A Unique CrowdSourcing Event: The Smarter Cities Scan

Smarter CitiesDo you live in a large urban city or in one of the sprawling suburban environments on the fringes of a large city?

I wanted to make you aware of a really interesting collaboration / social media project launched recently in support of the Smarter Cities effort.  And I wanted to ask for you to participate if you have some time…and/or…ask you to invite people in your network that might want to participate.  Anyone interested in improving the quality of life in large / sprawling urban environments is invited to participate. 

The social media brainstorming project is called the Smarter Cities Scan (http://smartercities.tumblr.com).

For this exercise in collaborative innovation and hive intelligence to succeed, significant numbers of people need to contribute their diverse thinking over the next few months.  That will generate the very large, complex data set that can then be analyzed and processed into a useful model that can then be used to improve urban environments. 

You can find more information on how to participate is attached below.  For more detail behind this project, you can point people to this post   The Smart Cities Scan:  Let's build an open model with shared imagination and deep analytics

How to participate in the Smart Cities Scan

  • From the homepage – http://smartercities.tumblr.com – simply click on Post Your Ideas to start contributing images, video, links, quotes, text or any combination of all of these.  You can even  submit a post by email, or via a mobile phone, by sending your thoughts and ideas to smarterplanet@tumblr.com.
  • You don’t need to have a Tumblr account to submit a post, but please include your city and country and any descriptive tags at the bottom of your post so that your ideas can be tagged for others to find. You can also easily create a free Tumblr account if you like this easy-to-use, multimedia microblogging tool.
  • You‘re always free to scan all posts, search on topics and tags, soak up some of Smarter Cities background and inspiration material in the about section, or find answers in our Help & FAQ section. 

If you want more information, send any suggestions, questions or problems to smarterplanet@tumblr.com

Stockholm: 2009 Intelligent Community of the Year

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) recently named Stockholm, Sweden the Intelligent Community of the Year for 2009.  The Scandanavian community, known for its prowess in innovative technologies and its quality of life won the 2009 award.  A detailed profile of Stockholm and why it was selected for the award can be found at this ICF website.

It’s nice to see Stockholm get this award, especially since IBM has been deeply involved in the city’s Intelligent Transportation initiatives.

Since 1999, ICF has presented awards to honor the achievements of communities tackling the complex task of building and maintaining competitive and inclusive local economies in the global Broadband Economy.   The ICF is a think tank that “focuses on the creation of prosperous local economies and robust societies in the broadband economy of the 21st Century”.  The goal of the yearly awards is to increase awareness of the role that broadband and information communications technology (ICT) play in economic and social development at the community level worldwide.

Earlier this year, the ICF had announced their annual list of The Top Seven Intelligent Cities of 2009.  These seven finalists were selected based on analysis of their nominations by a team of independent academic experts.  The academic team  conducts a thorough review of the nominations and generate quantitative scores during the selection process.   These cities have proactively re-engineered their economies and social networks to make them more flexible and adaptable, which gives them a powerful competitive advantage.  The top seven communities are chosen, not because they excel in all areas of ICF's Intellligent Community Indicators, but because each demonstrates excellence in at least one. 

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The Top Seven cities of 2009 were:

  • Bristol, Virginia, USA. Bristol has made an impact after taking on incumbent telcos in court and the state legislature to win the right to deploy a fiber network called OptiNet.  OptiNet will become a fiber-to-the-premises network for business and residents in Bristol and four neighboring counties.  It has attracted more than $50 million in private investment, including the region's first technology employers, and improved rural education and healthcare by connecting local providers to leading institutions.   
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands.  Established a public-private collaboration called Brainport. Among more than 40 public-private projects are an award-winning coop that has brought FTTP and a broadband culture of use to the suburb of Neunen, and the SKOOL outsourced IT management system for public schools.
  • Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  When it could not get broadband from the private sector, Fredericton founded the e-Novations co-op, which deployed a fiber ring that spurred competition, giving the city a 70% penetration rate at speeds of up to 18 Mbps.  The next step was the Fred-eZone wireless network, which provides free WiFi service across 65% of the city.  The combination of broadband, entrepreneurship and Fredericton's universities has powered the creation of over 12,000 jobs.
  • Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.  Beginning in 1980, a visionary mayor focused policy on creating an innovative, IT-based knowledge economy, implementing e-government, outsourcing IT needs, and taking advantage of liberalization to attract competitive fiber carriers deploying cost-effective broadband.  Public-private innovation includes a cyber-kindergarten for children, cyber tearooms for older citizens, citizen e-participation in decision-making, a successful business incubator and ICT-based real estate projects.
  • Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. This bilingual community has become a major Canadian customer contact and back office center, and built a "near-shore" IT outsourcing industry.   Private-sector carriers have collaborated in the city's growth as a telecom-centric economy, and helped power the addition of 20,000 new jobs since the early 1990s.  
  • Stockholm, Sweden. In the mid-90s, Stockholm, the economic and political capital of Sweden, established a company called Stokab to build an open-access fiber network.  Today, the 4,500 km network connects more than 90 competing service providers to government and business customers.  Though the city already has a 98% broadband penetration rate, Stokab will also provide FTTP access to over 95,000 low-income households in public housing by the end of 2009.  Stockholm also manages KISTA Science City, housing more than 1,400 companies, plus a support program for start-up and early-stage companies.  
  • Tallinn, Estonia.   Making creative use of people and funding, Tallinn computerized its schools and deployed widespread WiFi as well as nearly 700 public access kiosks.  The city also developed a large-scale digital skills training program, extensive e-government, and an award-winning smart ID card.  Through partnerships, it developed high-tech parks including Ulemiste City, Tallinn Technology Park and Cooperative Cyber Defense Center. 

For more see this ICF website.  Also check out the videos here View Top7 Video

For those of you working on projects related to Smart Cities, you might also want to spend time reading the 49 page white paper “The Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2009”

A Primer on Smarter Water

The HorizonWatch Community (this is the internal community at IBM I lead) recently had a conference call on the topic of Water Management trends and issues.  We reviewed the results of the recent IBM Global Innovation Outlook Study on Water and we also reviewed what IBM is doing to provide innovative solutions to our water management issues.   We had two speakers for that call Amy Hermes, from IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook team and Mike Sullivan, from IBM’s Big Green Innovations team.  

This post represents some notes I took from that call along with some additional research I conducted.  For those of you interested in learning about Water Management issues, I hope this is a good introduction and resource for you.

Most of us reading this post take our access to water for granted.  However, I would imagine that we all realize that water is critical to sustaining life on our planet.  Water makes up 60 to 70% by weight of all living organisms and is essential for photosynthesis.  If the Earth’s water supply vanished, there would be no plants, no animals, and no people. 

While the Earth’s water is not vanishing, many scientists believe that our global water supply is in crisis.  We may or may not be at the crisis stage, but we definitely need to take action to solve our water management issues.

Some Quick Facts About WaterWater Wasted

  • Water covers 75% of the earth's surface.  Nearly 98% of the earth's water is in the oceans.  Fresh water makes up less than 3% of water on earth, over two thirds of this is tied up in polar ice caps and glaciers.  Fresh water lakes and rivers make up only 0.009% of water on Earth and ground water makes up 0.28%.
  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton T-shirt, 2,000 gallons to make one gallon of milk, and 39,000 gallons to make a car.
  • Global agriculture wastes an estimated 60% of the 2,500 trillion liters it uses each year. 
  • Municipalities lose as much as 50% of their water supply through leaky infrastructure.  
  • More than one trillion gallons of water are wasted in U.S. homes each year from easy-to-fix leaks.
  • 1 in 5 of the word’s population still lacks access to clean, safe drinking water. 
  • The United Nations predicts that nearly half the world’s population will experience critical water shortages by the year 2080.
  • There are nearly 53,000 different water agencies in the United States alone, each managing a short stretch of river or a handful of reservoirs. 
  • In the last 100 years global water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth.

For those of us living in developed nations, our water infrastructure is many decades old.  In fact, in some places it is centuries old.  As our demand for water is increasing, we need to modernize the existing infrastructure.  One way to do that is to apply information technology.

Today’s water management systems are operating without enough data and insights.   The planet needs new water management systems, based on smart technology that can collect and analyze real-time data.  These new systems will provide water authorities with the insights they need to supply more water to more people with lower energy-use and cost. 

How Can Technology Help?

What is needed are water management systems that can provide real time collection and analysis of all sources of data.  This includes integrating disparate sensor technologies that produce disparate data formats along with other data from an array of partners.  Information technology solutions are needed that can take data that’s coming in fast and turn it into intelligence that augments the ability to improve decision making about water distribution.  These solutions need to connect the folks in the central control room with those working in the field building bridges, dams, dykes to the sensor experts and sophisticated modelers.

  • Technology can monitor, measure and analyze entire water ecosystems, from rivers and reservoirs to the pumps and pipes in our homes.
  • The latest water meters, combined with appropriate Water Management solutions can provide a single, reliable, up-to-the minute and actionable view of water use for a government, a business, or a home.   These ‘smart’ water meters can provide real-time insight into water use, raising awareness, locating inefficiencies and decreasing demand.
  • Advanced sensors can help us collect all sorts of new data on water usage.  For example, sensors on levees can monitor changing flood conditions and respond accordingly.  Sensor based systems can provide the agriculture industry with detailed information on air quality, soil moisture content and temperature to calculate optimal irrigation schedules.
  • Advanced computing, analytics, and simulations can help us all move beyond “real time” to prediction, supporting better-informed policy and management decisions.
  • Technology can also be applied to our oceans to gather data on water temperature, currents, wave strength, salinity and marine life, and applying algorithms that can forecast everything from wave patterns over 24 hours to the right time to harvest mussels.

IBM Water Management Solution Areas

IBM is taking a leadership role among technology vendors in researching, piloting and developing a whole suite of water management solutions.  Here is a sample of what  IBM is doing…

  • Natural Water Resources – Provides sensor data integration, analysis and visualization to enable the measurement, modeling and management of water levels, usage and quality in natural water resources.
  • Water Utilities – Enables water providers to make rapid decisions regarding business processes and operational efficiency to maximize their return on investments as well as foresee and quickly respond to contamination issues and emergencies.
  • Water Infrastructure – Provides sensing systems for managing water infrastructure, such as levee oversight management and flood control.
  • Water Metering – Improves management of water supply and demand by integrating data between the dozens of stakeholders involved. Provides all stakeholders with consistent, real-time information to help them work together to make critical decisions about water supply in a geographic region.
  • Green Sigma for Water™ – is a business consulting service that identifies where water is being used, measures and monitors usage, and creates process improvements to reduce water use. IBM pilots have achieved reductions in water usage of 30%.
  • SmartBay Sensor System – Monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels.  Provide real-time information to stakeholders in the Irish maritime economy, runs on a cloud computing platform, and is able to predict water conditions critical to those stakeholders.

Ten Innovative Vendors in the Water Management Industry

The Artemis Project recently announced winners of its first annual Top 50 Water Companies Competition.  The list provides us insights into who the advanced water and water-related technology companies are as this industry is on the verge of becoming one of the great high-growth industries of the 21st Century.

The companies on the list were selected by a panel of experts based on an integrated matrix of four criteria:  technology, intellectual property and know-how, team and market potential.  Here’s the top ten on the Artemis list along with a description of what each company is doing.

1.  AbTech Industries, Inc. (Arizona, USA)  To combat nonpoint source water pollution, AbTech developed the Smart Sponge®, a patented technology that effectively removes pollutants from stormwater.

2.  Oasys Water, Inc. (Massachusetts, USA)  Oasys (Osmotic Application Systems) is a Cambridge MA based company developing a suite of proprietary water treatment products to address the growing global water crisis.  The Company’s Engineered Osmosis (EOTM) technology is a novel treatment platform that can produce clean, potable water at significantly lower cost than current desalination methods.

3.  Seldon Technologies, Inc. (Vermont, USA)  Seldon has developed a new nanostructured material which includes carbon nanotubes: “nanomesh™” that can be produced in large scale and used for purification applications.  This new fused nanomesh material forms the basis for safe, tested and proven products in three major fluid filtration applications: ground water, fuel and air purification.

4.  Emefcy (Caesarea, Israel)  Emefcy’s MEGAWATTER™ platform is a bio-electro-chemical process for electricity and hydrogen production using wastewater as a fuel. This technology addresses an enormous market of industrial wastewater treatment plants in which anaerobic treatment is not applicable, thus expensive-to-operate aerobic treatment is applied.

5.  NanoH2O (California, USA)  NanoH2O has applied nanotechnology to create advanced membrane materials for desalination and water reuse.  With freshwater scarcity an increasingly worldwide issue, desalination is a vital treatment method to provide freshwater for industrial users and a growing world population from fresh, brackish and seawater sources.  Despite recent advances, desalination remains an expensive source of freshwater because it is energy intensive.  NanoH2O’s next generation energy-efficient and fouling resistant membranes dramatically improve the baseline economics of desalination and water reuse.

6.  SolarBee, Inc. (North Dakota, USA)  SolarBee, Inc. manufactures and installs solar-powered, long-distance water circulators.  The floating, up-flow circulators can move up to 10,000 gallons per minute from depths of more than 100 feet with a solar-powered pump.  SolarBee’s circulators help solve water-quality problems worldwide in freshwater lakes, wastewater lagoons, storm-water ponds, estuaries, potable and recycled water storage tanks and other reservoirs.

7.  AquaPure (Upper Galilee, Israel)  Aquapure’s mission is to play a pivotal role in the groundwater and municipal treatment industry by offering an ozone-hydrogen peroxide-UV In Situ Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) water treatment solution, allowing for effective purification of water contaminants.  Aquapure’s technology has provides advanced purification over other existing technologies for a variety wide refractory pollutants characterized by high solubility in water and high toxicity

8.  HydroPoint (California, USA)  HydroPoint is focused on reducing water wasted when used for landscape irrigation.  Proven in 23 independent studies, including the EPA, the WeatherTRAK solution saves water, reduces energy demand and protects water quality while it minimizes liability and expense exposure.  Drawing on information delivered wirelessly from 40,000 weather stations, the WeatherTRAK ET Everywhere service automatically schedules irrigation based on individual landscape needs and local weather conditions.  The result is higher property values, lower water bills and a healthier environment.

9.  MIOX Corporation (New Mexico, USA)  MIOX is focused on applying technology to help solve the need for affordable, safe, and healthy water.  Its patented technology can purify water without dangerous chemicals and enables significant cost and energy savings versus traditional treatment methods.  MIOX technology uses a process referred to as on-site generation (OSG) – the use of salt, water and electricity to produce a powerful chlorine-based disinfectant, “mixed oxidants”, on demand.

10.  ScFi (Cork, Ireland)  ScFi provides a solution to disposing of wet waste (sewage sludge, putrescible waste and other organic materials) safely, quickly and efficiently while minimizing cost.  ScFi’s technology, AquaCritox®, destructs wet waste without the generation of any hazardous waste or emissions and in addition can be a source of renewable energy.

The 10 companies on the list above look like they are positioned well to participate in this growth.

Recommended Next Steps

More work is needed as we transform the water infrastructure to digital technology:

  • Continue to Build Awareness for Water Issues.  Many in leadership positions are not aware of the critical need for water management information technology solutions.
  • Continue Market Testing & Solutions Platform Development.  Technology vendors need to continue to build assets and test solution platforms.  Stronger linkages are needed across the growing ecosystem.
  • Continue to Build Thought Leadership Deliverables.  Tech vendors need to develop content highlighting case studies, references, demonstrations, and white papers.

For More Information

There is a bunch of more reading material available.  Here some links…