Tag Archives: environment

IBM Research – Ireland

Ireland is the proud host of the one and only IBM Smarter Cities Technology Centre. This lab conducts research in water, energy, marine environments, city fabric, transportation and computing offering such features as Smarter Water, Smarter Transportation and Smarter Energy.

The lab is led by top researchers from leading academic institutions including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Cambridge University, the Australian National University, and Trinity College Dublin. Additionally, the lab is directed and managed by individuals with significant experience at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

The research lab conducts research in collaboration with leading universities, cities, and industry partners and focuses on science and technology for intelligent urban and environmental systems considering such areas as analytics, optimizations, and systems for sustainable energy, urban water management, transportation, and the underlying city fabric that assimilates and shares data and models for these domains. Even though it has been operating for over a year now, it still belongs to the pioneers in the field. A most interesting research centre.

As an example, we have added a link to IBM’s activities in the “Smart Water” space.

Smarter water



LED lights, lightning technology of the future.

In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the conventional light bulb. But nowadays, the efficiency of this bulb has changed. These traditional bulbs work on the simple premise that when metal is heated enough, it lights up. And to heat up this metal, electricity is used. This all sounds very good, but unfortunately, only a small 10 per cent of the electricity needed to heat up the metal is actually converted into light. The rest is all used to produce the heat. So this makes for a lot of energy loss and new, more efficient ways to create light are needed.

This is all especially interesting with all the concerns for the environment that go around these days. The world decided to look for better energy saving options and that’s why the whole world searched for a better technology that efficiently converts energy to light. An example of a new and more efficient way to create light is the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). There is less energy loss but the downside here is that this technology is very hostile to the environment. They contain for example mercury, which is poisonous. So disposal of such lamps created a challenge that is an environmental nightmare.

With CFLs and fluorescent light bulbs being at the peak of their technology curve in terms of energy efficiency, the need arose to create again a new technology. This new technology has all the answers to energy efficiency and doesn’t have the downside of environmental issues. This fast emerging technology is called light emitting diodes, better known as LED. It is believed that this will become the next major shift in lightening standards worldwide.

When this technology was first commercialized, it was associated with lighting signs, architectural and decorative lights, and the back lightening for TV’s, computers and mobile phones. But today, LED technology has taken a quantum leap and products using LED technology are being produced for public, industrial, commercial and household use.

Lee Choo Boo, Group MD and CEO of ItraMAS Group Malaysia, says that for the last few years, there has been a global shift towards pursuing better technologies that promote energy efficiency. That’s why better energy saving options for the incandescent bulbs were needed and that’s why CFL and LED are new technologies that are very welcome.

In Malaysia, the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water, announced the phasing out of the traditional, incandescent bulbs. This will culminate in a ban for these light bulbs in 2014. This is in line with the worldwide trend and it shows the commitment of the Malaysian government to energy efficiency and savings.

ItraMAS, a home-grown Malaysian company, says that it will be difficult for Malaysians to shift their mindset to the new LED lights. They say that people in Malaysia are wary of change. That’s why knowledge and awareness of LEDs is very important.

So one of the most important things to know is how these LED lights work and what the advantages are. They create light by converting electricity, this is what all the light bulbs do. But it is important to realize that LED lights consumer far less energy than any other form of lightening. The conversion of electricity into light happens much more efficient than any other lightening technology because LEDs use semiconductor materials. That’s why they use only 20 per cent of the electricity a traditional incandescent light uses. So this also translates into a 80 per cent less energy cost.

Another advantage is that LED lights last longer. They can last for up to 20 years . Other advantages are that they generate little or no heat and are mercury-free and therefore completely safe for the environment.

There is only one more issues that needs to be addressed and that is that when you are choosing between different LED lights, the packages label the bulb’s brightness in lumens. S you need to know and understand this term if you want to find a light bulb that suits you the most. Lumens are a measurement of the total amounts of light while watts, which people generally associate with light, measure how much energy is used by the light bulb.

So a change today is that when people select lights, they have to choose by brightness and not by energy use. The desirable light is probably one with a high lumens and a low wattage. This means more light for every watt put in, and this is called efficacy in the LED industry. So the higher the efficacy, the more energy saving. And another important thing to know is the higher the lumen count, the brighter the light.

A downside, especially for people that don’t like change, is that the LED lights look very expensive at first. But you have to realize that they have a lifespan of 20 years and that they cut electricity bills. So the money you pay extra on your bulbs is quickly recouped. In the long run, this technology will save money for individuals, businesses and societies as a whole.

Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC)

One of the greatest challenges facing the EU in the future will be that cities have to start adapting to smart intelligent and sustainable environments. That’s why the European Commission launched a Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (SCC). The main reasons why the Commission launched the SCC is to gather resources from energy, transport and the IT sector and they also want to boost the development of smart technologies in cities. They’ve set aside €365 million in EU funds for these types of urban technology solutions for 2013.

Cities have to grow into Smart Cities and they have to start developing and using innovative smart technologies. But cities face limitation in the development of these technologies due to high technological risks, difficulties over certain returns on investments or regulatory difficulties.

Günther Oettinger, Energy Commissioner, pointed out that innovations are needed in Europe to drive competitiveness and he said that innovation is the best means of addressing energy efficiency. The new technologies, like high efficiency heating and cooling systems, smart metering, real-time energy management and zero-energy buildings, that already exist need to be spread more among all the European cities and the SCC will help with this.

Siim Kallas, Commission Vice-President responsible for transport, added that European cities suffer a lot from road accidents, poor air quality and noise. He said it’s important to work towards CO2 free cities and to get there, more advanced research and innovation is needed. And Neelie Kroes, Commission Vice-President responsible for digital agenda, added that cities need to rethink how to reduce congestion and increase energy efficiency in the urban environment. He said it’s the ICT that puts the “smart” in Smart Cities and this challenges other industries.

Some of the major challenges that the SCC will tackle are for example the congestion. Nearly 75% of European citizens live in cities and they consumer about 70% of EU’s energy, this costs Europe about 1% of its GDP every year. So the smart urban technologies need to tackle challenges like this.

Liverpool: The Smart City

The smart cities idea is a massive initiative, covering all aspects of business and life with aim of changing our world for the better. Details of Liverpool’s ambition to becoming the UK’s first smart city were underlined by the city leaders, alongside the heads of business, industry and technology experts.

Six main areas are used to identify smart cities, that of: economy; mobility; environment; people; living and governance. Each of these areas include a wide range of needs that must be met in order to help communities grow and reduce strain on resources. Urban populations are fast growing, placing greater pressure on cities infrastructures which were not designed to service as many people as they are doing. Conversion to a smart city goes a long way in solving this complicated problem.

Speaking at the debate in Liverpool Town hall last week, Mike Parker, the Chairman of Liverpool Vision and Liverpool’s Smart City board had this to say:

“Future investment will flow into those cities that can demonstrate they have an innovative, green, adaptive infrastructure and this is why we want to become, a Smart City.

“Like our competitor cities Liverpool faces many economic, social and technological challenges but we are in a remarkably good position to meet them.

“Our ambition is matched by our determination and our enterprise is matched by our creativity.

“We have an elected Mayor on the Prime Minister’s mayoral cabinet who works closely with Liverpool Vision, an organisation configured for partnership and it is the strength of our relationships with the private sector, the universities, Homes and Communities Agency and other agencies that has enabled us to transform the city and raise our ambition and will continue to do so in the future.”

Concluding Parker’s words came a statement from Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool:

“Ultimately, Smart City is about jobs and it is about economic growth and creating a better future and they are my main priorities as Mayor.”

It would seem that all of Liverpool’s major players in both politics and business are on board with the smart city idea. What we now need to see is how quickly Liverpool can become such a city.

Who will be the showcase smart city for the UK?

As the smart city idea becomes increasingly important in the eyes of the world, the United Kingdom is on the look-out for one city to become its showcase for the technology. The  Future Cities Demonstrator project wished to invest £25 million in the integrated city systems marketing with an aim of demonstrating how transport, communications and other items of city infrastructure can be integrated to improve quality of life, the local economy and to reduce the impact on the environment.

Around twenty cities, Liverpool included, will be competing for the grant. Smaller grants of £50,000 are being given to run feasibility studies and produce proposals as to how the new technology will be integrated into their city. Ultimately only one city will gain the prize grant money needed to carry out their plan.

Cities globally face massive problems in terms of congestion, waste, pressure on resources and changes in population and demographics.  The Smart Cities initiative aims to reduce all of these areas through the use of technology. For now, the question is, who will lead the UK on this venture?