Microsoft, big data and smarter buildings

Smarter building dashboard

If you checked out the New York Times Snow Fall site (the story of the Avalanche at Tunnel Creek), then Microsoft’s new 88 Acres site will look familiar. If you haven’t seen the Snow Fall site then go check it out, it is a beautiful and sensitive telling of a tragic story. You won’t regret the few minutes you spend viewing it.

Microsoft’s 88 Acres is an obvious homage to that site, except that it tells a good news story, thankfully, and tells it well. It is the story of how Microsoft is turning its 125-building Redmond HQ into a smart corporate campus.

Microsoft’s campus had been built over several decades with little thought given to integrating the building management systems there. When Darrell Smith, Microsoft’s director of facilities and energy joined the company in 2008, he priced a ‘rip and replace’ option to get the disparate systems talking to each other but when it came in at in excess of $60m, he decided they needed to brew their own. And that’s just what they did.

Using Microsoft’s own software they built a system capable of taking in the data from the over 30,000 sensors throughout the campus and detecting and reporting on anomalies. They first piloted the solution on 13 buildings on the campus and as they explain on the 88 Acres site:

In one building garage, exhaust fans had been mistakenly left on for a year (to the tune of $66,000 of wasted energy). Within moments of coming online, the smart buildings solution sniffed out this fault and the problem was corrected.
In another building, the software informed engineers about a pressurization issue in a chilled water system. The problem took less than five minutes to fix, resulting in $12,000 of savings each year.
Those fixes were just the beginning.

The system balances factors like the cost of a fix, the money that will be saved by the fix, and the disruption a fix will have on employees. It then prioritises the issues it finds based on these factors.

Microsoft facilities engineer Jonathan Grove sums up how the new system changes his job “I used to spend 70 percent of my time gathering and compiling data and only about 30 percent of my time doing engineering,” Grove says. “Our smart buildings work serves up data for me in easily consumable formats, so now I get to spend 95 percent of my time doing engineering, which is great.”

The facilities team are now dealing with enormous quantities of data. According to Microsoft, the 125 buildings contain 2,000,000 data points outputting around 500,000,000 data transactions every 24 hours. The charts, graphics and reports it produces leads to about 32,300 work orders being issued per quarter. And 48% of the faults found are corrected within 60 seconds. Microsoft forecasts energy savings of 6-10% per year, with an implementation payback of 18 months.

Because Microsoft’s smart building tool was built using off the shelf Microsoft technologies, it is now being productised and will be offered for sale. It joins a slew of other smarter building solutions currently on the market from the likes of IBM, Echelon, Cisco et al, but given this one is built with basic Microsoft technologies, it will be interesting to see where it comes in terms of pricing.

Price will certainly be one of the big deciding factors in any purchasing decision, any building management tool will need to repay it’s costs within at least 18 months to merit consideration. Functionality too will be one of the primary purchase filters and what is not clear at all, from the Microsoft report, is whether their solution can handle buildings on multiple sites or geographies. If I hear back either way from Microsoft on this, I will update this post.

This is a market that is really starting to take off. Navigant Research (formerly Pike Research) issued a report last year estimating the size of the smart building managed services market alone will grow from $291m in 2012 to $1.1bn by 2020. While IMS Research estimated the Americas market for integrated and intelligent building systems was be worth more than $24 billion in 2012.

One thing is for sure, given that buildings consume around 40% of our energy, any new entrant into the smarter buildings arena is to be welcomed.

Image credit nicadlr

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.

IBM’s 2012 Industry Analyst event in Madrid – the Smarter Cities panel

The future is so bright

I attended the IBM Industry Analyst event in Madrid recently and I was very taken with several of the briefings that I sat in on there.

There was an interesting panel on Smarter Cities chaired by IBM Europe’s VP for Smarter Cities Sylvie Spalmacin-Roma. Also on the panel were Francois Grosse (SVP Digital Services, Veolia Environment) and Marc Sanderson International Investments Director, Málaga City. Francois talked about how Veolia Environment works with public transport data and spun off a startup to meet demand in this space. Marc from Málaga gave a very interesting talk about how the city of Málaga is running many projects simultaneously to transform itself into a truly Smart city.

Some of the things Marc mentioned in Málaga are the water sensor project – Málaga has installed 60,000 sensors on its water piping to help it reduce the amount of water lost through leaks. This is particularly relevant given the recent Water 20/20: Bringing Smart Water Networks Into Focus report which maintains that more efficient use of water may save utilities $12.5 billion a year.

Málaga’s emergency management centre has an app that citizens can download to report issues directly to the town hall.

Málaga is the headquarters for the EU’s high speed rail research and it is currently building an 80km high speed rail test track.

Marc went on to point out that that Málaga has a joint project with Spanish electric utility company Endesa called Smart Cities Málaga where it is rolling out smart meters to 17,000 customers and tracking their energy use in an effort to make consumption more transparent to the customer and align the supply and demand curves.

And finally Marc mentioned Málaga’s Zero Emissions Mobility to All project Zem2All. This is a project which sees the deployment of 200 electric vehicles and 229 electric vehicle charge points throughout the city.It is a four year project designed to assess the usage patters of electric vehicle usage on a day-to-day basis. The project contains some of the first bidirectional electric car chargers in Europe – these chargers are capable of taking a charge from the car, as well as charging the car. This is to enable Vehicle to Grid (V2G) energy flows where electricity can move from the car’s battery back into the grid to help with grid stabilisation, for example, and to enable Vehicle to Home (V2H) energy flows where energy can move from the car’s battery into the home to keep the owners dwelling live in the event of short electrical outages.

The Málaga example is a superb one because it crosses so many domains – water, electricity, transportation, and it includes deep partnerships between the public and private sectors. One of the reasons this was made possible was because the Mayor of the city Francisco de la Torre Prados has been a strong proponent of building Málaga’s reputation as a smart city in order to attract in jobs and reduce Málaga’s 30% unemployment rate. Here’s hoping he succeeds.

Apart from this panel discussion, there were also briefings at the event covering all kinds of topics from data center energy management, to social business and most interesting (to me) one titled “Technologies which will change the world” – more on that in another post.

IBM analyst events are always a great reminder of the breadth of IBM’s interests, and this event was no exception to that pattern. My only quibble with the event would be I’d have preferred the smarter cities panel to have taken the form of a briefing, but given they had customers presenting, I can see how that would have been difficult.

[Full disclosure - IBM paid for my travel (train) and accommodation expenses to attend this event]

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IBM launch Intelligent Water for Smarter Cities

Water

Intelligent water is the latest addition to the IBM Smarter Cities portfolio.

in the world’s cities are growing at an astounding rate. For the 1st time in history, over 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. Over 1 million people are moving into cities every week, and it is estimated that by 2050 70% of people on the planet will live in cities.

This unprecedented growth in urban populations makes the provision of basic services like transport, security, water etc. increasingly complex. This is irrespective of whether the city is a mature city or a developing one. It was against this backdrop that IBM launched its Smarter Cities product.

At the core of this offering is its Intelligent Operation Center (IOC) which takes inputs from systems throughout the city and depending on the input, raises alerts, kicks off workflows, or displays the information on any of a number of dashboards which can be configured to display differing information based on a user’s login.

The newly announced Intelligent Water offering is yet another module capable of working with the IOC. In their briefing call, IBM were at pains to point out that their experience working with custom projects like the ones in Galway Bay, the Washington DC, and the Dubuque, Iowa all helped shape this new product.

Water issues are global in their reach, even if the difficulties differ from region to region (i.e. drought in Texas, flooding in Thailand, water quality in India).

IBM’s Intelligent Water helps organise water-related work. It drives proactive maintenance and schedules the maintenance so that the majority of the time is spent actually doing the maintenance, as opposed to driving between destinations. It allows water managers to see where the water is going – is it being delivered to customers, or disappearing through leaks in the pipework? Are customers using it effectively or not?

It integrates with geospatial packages and has map-based views, there are analytics for optimized scheduling, work order reporting, water usage reporting and display dashboards with roles-based information display. It is possible therefore to create views for the public (to display on the municipality’s website, for example), views for the Mayor’s office and others screens for the water planners and water operators.

According to IBM, Intelligent Water is available today. It comes with IBM’s business intelligence reporting tools as part of the solution and is available in standalone, cloud or hybrid versions.

I’m open to correction, but I’m not aware of any other company offering a comprehensive city management software solution like this. With cities growing at the rates they are, and most resources being finite, management solutions like this are going to be in greater and greater demand.

Photo credit Tom Raftery

Smarter cities – cities of almost any size can now go digital, with all the efficiency gains that brings

City

I attended an IBM Smarter Cities analyst event last week, and it was, not surprisingly, very interesting.

What is the whole rationale behind making cities smarter?

Well, there are a number of factors. For one, the world’s population has doubled in the last 40 years (from 3.5 billion to almost 7 billion). And with the mushrooming population, there is also an increase in urbanisation (in 1800, 3% of the world’s population lived in cities, whereas in 2007 that figured went above 50% for the first time).

The surging numbers of people living in cities are increasing demands on municipalities for services like water, energy, transportation, housing, healthcare and public safety. This is happening at a time of constrained resources and ageing infrastructures for many existing cities.

At the IBM Smarter Cities event, IBM showcased both some of the technologies they are providing to cities and also case studies of some of the solutions they have rolled out.

Intelligent Operations Center

The core of IBM’s offerings is its Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) – this is a application capable of taking information from virtually any IT system a city may have (water management, video surveillance, first responder systems, traffic management, etc.), combining this data and using it to kick off workflows, to trigger alerts, to display on dashboards and/or for data export.

The fact that the system can take in inputs from such a wide variety of systems is, in large part due to its use of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) – an XML-based protocol for exchanging alerts between systems. From the CAP Wikipedia entry:

Alerts from the United States Geological Survey, the Department of Homeland Security, NOAA and the California Office of Emergency Services can all be received in the same format, by the same application. That application can, for example, sound different alarms based on the information received.

The IOC’s flexibility when it comes to data inputs ensures it can take in information from almost any IT system – it can also output that same data to other systems or run data through rules engines to kick off workflows. This means the IOC has huge potential as a way to take in information from many disparate sources, have it acted on, and display results in realtime to the responsible city officials.

However, it is those same city officials who may be biggest barrier to the success of the IOC. To get the most from the IOC, it needs access to the relevant data, but that requires the buy-in of the data owners. Most city administrations are based around silos and the people responsible for managing those silos may be inclined to view the data as their own fiefdom. Data sharing cultures will need to be far more widely accepted in city government for the IOC to reach its full potential.

The Smarter Cities sales cycle must be fascinating and likely involves more change management skills than sales ones.

One of the initial customers for IBM’s Smarter Cities solutions was Rio de Janeiro but there was a burning platform there. Rio is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup so it needed to ensure it had all its systems in tip-top shape. Other cities have signed up for partial roll-outs (Washington DC and the Sonoma County Water Authority for water management, Richmond Va., and New York for crime reduction and Bolzano Italy for management of the elderly, to name a few). In their cases, increasing sales will be very much a matter of up-selling additional efficiency services.

One of the intriguing aspects of the IBM Smarter Cities solution is that there is a cloud delivered version. This lack of a requirement for a hardware installation can drastically cut costs, the time to roll-out and the IT administrative burden (backups, disaster recovery and availability) making it an ideal solution for smaller urban areas which couldn’t previously have considered such an option.

For the first time, cities of almost any size can now go digital, with all the efficiency gains that brings.

Photo credit Nrbelex

Top 14 IBM achievements in the last 100 years

IBM turned 100 earlier this month – a significant achievement for any company, but for one in the constantly shifting sands that is the technology industry, it is particularly notable.

As part of the celebrations, they released the video above outlining 100 of their achievements during that time. The video is beautifully executed and it is a great IBM marketing tool. It is easy to see that the video has a strong sales message towards the end (which tbh, is a tad unnecessary) but the earlier content is definitely worthy of comment.

Some of the highlights for me were:

  1. In 1914, 76 years before the US Disabilities Act, IBM hired its first disabled employee
  2. In 1930 IBM receives its first patent for a traffic signal timing system
  3. In 1932 IBM started education programs for employees and customers
  4. In 1934 IBM introduces group life insurance (in the midst of the Great Depression)
  5. In 1935 IBM opens the first professional training school for women
  6. In 1941, IBM hired a legally blind employee, psychologist Dr. Michael Supa, to make its products more usable by the visually impaired and to assist in the hiring of 181 people with disabilities over the following two years
  7. In 1942 IBM launches a disabled employee training program
  8. In 1943 Ruth Leach Amonette is elected IBM’s first female Vice President
  9. In 1946 IBM hires T.J. Laster, their first black sales representative, 18 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  10. In 1953 IBM chairman Thomas Watson issues the company’s first Equal Opportunity Policy letter
  11. In 1967 IBM employee Benoit Mandelbrot ask’s How long is the Coast of Britain and a new branch of mathematics (fractal geometry) is born
  12. In 1981 IBM introduces the first IBM PC
  13. In 2004 IBM creates the World Community Grid – a public grid computing project to tackle scientific research projects that benefit humanity
  14. And in 2008-9 IBM creates the Smarter Planet and Smarter Cities programs.

Other highlights include inventions of the ATM, the barcode, and DRAM; the fact that at least 3 IBM’ers have won Nobel Prizes; and IBM’s Deep Blue beating world champion chess player Gary Kasparov.

It is easy to criticise this video by saying it is nothing but a sales pitch – but the strong sales message is only really in the final two minutes of the video (from 11:14-13:15) – if you stop the video at that point, you miss nothing and get see for yourself the list of their achievements.

These are just my favourites, what are yours?

IBM’s Smarter Buildings and Smarter Cities announcements

Smart buildings are a topic I’m interested in and so I devote significant coverage to them on this blog. One of the reasons for that is that, for example, in the US alone, buildings are responsible for about 70% of the energy consumption and for about 40% of the greenhouse gases emitted and by 2025, buildings worldwide will become the largest consumer of global energy — more than transportation and the industrial sectors combined. Smarter buildings can help owners and operators cut energy use by as much as 40 percent and cut maintenance costs by 10 to 30 percent, according to IBM.

So why am I writing about Smarter Buildings again now?

Well, last week IBM launched its Intelligent Building Management software and refers to it as IBM’s “first advanced analytics software solution for Smarter Buildings”. To showcase its potential, IBM referenced three projects using the software:

  • Tulane University (as seen in the video above)
  • the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where IBM are helping the staff better control the environment to help with the preservation of the exhibits and
  • IBM’s Rochester Minnesota campus where the rollout of the software saw an already energy-efficient campus further reduce its energy consumption by 8%, according to IBM

Now while making software to make buildings more energy-efficient is pretty cool, IBM have seriously taken it up a notch by unveiling a software solution to make cities smarter. Called the Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities this software is designed to help city officials to pull together data from divergent sources to help in the smoother running of cities.

IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Smart Cities dashboard

IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Smart Cities

This is not new software, per se. What IBM have done is taken existing relevant software from its own portfolio, combined the bits (no pun) together and laid down an analytics layer on top. This re-use of code is in itself, a nice example of Green coding!

Over the next 12 months IBM intends to offer specific Operations Center modules for public safety, water, and transportation with tools to make it easier to connect IBM?s analytical engines with existing embedded systems:

However, I suspect that the biggest issue selling city-wide software solutions will be in identifying the buyer (and/or the data owner!). A lot of the information IBM is trying to incorporate into the Intelligent Operations Center will need to come from various data silos and political fiefdoms within city government.

Having said that, if anyone can make this market, it’s probably IBM.

HP publishes paper on enabling next-generation cities

City life

Ha!

No sooner do I criticise HP for being shy about their work on Sustainability than I start to receive all these great links to stuff HP is doing in this space – result!

Overnight I received news that HP has opened a new research facility to advance sustainable data center technologies (more on which in a subsequent post) and I was sent a link to a really interesting paper HP published called Sustainable IT Ecosystems: Enabling Next-Generation Cities [PDF].

Having talked to the IBM people who are bringing their Smarter Cities product offering to market later this year, and having also talked to Living PlanIT‘s CEO Steve Lewis a bunch of times, I can see that the whole making cities more efficient market is set to explode – and at city scale, it will be a big market!

The HP paper describes an approach for building next-generation cities – which, while we already have plenty of cities, with the growing trend towards urbanisation, more and more will need to be built. Currently about 3.3 billion people (around half the world’s population) live in cities. The UN estimates this will increase to nearly 5 billion (by then 60% of the world’s population) by 2030.

The sustainable IT ecosystem introduced in this paper is based on five principles which are fleshed out in considerable detail in the paper:

  1. Ecosystem-scale life-cycle design;
  2. Scalable and configurable infrastructure building blocks;
  3. Pervasive sensing;
  4. Data analytics and visualization; and
  5. Autonomous control

The paper uses two case studies – one an urban water distribution for a city of 1.5 million people spread over 1500km2 and the other is for the efficient generation and distribution of power for an Arizona city with a population of 48,000 with an average electrical demand of 12MW. While these case studies themselves are quite interesting, they would have been far moreso if they were actual cities, as opposed to notional ones.

The paper reaches the following conclusion:

The ability to integrate IT into physical infrastructures provides a unique opportunity to improve the design and management of these infrastructures. This paper provides a framework for creating sustainable IT ecosystems: infrastructures wherein information technology is leveraged to achieve sustainability through need-based management of supply-side and demand-side resources. Future work will seek to apply and demonstrate the proposed framework to a diverse array of urban infrastructures

This kind of research is incredibly important if we are to try to live within our means on this planet – something at which we fundamentally failed to do to-date.

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IBM’s Dave Bartlett on his vision for Smarter Buildings and Smarter Cities

I had a chat with IBM’s Dave Bartlett while we were both at at Pulse 2011 about the state of Smarter Buildings and Smarter Cities today and their possibilities. I posted the first part of it yesterday – in today’s post, we discuss the future for Smarter Buildings and cities

Here’s a transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV. We are here at IBM’s Pulse 2011 Conference. And with me I have IBM’s Dave Bartlett.

Dave, you have become known as the Building Whisperer. We talked earlier about the state-of-the-now with smart buildings and that kind of stuff, but where is all this going? Sure, right now we can see the energy information coming from buildings. What are we going to be doing with this kind of stuff in five, ten years time? Where is it all going?

Dave Bartlett: Well, that’s where it gets really exciting. I mean, we have talked about how there is opportunity today to save significant energy, but if you think about the bigger play, the smarter planet play, the smarter city play, buildings is a key building block for those plays.

I mean, every building has meters. So you can take advantage of the Smart Grid Initiatives as they become realized, not only to take advantage of different time of day based pricing, but also help the city cope with or prevent brownout conditions and make sure energy is available to the core infrastructure.

Tom Raftery: So you would have buildings participating in demand response programs automatically and shifting load and that kind of stuff?

Dave Bartlett: Exactly! I mean, if you are running a city, the key thing, you want to keep the traffic system up, you want to keep the hospitals up. Maybe you don’t care about running the pool pumps in the hotel pools as an impending brownout occurs, so that you can start to make tradeoffs like that.

So it turns out smarter buildings is a great building block to create the smarter city and do that with –

Another example is emergency response. Let’s say there is a building that’s on fire. If it’s connected to a smarter transportation system, the transportation can be rerouted away from that block so that the engines actually can get to the building and not be prevented from traffic from getting there as soon as they could be.

You could also automatically power off the buildings. You could possibly decrease water pressures in the surrounding areas to maximize water pressure in that area.

So it’s a combination of the smarter water system, the smarter transportation system, the smart grid system, working with a smart building system, to really increase the efficiency of your emergency response team in the city.

Tom Raftery: Okay. You mentioned another example earlier which fascinated me. It was around just taking in weather information.

Dave Bartlett: Right. So a lot of times we operate our buildings without any thought to what the weather is doing, but if a cold front is coming within the next hour or two hours, you could make decisions as to whether or not to turn the air conditioning on or turn it off in anticipation of that.

We are also implementing a lot more free air cooling, kind of getting back to the days when we used to open windows right? A big new idea [laughs]. So unbolt some of those windows.

So being able to forecast the weather, being aware of what’s happening in terms of humidity and temperature and turn off the air conditioning and start leveraging free air cooling, not just for office environments, but for manufacturing uses, for the big chilling towers, a huge opportunity to save energy.

You don’t want to be toggling these systems back and forth. If you are really tied in a close way to weather forecasting, even on an hourly basis, you can make really good decisions when to toggle between free air and the system. So just a much smarter way to run our buildings, our manufacturing plants, our offices.

Tom Raftery: So it seems like right now the state of the now in smarter buildings that we are looking inside and the state of the future is the buildings themselves will be looking outside.

Dave Bartlett: Looking outside, because the buildings will then become — each of them will become a participant in creating or building a smarter building.

I like to say, how do you get a smarter city, one smarter building at a time. So they can become the building blocks; building blocks for — actually smarter buildings can become new eco-cubes within the city. The eco-cubes can then populate to make the subsections of a city, and then the city as a whole. So it’s a little bit easier way to approach it.

Buildings are a natural connection point for the electric grid, for water, as transportation hubs, security, and video feeds. So it’s just a natural building block. So I see, we can get going today and then have all those connection points in place and all of a sudden realize a smarter city very quickly.

Tom Raftery: Awesome! Dave, thanks a million! Thanks for coming on the show!

Dave Bartlett: Thank you!

Disclosure – IBM sponsored this video and paid T&E for me to attend Pulse.

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Friday Green Numbers round-up for March 11th 2011

Green Numbers

And here is a round-up of this week’s Green numbers…

  1. Progress Energy investing approximately $520 million dollars in smart grid technologies

    IBM today announced that it has been selected by Progress Energy as the lead systems integrator for the utility’s smart grid program. Together the companies will transform Progress Energy’s networks by improving power efficiency, increasing power quality and reliability, and enhancing capabilities for renewable energy, energy storage systems and plug-in electric vehicles.

    Progress Energy is investing approximately $520 million dollars in smart grid technologies through its two utilities that serve approximately 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida. The total investment includes $200 million from a read on …

  2. FIRST Green ‘e-Watt Saver’ 7W LED Lightbulb (Product Review)

    For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is a non-profit founded by inventor Dean Kamen over 20 years ago. It aims to inspire young people to learn about science, technology, engineering and math through challenging robotics competitions. To raise funds, they sell FIRST branded energy-saving LED lightbulbs (better than chocolate!). I had the chance to get my hands on one, so here’s my review read on …

  3. Can a Whole City Go Zero Waste?

    We’ve already seen how pay-as-you-throw trash metering can cut landfill waste in half, and we’ve witnessed whole cities make composting mandatory. So there’s little doubt that much, much more can be done by most cities to cut waste, and keep precious resources out of landfill. That’s why an announcement from my hometown that it will completely eliminate waste to landfill within three years is particularly exciting. But is it enough? read on …

  4. Carbon emissions from every public building in England and Wales

    The carbon emissions of every public building in England and Wales have been released, thanks to an FoI request by the Centre for Sustainable Energy. See what the data says about the read on …

  5. When Earth’s Human Population Was 18,500!

    Scientists have calculated that for a period lasting one million years and beginning 1.2 million years ago, at a time when our ancestors were spreading through Africa, Europe and Asia, there were probably between 18,500 to 26,000 individuals capable of breeding (and no more than 26,000). This made them an endangered species with a smaller population than today?s species such as gorillas which number 25,000 breeding individuals and chimpanzees (21,000).

    Researchers have proposed a number of explanations , such as read on …

  6. $44m Energy Efficiency savings whets AT&T’s appetite for more

    When John Schinter joined AT&T in 2009 as the company’s first energy director, he was charged with revamping the way AT&T manages energy consumption and developing programs to reduce use.
    In 2010, the telecommunications giant implemented a whopping 4,200 projects aimed at improving energy efficiency, AT&T announced today. The effort has generated $44 million in annualized energy savings, setting the stage for an even more aggressive read on …

  7. February Arctic Sea Ice Ties For Record Low As Global Snow Cover Remains High

    New data coming out of the National Snow and Ice Data Center reveals two things which may at first seem contradictory at first but aren’t: The extent of Arctic sea ice in February tied for a record low, while at the same time snow cover for January and February in the Northern Hemisphere remained extensive, ranking in the top six extents on record.

    Resolving the apparent but erroneous contradiction first, in the NSIDC’s words:
    Both linked to a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. A strongly negative AO favors outbreaks of read on …

  8. ABB wins $50 million solar order in Italy

    ABB has won a $50 million order from Phenix Renewables to deliver a 24 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant in Lazio, central Italy.

    Once connected to the grid, the Phenix solar plant will supply up to 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity a year, avoiding the generation of over 25,000 tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the annual emission of over 10,000 European cars.

    ABB will be responsible for the read on …

  9. IBM Names First 24 Recipients Of Smarter Cities Challenge Grants

    IBM today selected 24 cities worldwide to receive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants. The grants provide the cities with access to IBM’s top experts to analyze and recommend ways they can become even better place in which to live, work and play.

    The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant program in which IBM is awarding a total of $50 million worth of technology and services to 100 municipalities worldwide over the next three years. Teams of specially selected IBM experts will provide city leaders with read on …

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