IBM Pulse redux – Smarter, sustainable.

I attended IBM’s service management conference IBM Pulse last week and I came away very impressed with how IBM’s suite of Smarter solutions is nailing sustainability (even if that’s not how they see it!).

The main areas I was interested in were the Smarter Cities, Smarter Buildings, and Smarter Transportation. I also wanted to check out their data center infrastructure management (DCIM), but there’s only so much I could fit into the two days!

The Smarter Cities solutions coming out of IBM are compelling, to say the least (though undoubtedly, given the politics in public administration, a tough sale!). One of the better talks at the event was by Boston CIO, Bill Oates. Bill talked about, amongst other things, how Boston had rolled out a smartphone app for citizens to report when they saw a problem in the city (litter, pothole, graffiti, etc.).

When a report comes in from a smartphone, it is immediately placed in a word order, and a city employee is tasked with resolving it. The inclusion of photos and GPS coordinates in the report obviously help enormously in speeding up its resolution. When the issue is resolved, the person who reported is notified, and is told which city employee fixed it! This is a fantastic way of personalising the city government back to the people – social at its best. Boston are now adding some gamification features to the app as well to make it even more compelling.

When Bostonians were asked why they liked the app so much their response was that previously to report a problem, they had to ring the city hall, and that felt like they were complaining, whereas with the app they feel like they are part of the solution.

On the Smarter Buildings and Smarter Facilities front, it was great to see Tririga getting a lot of love at the event. We first wrote about Tririga here on GreenMonk back in 2009, and subsequently we wrote an email to several senior IBM execs introducing them to Tririga. It was nice to see them being acquired by IBM after that! Tririga is a suite of products designed to optimise use of a facilities portfolio. That can be done in any manner of diverse ways from identifying inefficient building stock in a portfolio of buildings, to simply spotting an open window in a building, and raising an alert.

Somewhat confusingly, as well as Tririga, IBM also has a Smarter Building Solutions group. This group works more on the buildings’ maintenance side of the house. This is vital for ensuring that buildings are running optimally at all times and minimising waste through downtime, or equipment failure.

In a similar vein, the IBM Smarter Transportation offerings from IBM make big use of what they call their Predictive Asset Optimisation (i.e. predictive maintenance). This is when the software analyses the (big) data coming from thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of sensors looking for anomalies. These exceptions, once identified can often be caused by a part going out of tolerance and needing a repair, or replacement. Obviously, finding this out ahead of time allows for replacement parts to be ordered in advance, and maintenance to be scheduled when it suits, as opposed to reacting when the equipment fails. There’s obviously a big safety story here too. Avoiding catastrophic failures in transportation is in everyone’s interest.

IBM isn’t branding these solutions as being sustainable, per se, but from what I’ve seen at Pulse, there’s no doubt in my mind that Smarter ≑ Sustainable.

Full disclosure – IBM paid travel and accommodation for me to attend this event.


Innovation at the IBM Smarter Industries Symposium

IBM Smarter Industries Symposium

Photo credit Tom Raftery

I attended the inaugural IBM Smarter industries Symposium recently and the major talking point that emerged from it was Innovation.

The event was a nice mix of presentations by IBMers, customers and “breakout exchanges” with a healthy mix of both.

Almost all of the speakers talked about the increasing complexity of doing business today. Frank Kern, for example, mentioned that 79% of CEO’s expect high level of complexity in the next 5 years but only 49% say their companies are prepared for it! Interestingly, 60% of those say that what is needed to combat complexity is creativity!

Ginni Rometty talked up the need for businesses to become smarter and provided a three-step roadmap for them to become so. The steps consisted of

  1. Instrument to manage
  2. Integrate to innovate and
  3. Optimise to transform

Basically, Ginni is saying that organisations need to digitise all aspects of their business, integrate the data streams from this instrumentation to take advantage of it and then use things like predictive analytics to transform from being reactive to being proactive. Predictive analytics are already being used by the New York police department, Frank Kern reminded us, to predict where the bad guys will go after they commit crime!

Ginni used the example of the Singapore Land Transport Authority’s bus arrival predictor (98% accurate to within a minute up to an hour ahead of time). This was deployed around the same time as congestion charges to encourage people to use public transport. Not only can you quickly see up to an hour ahead of time when buses are due, but the system can also give you an idea of seat availability – how’s that for predictive analytics?

Organisationally, the rollout of analytics is transformative. It leads to smarter decisions – ones based on data, not the HIPPO principle (HIPPO = Highest Paid Person’s Opinion!).

In the Capitalizing on Complexity session there were speakers from 1800-Flowers and Texas utility Oncor – two very diverse businesses, I think you’ll agree. Chris McCann of 1-800Flowers said when they realised that their business is not about delivering flowers, but delivering smiles, they quickly expanded the range of smile-giving products they deliver! He said their future is a combination of social media and commerce – a mix he referred to as social commerce.

Because Gen Y doesn’t make purchasing decisions before checking with their network, it is now more important than ever to ensure your brand is well thought-of online. As a result, 1-800Flowers makes extensive use of social media to handle customer complaints, to get customers to tell their stories online and to create “brand apostles” to help 1-800Flowers engage in the conversation without being overbearing.

Mark Carpenter, Oncor’s CTO, was really interesting. Oncor have 3.1 million customers and obviously, Oncor know that their customer base varies enormously. Some customers don’t want to talk to anyone, they want to control everything from their iPhone! Others want to pick up the phone, and not just talk to a person, but talk to a Texan! So Oncor handles all of these requirements, giving the customer what they want – they have kept their call centers in Texas and they are now able to communicate with their customers, from their call centers via social media, if that is the customer’s preference. Hello @oncor, good job on your FaceBook page!

A utility that uses social media? Social business? Seriously innovative stuff.

Other things which helped cement the Innovation theme at the Smarter industries Symposium were the story of IBM’s taking on Jeopardy with their Question Answering system, code-named Watson; Mike Rhodin’s talk on use of social media analytics both externally facing to provide better customer service and internally-facing to track employee satisfaction; and all of Chair of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation, John Kao‘s keynote!

Smarter times are coming!


IBM’s Global EcoJam analysed!

IBM EcoJam Themes tag cloud
Photo credit Tom Raftery

I participated in last week’s IBM Global Eco Jam.

As you can see from above, the event generated 2080 posts from a total of 3987 logins.

I mentioned previously that the quality of the participants in the jam was really impressive, but what were attendees most interested in talking about during the jam?

The screenshot above is a tag cloud of the themes discussed during the jam. And while it gives some idea of the relative importance of topics explored during the jam, I decided to see if I could dig a little deeper into the numbers.

Doing a View Source of this page tells me the pixel size of each of the terms – see below:

12px – air
12px – business_case
12px – city
12px – collaboration_tools
12px – cooling
12px – electricity
12px – energy_savings
12px – improve_energy efficient efficiency
12px – public_transportation
12px – reporting
12px – software
18px – business_processes
18px – carbon_footprint
18px – climate_change
18px – efficient
18px – energy_management
18px – energy_usage
18px – goals
18px – incentives
18px – mobility
18px – smart_grid
18px – solar
18px – working_home
22px – buildings
22px – cities
22px – data_centers
22px – energy_consumption
22px – energy_efficiency
22px – green
22px – power
22px – reduce_energy
22px – supply_chain
22px – sustainability
22px – water
22px – workplace

Unfortunately they only seem to fall into three sizes – 12px, 18px and 22px – so not hugely granular, still it is something.

Clicking on the tags to see the posts doesn’t give an immediate indication of why some are larger than others unfortunately. All of the 22px tags contain 10 posts but so do the 18px and the 12px! Nor does it appear to refer to the number of replies to posts.

It is equally unclear how the tags were arrived at in the first place, apart from this explanation on the site – “A special text-mining tool has identified themes across all of the discussions in Global Eco-efficiency Jam. The theme cloud below illustrates major concepts based on frequency of word use”.

When creating a new post, or replying to previous posts there was no option to tag your responses.

35 posts were identified as being “Hot Ideas” – no idea how or why they were identified as such. It appears to have been a manual process. The hot ideas which generated the most responses (those with >30 replies) were, in decreasing order:

Getting Around – Mobility Services? – 79 replies
Cultural barriers to online collaboration – 58 replies
Greening Your Business Processes for Innovation – 47 replies
Green IT & Cloud Computing – 39 replies
Citizen engagement – 33 replies
Real world customer examples – 32 replies
IT’s Central Role In Managing Energy & Carbon – 32 replies
Integration to improve energy and eco-efficiency – 31 replies

Some of the Hot Ideas had as few as two responses, so the Hot Ideas designation doesn’t appear to come from response number!

Still, despite the lack of transparency around the process, it was an incredibly worthwhile event. I ended up contributing 45 posts (2% of the posts!) which received 46 responses. I learned loads and would definitely participate if IBM decide to hold another (hint, hint!).


IBM Global Eco-Efficiency Jam Day 2

IBM Eco Jam Screenshot

Today is the final day of IBM’s Global Eco-efficiency Jam (it finishes at 6pm CET today) and it has been awesome.

There have been hundreds of discussions on all manner of Eco-related topics – everything from LEED certification, to Green software engineering, to Energy Efficiency certificates to Smart cities and collaboration.

People have been asking questions like:

If environmental reporting and efficiency actions becomes the norm, what kinds of incentives and rebates are available to help improve the time to value and return on investments?

Currently this question has had 8 replies.

The question with the most replies (right now) is –

Would you use a mobility car service – like the bicycle rental scheme in Paris but with a small, probably electric vehicle – rather than public transportation or a taxi?

and so far it has had 78 responses!

Often answers to questions directly contradict one another – such as the following answers to the mobility question above:

Yes, I would. But more for fun or visiting a city. Visiting clients on e-bike wearing business dress is difficult


When Montreal introduced its version of V?lib, called Bixi, most people anticipated tourists would be the prime users. But looking around the city on a nice summer day, most the bikes are used by men and women in business suits, going from one building to the next. For short rides of 2-4 km, you needn’t even break a sweat.

These kind of contradictory answers are inevitable when the participants come from over 100 countries reflecting their country’s culture and infrastructure.

Other discussions were more straightforward

Looking beyond basic power policies on the operating system, do you have any form of PC power management operating on your PC at home or at work?

[UPDATE – this question came from @karolinashaw, Public Relations Manager 1E]

There is plenty of discussion on water as well with people discussing the merits of water metering, water harvesting and town/city water policies.

While I am contributing a bit to the discussions (I have added 39 posts and had 37 replies so far), I am learning a huge amount and coming into contact with participants I might never otherwise have met.

IBM should make this a regular event, no question.

[Disclosure] IBM asked me not to use the names of Jam participants in any blog posts I make here because IBM hadn’t sought their permission so I removed the names from the image above and didn’t credit people quoted above. If I have used your content and you are happy to have me credit you, let me know in the comments or by email ([email protected]) and I’m more than happy to do so.


IBM Eco Jam – 1 day in!

IBM Eco Jam Themes

Well, the IBM Global Eco Jam has been underway nearly 24 hours at this point – how is it going?

It has been incredibly active, I have to say. You can see from the screenshot I took earlier this morning that the number of posts was 987 at that point – I just checked now and the number has gone up to 1037! These are across many themes ranging, as you can see in the tag cloud above, from solar panels, through to energy efficiency and buildings.

I have been involved in some terrific discussions on KPI’s, the merits of aisle containment in data centers, the red herring that is phone charger unplugging and reasonably heated discussion on the place of IT in energy management in organisations!

What has really impressed me is the level of expertise of all the participants (except those arguing with me about the role of IT in Energy management πŸ˜‰ ) and the amount of time people are dedicating to it. Many of the participants have contributed north of 10 posts.

This really is an international gathering of incredible energy mavens, selflessly collaborating (and simultaneously learning) for everyone’s mutual benefit.

It is amazing to be allowed to be part of such an event.

Btw, if you want to take part and your organization’s name is not listed, request an invitation by sending an e-mail to [email protected] with “RSVP” in the subject line.


IBM Eco Jam kicks off later today with an impressive line-up


Photo credit justmakeit

The IBM Global Eco Efficiency Jam kicks off this afternoon (January 27th) at 9am EST (14:00 GMT, 15:00 here in CEST) and continues right on through until Friday afternoon.

According to the IBM site the Jam is

a web-based event which will provide an unrivalled opportunity for thousands of public and private sector sustainability leaders, from medium to large organizations around the world, to pool their knowledge and experiences through a series of focused discussions and exchanges of best practices with each other, with practitioners and influencers and with acknowledged subject matter experts.

The objective of this jam is to enable senior representatives from organizations of all sizes to cooperatively determine the best actions that can be taken to meet our goals for a sustainable future for our organizations, our customers, our suppliers, our stakeholders and society at large

There are almost 1000 companies from 45 countries around the world (ranging from Argentia to Brazil to Finland to Hungary to India to Malaysia to Peru to Slovakia to UK to USA to Vietnam) signed up to participate. Typically in IBM Jams several reps from each company participate. The types of roles who have signed up for this Jam include: CIO, Chief Sustainability Officer, COO, Facilities Manager, CFO, Manufacturing Operations, Environmental Affairs, Fleet Manager, Real estate and site operations, IT manager, data center manager, and city planner.

More than 250 subject matter experts from IBM, Green Sigma Coalition partners, industry analysts, energy & environment experts, and leading edge companies are taking part. Some of the non-IBM experts who have signed up to share their expertise are:

  • Dian M. Grueneich, Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission
  • Joel Makower, Chairman/Executive Editor, Greener World Media, Inc.; Senior Strategist, GreenOrder; and Co-founder and Principal, Clean Edge, Inc.
  • Dan Esty, author of Green to Gold
  • James Watson, Managing Editor, Industry and Management Research, Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Clay Nesler, Vice President, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls
  • Andreas Schiernbeck, President & CEO, Building Automation, Siemens AG
  • Patricia Calkins, Vice President, Environment, Health and Safety, Xerox Corporation
  • Amit Chatterjee, CEO, Hara
  • Chris Lloyd, Executive Director, Public Policy and Strategic Alliances, Verizon
  • Jim Sinopoli, Managing Principle, Smart Buildings
  • Kamal Meattle, ?Fresh Air? activist and CEO, Paharpur Business Centre & Software Technology Incubator Park, New Delhi, India
  • Dr. Terry Yosie, President & CEO, World Environment Center
  • Carl Gaurdino, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
  • Carol Baroudi, Green & Sustainability Research Director, Aberdeen Group, and author of Green IT for Dummies
  • Andrew Winston, founder of Winston Eco-Strategies and co-author of Green to Gold
  • Tom Raftery, analyst and blogger, GreenMonk/RedMonk
  • Chris Mines, Senior Vice President, Research Director, Forrester
  • Simon Mingay, Research VP, Gartner
  • Vernon Turner, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Computing Research, IDC

To learn more about the Eco Jam check out the Eco Jam page on the IBM website or request an invite by sending an email to: [email protected].

I wonder how this will affect the number of people tuning into Apple’s big announcement later on today, not to mention President Obama’s State of the Union 2.0 address!


Guest Post: On Water and The Climate Ahead

One of Greenmonk’s core beliefs is that the private sector is making all the running when it comes to long term sustainability thinking, so I was very interested to hear about a conference last week in which water utilities were meeting other stakeholders to discuss climate change related issues. Cortland Coleman was there and very kindly offered to write up the event. If you’re on twitter he is definitely worth following if you’re interested in sustainability.

“A symposium was held last week at Rutgers University in New Jersey, U.S., exploring how global climate change will impact the world’s precious water resources. “The Climate Ahead” was attended by state and federal government officials, researchers, regulators, students and environmental advocates. The annual symposium draws a growing audience of people working on water management issues, climate change and related environmental issues. Over 200 people attended this year’s symposium. There is no doubt that water resources and infrastructure will be stressed by the impacts of climate change. Demand for water is increasing while the supply of safe, healthy water is declining. Global climate change threatens to increase the gap between water supply and demand due to potential changes in weather patterns, seasonal shifts and watershed production. This growing gap could lead to large populations being more vulnerable to water shortages, as unequal access to safe water grows. These same populations are at a greater risk to be victims of flood, drought or other environmental disaster brought on or made worse by the impacts of global climate change. Managing depleting water resources will be a critical skill as we deal with the effects of climate change. Utilities are weighing the anticipated costs of climate change on their drinking water systems. Unfortunately, computer models cannot accurately factor in all variables and therefore, come up short when attempting to clarify and define risk mitigation, cost of not taking action, etc. What is clear is that water usage, conservation, filtration and distribution must all be closely and carefully examined as we work to finds new ways to meet the growing demands for water across the globe. Presentations from the seminar are now available for download from:

photo courtesy of ishrona under CreativeCommons Attribution 2.0 license.

Greenmonk partners with Akvo, the Open Source for Water.


Thoughts on Green SOA: a work in progress

Yesterday at IBM’s SOA Impact 2008 show in Las Vegas (my favorite eco-city) I gave my Green SOA stump pitch. Its still a work in progress, and fortunately perhaps the number of delegates was pretty low. SOA for Dummies across the hall on the other hand was packed.

What is service oriented architecture, and why is Greenmonk so dorky today? Good questions both. SOA is an approach to software development that should enable far greater flexibility than normal.Β  Business and technical interfaces are standardised, and stored in libraries so that services can be reused, or changed as required by the business.

Why is Greenmonk so dorky? Well, you can’t fight your nature, now can you?

My argument at the event is basically that if SOA is a means to better alignment between IT and the business, then we should also drive sustainability into the mix. Componentising services gives you freedom to leave, for example, potentially allowing you to swap a provider out for a greener, or more importantly from a bottom line perspective, more energy efficient service.

The new frontier in compliance is environmental regulations and mandates. South Korea, as I found out yesterday, already has a carbon added tax. I have written about REACH , the EU chemical reporting standard before. One quote I used, which I find pretty striking given it comes from a US oilman (not exactly a community full of bleeding heart liberals):

β€œThe U.S. needs a strong, consistent and mandatory national framework to manage carbon emissions. One that is unencumbered by diverging state and regional initiatives. Without this framework, rising public concern over climate change threatens our energy security by contributing to further access restrictions.”

Jim Mulva, Chairman & CEO, ConocoPhillips

Environmental compliance is going to cost companies hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars over the next few years. My partner in crime at the event is a guy called Jim Bitonti, who presented about his company Evergreen Energy, its C-Lock application and partnership with IBM called GreenCert. The application, a sophisticated distributed app for greenhouse gas measurement, monitoring and management is built end to end on IBM middleware, so it was not surprising IBM asked me to collaborate with him. But regardless of platform Jim knows his stuff, and is solidly pragmatic about the opportunities and limitations of environmental compliance. I would like to see a collaboration with AMEE, and will hopefully broker a meeting between Gavin and C-Lock next week.

I realise now that I need to make the pitch more technical for n audience of SOA folks. But all in all it was a good learning experience, and I am certainly glad IBM realizes the importance of Green SOA, even if its customers are yet to catch on.