IBM Expands Green Horizons Effort to Fight Pollution Globally

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

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

The announcement builds on a year-long collaboration with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) and includes more than 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 that is 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.”

IBM 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.”