IBM Jumps into the Water
In January, I was sifting through clean tech press coverage for our quarterly meeting with the Austin Clean Energy Council and I couldn't help but be amazed by the frenzy of optimism (otherwise known as market hype) in the business press related to smart grid technologies. I can't help it, I'm a sucker for new, exciting markets with growth potential. That is probably why I'm in the PR technology profession.
Back to my point, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Wired, The New York Times, CNN, etc. were all speculating on the money to be made by updating the U.S. power grid (which is, according to utility experts, still in the dark ages, along with much of the U.S. infrastructure. This is all relative, of course).
The coverage was fueled by President Obama's declarations for serious investment into smart grid technologies. Though, what probably impressed me more than anything I read at the time was that IBM's Venture Capital Group had set its sights on the smart grid. Keep in mind this group does not invest in companies, instead it talks to start-ups and VCs to determine future trends. So, this means they aren't nearly as biased as the typical corporate investment wing that invests in the technology, then promotes its potential like crazy.
This past Friday, IBM executed on this vision and announced it is unveiling a new line of water services to help manage water more effectively and find new ways to reduce pollution. The release explained that this is part of a larger initiative the company is rolling out to overhaul infrastructure and power grid issues facing utilities.
I must admit, I'm all for improving the energy system, but I tend to get cynical when I think I'm going to have to wait for the government to accomplish this task (and I worked for the govt. briefly, so i can say this). But seeing an industry heavyweight like IBM jump into this effort in full force is refreshing to see. Granted, dollar signs are the motivation, but there's nothing wrong with making money by improving living and environmental conditions.
As IBM's CEO Sam Palmisano explained, "We will not simply ride out the storm. Rather, we will take a long-term view, and go on offense."
I will save my feelings on "storm" sound-bites for another day, but regardless, I like IBM's approach to this problem and I hope it is successful.