IBM remains the leader of AI at world scale with Watson. Besides, the most powerful Supercomputer currently in service is Summit. AIs and Supercomputers not only use a ton of energy, but they are also at the heart of understanding, mitigating, and solving this global problem. They recognized that you couldn’t be both a significant part of the problem and a credible part of the solution. As a result, IBM designed Summit so that it could self-regulate its emissions-reducing its carbon footprint and creating a more sustainable solution.
Let’s talk sustainability on this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.
Earth Day is one day every year when we focus on our planet. Given moving to another world is a tad problematic both due to distance and the fact that no other planet within reach of our technology is currently habitable, keeping the planet we live on viable should be a higher priority than it is.
One of the significant trends in the technology segment is to focus on creating products that help make our environment sustainable. IBM has long been a company that cares about the environment with significant efforts going back decades in support of the concept that a company can both be profitable and environmentally friendly.
IBM’s Sustainable Focus
The company since I left the company several decades ago, IBM has ramped up its sustainability efforts significantly. For instance, Satori, a new IBM POWER9 supercomputer deployed at MIT, is showcasing the first-of-its-kind carbon calculator. This carbon calculator estimates carbon emissions for the workloads running the Supercomputer, helping to identify how these applications can be made more power-efficient. MIT, using a concept called a “Green Hackathon,” used the resulting insight to increase the efficiency of their applications and create a blueprint for how large companies and institutions can create more sustainable applications.
Summit, their most powerful Supercomputer, which is based in Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and ranked as the most powerful Supercomputer in the world (it is interesting to note that IBM has the 1st, 2nd, and 10th most powerful supercomputers in the world as of June 2019). This computer uses a self-regulated water-cooling system that tops up automatically when needed while understanding the causes behind related temperature fluctuations to predict and implement optimal settings for energy efficiency.
But it isn’t just in building these supercomputers where IBM is focused, and they are also helping to point these massive processing resources to sustainable tasks. For instance, they have a project in my State to identify spotted owls by their calls in an impressive effort to help protect this endangered species using a convolutional neural network.
They also have a project that combines the Oregon State University Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing and the Plankton Ecology Lat at OSU Hatfield to track and assess plankton. Plankton is at the base of the food web in the world’s oceans and freshwater ecosystems.
IBM’s AI and Supercomputer efforts are not only a showcase technology applied to things like weather tracking, endangered species protection, and understanding critical parts of our ecosystem, but they are also showcasing on how to design and build sustainable systems. These efforts are consistent with a company that has a long history of understanding the need to protect our environment, one that recognizes that if we don’t take care of the world we live in, we’ll be in dire straits.
On this Earth Day, we should all remember we only have one planet, one place to call home, and the tools we develop need to consider that. In the case of IBM’s Supercomputer and AI efforts, the company is not only designing sustainable products. It is creating them to work on projects that help protect our home—something to noodle on this week.