IBM Expands ‘Internet of Things’ Green Horizons Initiative Beyond China

On Wednesday December 9th 2015, IBM announced plans to expand their Green Horizons initiative globally after a one year proof-of-concept trial in China. Powered by the technology underpinning IBM Watson Analytics, it supports city-level governments on air quality management, utility firms on forecasting renewable energy availability and industrial factories on identifying cost savings through automated energy monitoring.

The IBM Green Horizons initiative was first launched regionally on July 2014 to help address Chinese government targets over a ten year horizon. These targets included up to a 25% reduction in fine air pollution Particulate Matter (PM2.5) concentration by 2017, sourcing 15% of total energy use from renewable energy by 2020 as well as achieving a 45% carbon intensity reduction by 2020.

To tackle these issues in China, IBM partnered with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to deploy climate modelling technologies that generate pollution forecasts 72 hours in advance with a 90% accuracy probability or higher at the 1km scale. IBM’s system sources real-time data from air quality monitoring stations and meteorological satellites to visualize type, source, dispersion and levels of emissions within cities. The predictive model has allowed Chinese officials to conduct scenario analysis evaluating the short-term policy effects of traffic restrictions, mandatory filtering system installations, facility relocations, among other strategies.

Similarly, IBM’s renewable energy forecasting system combines cloud movements, wind speed, temperature and direction to help utility firms forecast clean energy power production up to several days in advance. IBM’s initial trial in China is punctuated with successes such as the State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company integrating 10 percent more alternative energy into the national grid.

The global expansion of the Green Horizons initiative includes new partnerships with the Delhi Dialogue Commission and the City of Johannesburg in South Africa on its air pollution mitigation programme as well as UK-based SSE, China-based Goldwind and US Department of Energy SunShot Initiative on renewable power generation forecasts.

With anticipated new solutions for water and soil quality management, IBM aims to increase access by providing the API on their Bluemix cloud-based platform. Possible users include service providers such as AECOM, Deloitte and ERM, or agricultural, basic resource and manufacturing firms seeking to assess weather and resource-related risks.

Challenges and opportunities related to the themes of “Big data” and “IoT” are impacting businesses in every sector. While technology services firms have been quick to seize on this agenda and plaster these labels across almost every solution, the most successful vendors move a level deeper in their messaging and articulate the particular business value of their solutions. The Green Horizon initiative targets specific, highly complex problems with a clear audience in mind. Other vendors should take note and clarify the audience-specific tangible benefits being created by their IoT solutions. That’s what turns technology into a good business proposition.