International Business Machines (IBM) Corp. announced Monday that it has signed a contract with the Beijing Municipal government to help curb the capital’s air pollution. The agreement is part of IBM’s “Green Horizon” initiative, a 10-year program designed to more efficiently manage China’s electricity, solar, and wind resources and protect the health of its citizens. The Beijing initiative will utilize IBM’s weather forecasting and cloud computing technologies to help combat the city’s notorious smog.

The Beijing government currently keeps track of the most harmful inhalable particulate matter (known as PM2.5) and can initiate emergency measures when it reaches unsafe levels. However, many say this is not enough. IBM plans to install its latest generation of optical sensors across the city and run data through artificial-intelligence systems to create detailed maps of future air pollution. These maps will show the source and dispersion of pollutants in the city up to 72 hours before they accumulate, which should allow officials to respond more effectively.

IBM also will look to help China make use of renewable energy and reduce the amount of energy wasted. Their cloud computing technologies will model weather patterns to predict the availability of wind and solar power and enable power plants to operate according to supply. A demonstration project using this technology in Hebei province has already helped to reduce wasted power by 10 percent.

The Beijing government has set a goal of reducing PM2.5 levels by 25 percent by 2017. However, its many efforts to reduce pollution—which included a ban on barbecues—have not done much to solve the problem. A partnership6 with IBM, which has over 20 years of weather modelling, should lend more authority to government orders, according to Quartz.

Posted by Catherine Matacic