IBM and Columbia University are set to groom the next generation of workers in the emerging green economy through an initiative called the “Smarter Cities Skills Initiative.” The two innovation powerhouses have joined forces to engage students in becoming part of a global movement that is transforming aging urban infrastructure into a more energy efficient, sustainable mode of operation.
The initiative kicks off on Earth Day with a free public forum at Columbia called Smarter Students for a Smarter Planet, which brings 150 other schools around the globe to the table through a webcast. The focus will be on combining IBM’s technology resources and Columbia’s academic programs including business, law and engineering, to prepare students to enter a job market with growing opportunities in creating more sustainable buildings, electricity grids, and transportation.
How Smart is a Smart City?
In a conversation with Cleantechnica, IBM V.P. for Energy and Environment Rich Lechner sees significant possibilities in “smart building” technology, with energy savings ranging up to 50%. From a software perspective, that would mean two basic things. First, it involves systems that automatically monitor and control energy use to match a building’s operation in real time, which for one thing would practically eliminate the lit-up empty buildings that dominate the night skyline. Second, it involves real time feedback that enables individual offices to track their energy use and compare themselves with similar operations. Nothing like a little competition to motivate savings! Lechner describes it as a type of dashboard that enables pinpoint control, in much the same way that we refer to a car dashboard for feedback on the road and adjust our behavior accordingly.
IBM’s Technology Resources
The new initiative provides Columbia faculty and students with free access to IBM software, tech support for green IT courses, and open standards software tools, along with thousands of business and academic partners worldwide through the company’s IBM Innovation Centers and the opportunity to collaborate with IBM researchers. For the average person walking down the street, a building that reaps the benefit of the new systems will look practically the same (check out the “new” energy efficient Empire State Building, for example), but the impact will be a significant one that will play a crucial role in a more sustainable future.
Image: New York City by Tony the Misfit on flickr.com.
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