IBM has models for finding the lowest-energy way to move goods from place to place. Japanese sensor company Omron Corp. makes things like traffic controls, automotive electronics and industrial automation equipment.

The two firms have decided they're a good match to help companies cut their energy use, and thus their greenhouse gas emissions.

That's the basis of a partnership announced Thursday that aims first to help Japanese transportation and manufacturing companies, and eventually spread around the globe.

The idea is to link IBM's routing and transportation modal-shift modeling tools to Omron's sensors to bring real-world data to IBM's abstract models, said Eric Riddleberger, head of IBM's corporate social responsibility consulting efforts.

"We're adding linkages to their sensors so that the work can be done, not in real time, but much more in real time, to support the needs of clients," he said. It's part of a suite of services IBM is aiming at helping companies save on energy costs and meet carbon reduction goals (see IBM Expands Efficiency Offerings).

Startups including Planet Metrics and Carbonetworks have taken up the same challenge, while major corporations including Cisco Systems, Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems are pushing their own greenhouse gas reduction initiatives and lines of business (see Planet Metrics Launches Carbon Modeling, Raises $2.3M).

Given that the United States may soon join Europe and other nations in pledging to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, helping companies find ways to cut the carbon from their supply chains could become a very lucrative business (see House Energy Bill: Cap-and-Trade Included and EPA Proposes Rule to Collect More Greenhouse-Gas Emissions).

That could lead international carbon markets, which stood at $118 billion at the end of last year, to grow to as much as $500 billion by 2012, according to New Carbon Finance.

All in all, as much as $45 trillion in clean energy investments may be needed to cut carbon dioxide emissions enough to prevent catastrophic climate change, the International Energy Agency reports (see Can You Spare $45T to Curb Global Warming?).

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