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.
Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work appears in many of the industry’s top magazines and newsletters. She is publisher of the Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.