Ever since Ben Franklin tried to get electricity from his own “cloud” via a kite string during a thunderstorm (warning: please don’t try that at home), energy problems have been entwined with security, climate and location issues. In Dr. Franklin’s case, there were needs for transmitting the energy from “there” (the cloud) to “here” (his jar), as well as storing and using it effectively.

Energy and Climate Problems Today

Ben Franklin was, among many things, the world’s leading expert on energy in his day. He not only understood electricity in all its forms, but his invention of the lightning rod for buildings continues to save countless lives and billions of dollars per year. Ben Franklin was also a leading expert on climate science: According to PBS, he studied weather patterns throughout his life, and he was one of the first to examine and hypothesize about the Gulf Stream.

Our era doesn’t use kites to directly capture electricity from clouds, but we do use aerodynamic blades on wind turbines to generate electricity from the wind. Unfortunately, today’s serious energy problems — such as deteriorating infrastructure, community availability disparities, adverse climate effects and others — seem to be intractable. Often, however, these issues can be mitigated by securing energy and securely using information to better understand critical areas within the energy industry.

Cognitive security capabilities can help understand problems in energy usage, protect energy infrastructure during its entire operational and financial life cycle and safely aid, operate and leverage existing resources sustainably.

It has long been remarked that modern society hardly has an energy shortage; the sunlight reaching the Earth on any given day could power it, and we are literally awash in recently found natural gas. There are, however, huge problems in understanding energy usage and in securing its infrastructure — getting the energy from here to there safely, reliably and efficiently.

Whatever one thinks about the climate, I have yet to hear anyone debate the fact that we urgently need to keep the air clean and the water pure, and to appropriately provide energy to those who need it. Another interesting point of consensus is that the energy infrastructure is fragile and needs to be protected via its cyber elements. How can we learn, anticipate, mitigate and shape the climate issues of our time?

Cognitive Security and the Energy Industry

That’s where deep capabilities in cognitive security come in. The key is that IBM Cognitive Security is iterative in that it can help predict the climate’s impact on energy requirements and infrastructure while simultaneously reducing any adverse impact on the climate from energy production.

Cognitive security can help understand — with full capabilities for anonymization, data integrity and user privacy — vast amounts of information. It can assimilate it, understand it and use it to predict trends.

For example, even if an electric generation system or transmission line doesn’t have full capability to handle a peak load at all times, it is possible to stagger demand and the load if the underlying usage statistics and projections are well understood. This can be done with financial and other incentives tailored to (and welcomed by) the individual user.

Similarly, most northeast oil and gas generation is delivered to customers by a complex network of data-enabled pipelines, railroad tank cars and barges. Solid mega items like energy transmission lines are greatly impacted by the amount of electricity they carry and by weather factors such as lightning, wind and temperature.

IBM’s Cognitive Security capabilities are vital in monitoring the technical security of this infrastructure and helping provide nondefeatable situational awareness. We may also use Watson’s cognitive abilities in climate science and modeling to optimize climate impact on tracks, vehicles, transmission lines and waterways.

Moving Toward the Future

We haven’t seen a scientist quite like Ben Franklin since his time, but it’s a pleasant reverie to wonder what he would think of Watson’s cognitive abilities. Perhaps they would find a lot in common. Dr. Franklin had only two years of formal schooling (his many degrees were honorary), but he read and encouraged others to read voluminously.

Watson, of course, is voracious in reading and assimilating vast amounts of technical journals. Ben Franklin was self-taught; Watson teaches himself, as well. Perhaps their energy conversations would prove most interesting — and, dare I say, enlightening.

Energized by Watson, IBM Cognitive Security solutions will protect energy at the points of generation and transmission, predict usage based on weather, securely allocate and process revenue and costs and appropriately guide the privacy of energy users. With Watson’s help, we can predict the impact of weather on energy and do many things to help leverage the weather efficiently.

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