IBM Expands Green Horizons Effort To Fight Pollution Globally

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Targeting India and Africa, IBM announced an expansion of its Green Horizons initiative to address environmental and pollution challenges

IBM Research announced it is expanding its Green Horizons initiative globally to help city governments, utility companies and factories to improve their relationships with the environment and to also tackle issues related to air pollution and climate change.

The announcement builds on a year-long collaboration with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB), expanding to include over a dozen commercial deals and research engagements on four continents.



IBM’s China Research lab is working with the Beijing EPB to provide an advanced air quality forecasting and decision support system, able to generate high-resolution 1km-by-1km pollution forecasts 72 hours in advance and pollution trend predictions up to 10 days into the future.

The system models and predicts the effects of weather on the flow and dispersal of pollutants as well as the airborne chemical reactions between weather and pollutant particles. In the first three quarters of this year, the Beijing government was able to achieve a 20 percent reduction in ultra-fine particulate matter (PM), bringing it closer to its goal of reducing PM 2.5 by 25 percent by 2017.

The new Green Horizons engagements apply IBM’s machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to ingest and learn from vast amounts of big data, constantly self-configuring and improving in accuracy to create accurate energy and environmental forecasting systems.

“Even as society is looking to address some of the biggest challenges of our generation — environmental degradation and climate change — two game-changing technologies have emerged that are completely transforming our understanding of the world in which we live,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, in a statement. “With Green Horizons, we are applying the most advanced cognitive computing and IoT technologies, combined with world-class analytics, to enable forward-looking government and business leaders in their efforts to make better decisions that can help safeguard the health of citizens today while helping to protect the long-term health of the planet.”

Big Blue’s engagements with Green Horizons include an agreement with the Delhi Dialogue Commission to understand the correlation between traffic patterns and air pollution in India’s capital of New Delhi and provide the government with ‘what if’ scenario modeling to support more informed decision-making for cleaner air.

“Air pollution is a global challenge and one of the top environmental risks to human health. Our India research team is helping to create a powerful decision support system with unprecedented accuracy,” said Dr. Ramesh Gopinath, vice president and CTO of IBM Research, India, in a statement. “This will not only advance understanding of today’s issues, but provide actionable insight for addressing them while also protecting economic activity and livelihoods. The Delhi government is taking bold and futuristic steps to transform the city’s air quality and we are committed to help them with our most advanced technologies and best talent from around the world.”

Moving forward

air pollutionIBM also has engaged in a pilot program with the city of Johannesburg and South Africa’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to model air pollution trends and quantify the effectiveness of the city’s programs supporting Johannesburg’s air quality targets and long-term sustainable development.

“Air pollution is now the world’s largest environmental health risk. While Johannesburg does not yet have the air pollution challenges to the scale of the world’s megacities, continued economic and demographic growth mean that the city government must take action now to safeguard the future health of the city and its people,” said Solomon Assefa, director of IBM’s South Africa Research Lab, in a statement. “The combined power of Internet of Things and cognitive computing means that understanding, managing and forecasting air quality today is more technically and economically feasible than ever before.”

Nthatisi Modingoane, deputy director of communications for the city of Johannesburg, added, “For Johannesburg to be a world-class African city, we need world-class solutions to deliver on pressing problems like air pollution. This is where our partnership with IBM comes in. Using advanced decision analytics and pollution forecasting technologies, we will strengthen our air quality management strategies and gain greater situational awareness of the challenges at hand.”

IBM has additional clean air projects in China with the Environmental Protection Bureau in Baoding — one of China’s most polluted cities — to support the city’s environmental transformation; the city of Zhangjiakou, host to the 2022 Winter Olympics, to improve air quality for the outdoor sporting event; and Xinjiang Province in north-west China.

“Air pollution and climate change are global challenges that require stronger action by government and business,” said Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), in a statement. “To get to a clean energy future, we need accurate data about emissions, air quality and power generation. Advanced technologies can provide crucial insights about our impacts on the environment — today and in the future.”

In addition, IBM’s Green Horizons program is delivering on its promise to help increase contributions of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources in to national grids. New customer engagements include:

  • UK energy giant SSE is piloting IBM technology to help forecast power generation at its wind farms in Great Britain. The system is able to forecast energy for individual turbines and includes visualization tools to show expected performance several days ahead.
  • In Japan, IBM is working with the Toyo Engineering Corporation and renewable energy company Setouchi Future Creations LLC on the Setouchi solar project. IBM’s monitoring systems will help Setouchi control energy from the plant’s 890,000 solar panels.
  • Through the United States Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative, IBM is making renewable energy forecasting technology available to government agencies, utilities and grid operators to support supply and demand planning.
  • IBM is working with Chinese wind power solution provider Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. to use IoT, cloud computing, big data analyticsand other technologies. Also in China, Shenyang Keywind Renewable Company is using cognitive forecasting technologies to help integrate more energy into the grid.
  • The Zhangbei Demonstration Project, managed by China’s State Grid Jibei Electricity Power Company, is tapping the power of Green Horizons renewable energy forecasting technology to integrate 10 percent more alternative energy into the national grid, enough to power more than 14,000 homes.

IBM’s Green Horizons initiative is based on innovations from the company’s research laboratory in Beijing, with contributions from leading environmental experts across IBM’s global network of research labs.


“In the past two decades China has been at the center of global manufacturing and economic growth,” said Dr. Xiaowei Shen, director of IBM Research, China. “However, this great progress has come at a cost and today the Chinese government has placed air pollution and climate change high on the national agenda. With Chinese investments into green innovation worth billions of dollars and with a new budding generation of environmental scientists coming to the fore, China is the natural starting point for IBM’s Green Horizons initiative which is now being exported to other parts of the world.”

To support China’s clean air action plan, IBM has entered a number of collaborations across the country. Building on their existing relationship, IBM and the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau are launching a new Joint Environmental Innovation Center that will provide decision support capabilities to the Beijing government.

Using scenario modeling, the government will be able to optimize its emission reduction strategy and seek a balance between clean air and continued economic growth. Measures include short term limitations on urban traffic and construction activity as well as long term improvements to industrial production and power generation — such as switching to cleaner energy sources and installing filtering systems. The Beijing EPB also uses a colored alert system to warn citizens when harmful levels of pollution are forecast for the coming days.

“Our environmental engineers are working on a daily basis to tackle Beijing’s complex and challenging pollution problem and protect the health of citizens,” said Dawei Zhang, director of Beijing’s Environmental Monitoring Center, a department of the BEPB.

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Originally published on eWeek.