Recently IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano spoke about an increasingly urgent topic at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City. In a talk entitled A Smarter Planet: The Next Leadership Agenda, Sam insisted that he was being literal: "This isn't just a metaphor. I mean infusing intelligence into the way the world literally works - the systems and processes that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold… services to be delivered… everything from people and money to oil, water and electrons to move… and billions of people to work and live."
Over the next 10-20 years, analysts are estimating that $10-20 trillion will be spent on energy infrastructure globally, as antiquated power grids are replaced with "smart grids". This means big opportunities for the utility companies, start-ups, and the venture capital community to help make our planet a lot "smarter" about the energy we generate, distribute and consume. Think of the $1 trillion plus we have already invested in the Internet...how can we leverage this information infrastructure investment into driving intelligence across the electric grid, creating a kind of "Energy Web" with IP-addressable endpoints that act as intelligent sensors to enable utilities to look down into the demand in near real time, and consumers to take an active role in energy conservation.
Contrary to the doom-and-gloom we are hearing on a daily/hourly basis about the implosion of our financial system and resultant dampening effect on risk equity, we believe this is a terrific time to develop and bring such ideas forward. There has never been a time when we have been in more need of innovation around our energy infrastructure, and now is the time to join forces and collaborate around some practical and pragmatic solutions that will bring alternative sources of energy together with the intelligent infrastructure to deliver it where it's needed.