Water systems typically espouse thoughts of boring, archaic, underground concrete and steel structures that mean little so long as clean water pours out the tap. Indeed, most tax payers find the thought of water infrastructure investments puzzling when water prices are relatively low and proof of bad pipes are invisible (at least above ground).
But getting smart about water has suddenly become interesting.
As a global community, we know relatively little about a resource we rely so heavily upon. Governments are increasingly aware of their global water risk exposure and have engaged in various studies to get a grip on their water data. Just this week:
- The European Union (EU) released its 2009 follow-up report on water scarcity and droughts in the EU.
- The United States Geological Survey released a study on contaminants in groundwater used for public supply.
- Sri Lanka released conference proceedings from its National Conference on Water, Food Security and Climate Change outlining various papers collecting water data.
The above illustrates how our water scarce world is in critical need of the deliberate collection and analysis of water. While the collection of some data sets will require significant investment (think data on everything from ocean temperature to air quality), there is plenty of existing data awaiting collection and analysis like SCADA, which stands for supervisory control and data acquisition.
While governments are getting a clue, so too is industry. To be sure, public-private partnerships will be critical in advancing sustainable, data driven smart water systems.
IBM, for example, is leading the charge with such projects including one with the Marine Institute in Galway Bay to collect data from a variety of sources aimed at informing a number of industries. The data collection is as impressive as it ambitious:
And according to Peter Williams, CTO of IBM’s Big Green Innovations, while IBM is developing the monitoring and control side of Smart Water, the company seeks partnerships with meters and sensor developers as well as companies addressing the networking and communications component.
SAP also offers enterprise level packages of software for water resource management and boasts 950+ customers globally. While IBM competes with SAP in some areas, according to Williams, IBM also makes money implementing SAP — a form of coopetition.
The venture community is also paying attention to smart water technologies including real-time water quality monitoring, leak detection technology, and SCADA driven software applications all aimed at optimizing the water grid.
The marriage of tech geek and data wonk is truly exciting. There is tremendous opportunity in smart water – stay tuned for more!
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