From Big Blue to Big Brown as IBM expands into sewage management and other green initiatives

IBM representatives were in San Francisco on Tuesday to announce a partnership with the city around several green initiatives and also to launch several broader initiatives that include the development of advanced battery technologies at its Almaden Research Center in San Jose.I met with Alan Ganek, CTO and VP in IBM's Software Group, and Richard Lechner VP of Energy and Environment at IBM.

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IBM representatives were in San Francisco on Tuesday to announce a partnership with the city around several green initiatives and also to launch several broader initiatives that include the development of advanced battery technologies at its Almaden Research Center in San Jose.

I met with Alan Ganek, CTO and VP in IBM's Software Group, and Richard Lechner VP of Energy and Environment at IBM. Mr Lechner is responsible for IBM's green initiatives.

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

- IBM is working with cities such as San Francisco to help them reduce their costs of maintaining infrastructure. For example, in San Francisco IBM technology is being used to monitor more than 1000 miles of sewage pipes. It allows the city to predict where problems will occur and fix pipes proactively. This sewage project is the first of its kind but IBM expects many more. It is a major new business for IBM and it is helping to create an industry alliance.

- IBM has three focus areas: facilities management in buildings; manufacturing systems; and IT data centers. A lot of its smart sensor technology and power management technologies used in IT data centers is being used for similar purposes in buildings and industrial systems.

- IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose is leading key initiatives such as the development of lithium air batteries. These store ten times the amount of electric power as today's lithium ion batteries. It is a multi-year project utilizing IBM's nanotechnology expertise to create new types of membranes in batteries. These batteries will be used in electric cars and also storing electric power during off-peak periods.

- IBM is applying water cooled mainframe technology, which it has developed over several decades, to cooling large numbers of servers at the processor level. This technique has been used to cool a supercomputer in Zurich and the waste heat is used to heat office buildings. It has resulted in 30 tons of CO2 savings per year.

- IBM has been involved in 3300 green engagements and the average return on investment is 18 months including an average of 40 per cent reduction in power costs.

- Government organizations and municipalities can qualify for tens of billions of dollars in stimulus package monies for green initiatives. IBM helps those organizations qualify for those funds.

- The largest bottleneck is in getting various departments within customer organizations work together. There is still a silo mentality. This is a cultural change and requires business reengineering.

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