• 05.27.09

How Big Blue Is Pursuing Its Share of $101 Billion in Tech Stimulus Spending

When it comes to economic crisis, grizzled veterans like IBM have stared into the abyss before and lived to tell the tale. We look at how several giants are approaching today’s meltdown with distinctive strategies for not only surviving but also thriving.

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It’s also a grab for the estimated $101 billion in IT spending on U.S. projects triggered by the stimulus package, according to market forecaster IDC. Although IBM has laid off nearly 8,000 employees so far this year, some groups are pursuing and winning new business.

Allan Schurr

Six months ago, IBM began “adding intelligence,” as it puts it, to the grid north of Dallas. Oncor, a local utility, has been installing about 15,000 smart meters a week in homes and businesses. Instead of monthly readings performed in person, the new meters inform Oncor’s network about energy use every 15 minutes. IBM analyzes the new data to let consumers monitor consumption, like tracking phone usage online; the utility expects power usage to drop by 10%, which corresponds to a similar cut in carbon emissions.

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Oncor’s plan to install 3 million smart meters by 2012 is just one of about 50 IBM smart-grid projects already underway. In another promising project in Washington State, IBM software prices electricity according to supply and demand, and customers can adjust power-gorging activities, such as cooking or doing laundry, to cheaper, off-peak rates.

“There’s an urgency now like I’ve never seen, coming from all over the world,” says Schurr. “The utilities are acting all at once to change their business.”

To read about how Cisco, Corning, Intel, and Charles Schwab are weathering the current economic storm, be sure to check out “Through the Fire” from our June issue.

Related: What is the Smart Grid, Anyway?

Read more of Fast Company‘s Recession Remedy series.

About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug.