total energy consumption.
Solutions to transform water, energy and waste management services
IBM and Veolia announced new solutions that integrate intuitive and powerful digital technologies into urban services to improve the efficiency of municipal systems. A world leader in municipal services, Veolia sought IBM’s partnership to transform the way they deliver digital services and solutions for cities.
IBM and Veolia will first deliver new solutions for smarter water, incorporating IBM Intelligent Water software that allows for better utilization of big data and provides a management system for the integration, optimization and analysis of all data related to water management. Veolia and IBM will also introduce new digital solutions and services for energy management and waste management — areas in which Veolia has deep operations experience and IBM has proven technology.
Energy and utility companies are challenged to continuously deliver reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy in an increasingly competitive market. This is putting enormous pressure on the industry that can only be overcome through flexible, scalable and data-driven insights to modernize the utility network and improve power generation.
Cloud-based enterprise-wide analytics for energy companies
IBM Insights Foundation for Energy is an energy analytics, data management and visualization software solution for energy and utility companies. It can integrate disparate data sources and develop actionable analytic insights across and within business domains. Using advanced analytics, energy and utility companies can turn business challenges into opportunities, driving rapid time to value and real business outcomes. The solution can be used to get a 360-degree view from the individual transformer level to the entire grid. It also enables renewable energy forecasting and integration to the network as well as supporting custom analytics development so it can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each energy and utilities provider. The platform can be used to help utilities shift from traditional and costly time-based asset management — where network repairs are done on schedule regardless of how much useful life is left in an asset — to a more informed reliability-based approach of making repairs when they are actually needed.
Bringing solar electricity and heat to remote locations
IBM Research is partnering with Airlight Energy, a Swiss-based supplier of solar power technology, to bring affordable solar technology to the market. The high-concentration photovoltaic thermal (HCPVT) system, which resembles a 10-meter-high sunflower, uses a 40-square-meter parabolic dish and can concentrate the sun’s radiation 2,000 times, converting 80 percent of it into useful energy to generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day — enough to power several average homes.
The inside of the parabolic dish is covered with 36 elliptic mirrors made of 0.2-millimeter-thin recyclable plastic foil with a silver coating, which are then curved using a slight vacuum. The mirrored surface area concentrates the sun’s radiation by reflecting it onto several microchannel liquid-cooled receivers, each of which is populated with a dense array of multi-junction photovoltaic chips — each one-square-centimeter chip produces an electrical power of up to 57 watts on a typical sunny day.
The photovoltaic chips, similar to those used on orbiting satellites, are mounted on micro-structured layers that pipe treated water within fractions of millimeters of the chip to absorb the heat and draw it away 10 times more effectively than with passive air cooling. The 85-90 degrees Celsius hot water maintains the chips at safe operating temperatures of 105°C, which otherwise would reach over 1,500°C. This direct hot-water cooling design with very small pumping power is an IBM technology that has already been made commercially available in IBM’s high-performance computers.
Commercial buildings consume large quantities of energy worldwide and are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, about 30 percent of a building’s total operating cost goes for energy. So, as concerns for the environment and financial bottom line increase, the need to reduce both energy consumption and overall building expenses takes on new urgency.
IBM Building Management Center solution at Carnegie Mellon
IBM announced an innovative project with Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a cloud-based analytics system for reducing energy and facility operating costs. With 6.5 million square feet of infrastructure, miles of underground utilities, water lines, electrical systems, health facilities, restaurants, and even its own police force, Carnegie Mellon is practically a city unto itself.
This is a campus where the first building was built in 1906 and the most recent is under construction now. More than a century of infrastructure will all be managed through a single system using the new IBM Building Management Center solution, delivered on the IBM SoftLayer cloud. It will monitor thousands of data points from building automation and control systems in order to deliver better building performance, energy efficiency and space utilization.
By harvesting intelligence, best practices and value from the big data of buildings, the university expects to save approximately 10 percent on utilities — nearly $2 million annually — when the IBM system is fully deployed across 36 buildings on its Pittsburgh campus. Optimizing energy use and operations drives down costs, improves facility performance and makes buildings more sustainable. The IBM solution can manage all asset classes on a converged, integrated platform. It can identify opportunities to extend asset life, optimize up-time, improve occupant satisfaction and address regulatory compliance. It also has capabilities to measure, manage and reduce facility energy and environmental impact to help achieve sustainability goals.
Agriculture and food
Protecting the global food supply is a monumental public health and sustainability challenge. In the United States alone, one in six people are affected by food-borne diseases each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations, 3,000 deaths and $9 billion in medical costs. Another $75 billion worth of contaminated food is recalled and discarded annually.
IBM and Mars launch effort to drive advances in food safety
In January 2015, scientists from IBM Research and Mars established the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, a collaborative food safety platform that will leverage advances in genomics to further our understanding of what makes food safe. As a first step, the consortium’s scientists will investigate the genetic fingerprints of living organisms such as bacteria, fungi or viruses and how they grow in different environments, including countertops, factories and raw materials. This data will be used to further investigate how bacteria interact, which could result in completely new ways to view supply chain food safety management. This pioneering application of genomics will enable an in-depth understanding and categorization of microorganisms on a much bigger scale than has previously been possible.
The first data samples will be gathered at Mars-owned production facilities, while IBM’s genomics, healthcare and analytics experts will utilize IBM’s Accelerated Discovery THINKLab, a unique collaborative research environment, for the large-scale computational and data requirements of this initiative. Beyond the research, data and findings will be presented in a systematic way to enable affordable and widespread use of these testing techniques.
Read more about this project at IBM Research.