At IBM, we apply expertise, research, and technology to address and solve the environmental challenges of our clients and the world. We offer innovative products, services and solutions that enable our clients to conserve natural resources and reduce the environmental impacts associated with their operations.

Digital solutions are transforming industries by providing companies access to data, and the insights that can be garnered from that data in real time. Information displayed on dashboards can be shared immediately across and among large organizations. These solutions are built with intelligence on a cloud platform, and they use analytics to turn data into actionable insights that enable our clients to make more informed decisions that drive improved sustainability.

Our water solutions help water agencies monitor and manage water usage and operations more effectively. Our energy solutions help utility companies increase the predictability and use of renewable energy sources, and they enable building managers to conserve energy in buildings. Our Smarter Cities® solutions help governments and utilities deliver more efficient services to citizens by improving the productivity of waste management and recycling processes. Our agriculture and food solutions help improve crop yield, food safety and reliability.

IBM’s portfolio of solutions has been developed across all IBM organizations and in collaboration with other companies and institutions.


Reducing water use and combatting drought with IBM Watson

OmniEarth Inc., an environmental analytics company, is using IBM Watson cognitive capabilities to turn satellite and imagery data into actionable insight that is being used to help water conservation efforts in California and other drought-stricken areas. With IBM Watson Visual Recognition, OmniEarth can process data 40 times faster than it could before, sorting through an estimated 150,000 images on a parcel-by-parcel basis in 12 minutes. By pinpointing potential water-using activities at the granular, land-parcel level with Watson, OmniEarth is helping water authorities target areas where water may be wasted. Some of OmniEarth’s customers have already identified areas where overwatering or leaks are occurring, and have reported a 15 percent reduction in water use since the service was implemented. The Watson-based OmniEarth solution has been used by over 90 agencies in California.

Harnessing insights from big data for better water management

IBM partnered with Veolia, the global leader in optimized resource management (water, waste and energy management solutions) to develop and promote a Smarter Water® solution with advanced analytics and cognitive computing capabilities. IBM Water Operations for Waternamics delivers a comprehensive solution to the challenges faced by cities, utilities, and commercial enterprises of all sizes by mining water-usage data for insights that help drive efficiencies, reduce costs, make better decisions and improve services. The solution helps water utilities integrate disparate data streams to enable a 360-degree view of water flow and leakages, water supply levels, wastewater operations, and possible performance alerts. In addition to enhancing efficiency and reducing water losses, utilities can make proactive decisions to minimize the risk of network disruptions. IBM Global Business Services and Veolia have collaborated to deploy the solution in 10 cities including Lyon, Lille and La Baule in France, and Tidworth in the U.K., and they continue to expand to additional cities.

Enhancing understanding of water networks through interactive visualization

In September 2015, IBM Research Ireland released epanetReader, an open source package for EPANET analyzing water networks in the R environment for statistical analysis. EPANET is software from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that simulates water network behavior. The epanetReader solution helps users understand water efficiency by allowing rapid visualization and interactive analysis of EPANET simulation results for key environmental parameters such as water quality and quantity. The solution improves visualization by allowing users to track the evolution of water network variables through time, and display the results in a graphical representation. The solution also helps users further analyze water networks and reduce environmental impacts by better understanding their use of energy and chemicals. Since its release, epanetReader has been downloaded more than 6,000 times by water utilities, consultants, and universities in 100 countries.


Improving renewable energy forecasting

In 2014, the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) started a partnership with IBM Research to accelerate the integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid and improve grid resiliency with the creation of the Vermont Weather Analytics Center (VWAC). Leveraging Deep Thunder™, IBM Research’s hyperlocal weather model, the VWAC and IBM Research teams developed an automated renewable energy forecasting tool for solar and wind power. These tools deliver 95 percent accuracy in solar-power forecasting and 93 percent accuracy in wind-power forecasting.

In February 2017, IBM and VELCO announced the creation of Utopus Insights Inc., with IBM Research’s Smarter Energy® team and the intellectual property related to these forecasting tools and other products, forming the new company’s core team and software offerings. This new energy analytics software company will provide solutions that secure increased reliability and efficiency at lower cost and reduced risk. These industry-tested solutions will offer a system of insight to optimally plan and orchestrate today’s transforming grid toward an era of clean, reliable, distributed and cost-effective energy.

Building management solution using Watson IoT™ and weather sensing technologies

PhotonStar Technology Ltd., a British company and leader in intelligent building solutions, partnered with IBM to create a commercial, retrofittable building management system based on low-cost wireless monitoring and live weather data. Using the IBM Watson IoT™ platform, PhotonStar pioneered a new solution called halcyon cloudBMS — cognitive software that collects energy use and building occupancy metrics, consolidates them on the cloud for remote monitoring, and compares them to the local weather forecast. Building managers anticipate weather conditions and adjust temperature, lighting, heating, and cooling parameters to eliminate wasted energy. The cloud-based solution also allows operators to manage a collection of buildings and building sites simultaneously. It can save up to 50 percent of heating costs by triggering proactive decisions based on real-time weather conditions. For example, the management system heats buildings when cold weather is moving in or is expected overnight. In addition, the solution enables automatic window shade lowering or raising according to changes in sunlight and temperature.


Cleaner Streets with smarter waste management and recycling services

Hera SpA, a multi-utility operator in water, energy, and environmental services in Italy, partnered with IBM Global Business Services to reinforce its equipment planning, sustain its waste management processes, and more efficiently serve its 5 million customers. The IBM team helped Hera design an optimized waste management and recycling solution, HergoAmbiente, based on SAP for Utilities software and featuring the SAP Waste and Recycling software component. IBM used SAP to automate Hera’s entire waste management process, managing 700 vehicles, 300,000 waste containers, more than 2,000 waste disposal orders per day, 18,000 routes and 140 destination landfills.

IBM consultants also built a mobile solution using IBM WebSphere® Application Server. The introduction of mobile technologies and sensors, connected to a central computer system, provides HergoAmbiente users with on-demand insight into the number of waste disposal orders, vehicle locations, filling percentage of waste containers, waste type collected, and percentage of streets cleaned. With real-time information, HergoAmbiente has been able to optimize the emptying frequency of containers and redesign the routes of operators based on the actual filling level of the containers. Citizens can also directly collaborate in enhanced service delivery and efficiency by sending Hera reports on bins, abandoned waste and street cleaning, and by alerting the company to any other waste management issues via a mobile application.

Agriculture and food

The Weather Company enables more sustainable farming

The Weather Company®, an IBM Business, is helping drive transformation in the agriculture industry by providing farmers with insight into meteorological data. Precision agriculture solutions, using in-field weather sensors, are helping growers make decisions in real time as agricultural data shifts from the farm to field-level. IBM Research and The Weather Company’s joint hyperlocal weather forecasting provided by the sensors enables more precise, predictive modeling in the field and allows greater visibility into the specific weather conditions impacting the land. Access to accurate, localized weather data is helping farmers make more informed decisions on field operation scheduling, harvest timing, equipment deployment, soil needs and nutrient requirements.

Blockchain improves food supply chain traceability and food safety

In 2016, IBM partnered with Walmart and Tsinghua University to explore food supply chain traceability, authenticity and safety in China. Leveraging blockchain — a distributed, immutable ledger technology — IBM researchers created a model to digitally trace the movement of Chinese pork through the commercial network, from suppliers to store shelves. The goal was to bring increased transparency into the food supply chain, and ultimately create a more secure supply network where fraud and inaccuracies are nearly eliminated. In the ongoing pilot, Walmart is using blockchain to track information on farm origin, factory data, expiration dates, storage temperatures and shipping. Food supply chain digitization and tracking enables a more trusted, secure and comprehensive view of key operational data and easier detection of contamination sources.

Download the 2016 report