May The Force be energy efficient

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Elisa WoodBy Elisa Wood

March 9, 2011

It was hard to get excited about IBM’s Watson besting two humans in the TV game show Jeopardy and walking away with a $1 million prize last month. After all, thanks to the entertainment industry, we’ve seen robots and computers win in all kinds of ways, from HAL duping the smart astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey to R2D2 disabling the Death Star. What’s the big deal about racking up some trivia points?

Stay tuned because Watson’s got bigger plans. This computer system understands natural language and can use that ability to solve problems and answer questions precisely. As IBM tells it, Watson can use this ability to bring us beyond smart grid into genius grid.

If you’re an energy company looking to hire something that appears to be a Google/C3P0 hybrid, consider Watson’s curriculum vitae. IBM says that Watson can:

  • Assist energy personnel working in the field and educate consumers about their energy use – a distribution line worker and marketing specialists all in one.
  • Help with decision-making in energy control rooms. Watson where were you in August 2003?
  • Be on standby via cell phone (no lunch breaks) to answer queries from field personnel who need help with troubleshooting. Watson can suggest the correct action to fix a power disruption and identify causes of certain problems in the field.

At a more personal level, Watson can teach humans about their energy consumption, according to IBM.  Watson’s a quick study and can assimilate energy best practice databases. Consumers might query Watson on how to improve their energy management. Watson would answer by drawing on deep knowledge of smart meter data, weather and historical information.

Watson, it appears, may put our robot heroes from Star Wars and 2001 to shame. I’ve always wondered how much energy The Force used, especially when the Jedi were all using their lightsabers at once. Maybe Watson can offer them a little advice on peak shaving.

This blog is open source & copyright free with attribution to

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. Scott Minos says:

    I respectfully take great exception to the apparent advice to have Watson teach us in any way. First, it is important to remember Watson is an it, not a person. To refer to Watson his its name gives it personality, which iot does not have. It’s intelligence is artificial; Watson was built BY humans – we teach IT, not vice versa. Can it react to human voice? Yes. Can it spit back stats or trivis? Yes. Does it do either flawlessly? NO! We do need supercomputing power to calcuate at great speed. But that does not mean it should think for us in a cold, calculated manner.

    We sent people to the moon with little more than a slide ruler and protractor. How? We taught ourselves and wanted to learn. And we gathered that knowledge into a common effort. It was REAL intelligence and took into account the human factor. And it provided no better or worse track record than the Watson computer. Lets invest in HUMAN intelligence and depend on each other and our ability to learn and think, rather than pass the buck to an artificial “person” with artificial intelligence.

  2. I love IBM’s Watson for the many possibilities that it shall soon prove as extremely invaluable to our society., as an overall.

    We have our E2E Tech which can cleanly create 40 MW or power ( zero emissions of electric power ) per one High-end custom engineered commercial location.

    Having it manned 24/7 by people is the norm. However – Our future goal shall be to consider using this new super computer/s abilities to control our new E2E Tech versus having a full staff.

    People do get tired or sleepy or very distracted or they can often make some erroneous mistakes if on duty with a hang-over. In this instance these mistakes can cost lives.

    Power plants are highly expensive – as an Overall. And to be clear. I am not saying that we shall be seeking to omit people. But adding IBM Watson into this mix can and shall make for a much greater functionality factor for our rather complete E2E TECH system – A streamline easy.

    And since our E2E Tech is so new. IBM Watson could understand it faster and easier then others with pre-conceived ” antiquated ” Electro-Mech. Engineering concepts.

    I have sent them. IBM Watson an e-mail but have yet to get any reply ?

    Thank You,

    Sarah Angelina DeLagostti
    CEO Extreme Engineer
    Manhattan NY City & TN
    United State Territories
    Skype I.D. SaraAngelina007
    646 620-0881
    731 593-0076