A Primer On Water Management Issues

IBM Water Mgmnt Icon Today is Blog Action day at water.org.  It's a good time to get the word out to everyone on water management issues. Read more about water.org's blog action day at Blog Action Day – Working Together To Solve The Water Crisis.  This post is my contribution to the Blog Action Day.

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.  Taking a look at what IBM is doing can help us see the areas where technology can be applied to solve water management issues

  • 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.

Innovative Water Management Vendors

The Artemis Project held its second annual Artemis Project Top 50 Water Companies Competition during the spring of 2010.   These vendors are all coming up with some very innovative and creative solutions to Water Management issues.  Check out the winners:  A list of the 50 is here.   View a poster show of this year’s winners here.

What Is Needed

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…

A Primer on the Smart Grid and Intelligent Utility Network Trend

Smart Grid2 In a world where increased focus is on reducing CO2 emissions, governments and energy & utility companies are looking for ways to modernize and transform their utility infrastructure in order to improve energy efficiency and reliability. 

For developed economies, the traditional way power has been generated is based on a central generation model with one-way power and information flow from large, often distant generating stations, via transmission and distribution lines to end consumers.   Most of these generation systems contain an aging infrastructure with some equipment dating back 60 years.  This traditional infrastructure lacks sufficient technology and communications at the distribution and end-use level that would enable grid automation & monitoring capabilities.   The model has been a push model, meaning that there is little to no automated information coming back to the central sites from those that use the power.  So if the user suddenly has no power, the only way the utility company knows about it is if they get a call from the users.  Furthermore, the user has very little information available to help them understand how much power they are using, when they are using it, and what they are using it for.

The Smart Grid (also called Intelligent Utility Network) technology is an important emerging trend within the Energy and Utility Industry.  As consumers, we are increasingly aware that the way we consume and save energy can be improved.  Within the energy and utility industry, energy efficiency is also on the minds of the industry leaders.  And our governments are all interested in finding new sources of energy.   By embedding technology into the electrical distribution network, a Smart Grid can transform the way power is distributed and used.  Intelligence throughout the grid can dramatically reduce outages and faults, improve responsiveness, handle current and future demand, increase efficiency and manage costs.

The following video from IEEE will provide some additional introduction into the concept of the Smart Grid.

Produced by IEEE and ScienCentral, Inc.

A Smart Grid can present many opportunities for consumers, businesses, and utilities to benefit from the efficient distribution of energy and availability of intelligent equipment and devices.  For governments, it offers significant opportunities to wisely manage a country’s fuel resources by potentially reducing the need for additional generation sources, better integrating renewable energy sources into the grid’s operations, reducing outages and cascading problems, and enabling users of power to better manage their energy consumption.

The Smart Grid technology will enable energy customers to

  • manage electricity consumption to meet specific household/business goals such as cost, availability, and environmental impact
  • seek energy providers, information, and technologies that help them meet their goals
  • do business with utility companies who communicate a set of energy-related values consistent with their own
  • seek convenient and more personalized ways to interact with their utility to negotiate customized solutions to allow them to meet their needs
  • act on their own wants and needs where regulatory representation does not provide results satisfying these specific needs, primarily through execution of alternative solutions (e.g., self-generation)

So what exactly are the characteristics of a Smart Grid?  The US Department of Energy has characterized a smart grid as having the following attributes:

  • Self-healing from power disturbance events
  • Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
  • Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
  • Providing power quality for 21st century needs
  • Accommodating all generation and storage options
  • Enabling new products, services, and markets
  • Optimizing assets and operating efficiently

The consumer of power from a future Smart Grid will see many differences as a result of adding intelligence into the network.   Some examples are:

  • Smart electricity meters, water meters, and gas meters that collect real-time data on utility usage.
  • Distributed generation, such as solar panels and other micro generation.  These new generators could be located at the home, in the neighborhood, or in the local community.
  • Dedicated energy display units and smart thermostats that provide the user with feedback on energy usage in real-time.
  • Smart appliances with connectivity to the intelligent utility network via the in home meters and display units.
  • Plug-in vehicles as a both source and consumer of energy.  The vehicles, when plugged in would provide information on energy usage.
  • Linked connection to the in-home network and home PCs for further analysis of all the information collected.

The Smart Grid transformation is much more than installation of new technology in a piece-part fashion.  The call for the transformation to a Smart Grid impacts every part of the utility infrastructure including generation, distribution, and usage.  It will be a disruptive change, but a change that will provide huge rewards for the future.  For the utility industry itself, changes needs to happen in four key areas:

  1. Strategy.  We need a  fundamental rethink of business strategy and industry business models across the board.
  2. Collaboration.  Utility providers will need to develop a much closer collaboration with customers, regulators, financers, researchers, technology and service vendors, and other stakeholders than ever before.
  3. People.  The change will be very disruptive to utility companies.  They will need a renewed focus on staff, their roles, competencies, compensation, performance and structure.
  4. Process.  Utility providers will need to re-architect business processes and applications.

There is much work to be done to transform old utility infrastructures to a Smart Grid system.  The transformation will not happen overnight, but could happen over a series of decades.  When complete, countries that transform their utilities infrastructure to an Intelligent Utility Network will have a modern network of sensor-based interactive technologies that will give utilities and consumers unprecedented control over managing energy use, improving energy grid operations, and significantly reducing energy costs. 

There is a ton of information available on Smart Grids.  Here are a few example resources for you to explore….

For other “Primers” here on HorizonWatching, check out http://horizonwatching.typepad.com/horizonwatching/primer/

IDC Insights: 10 Predictions for the North American Utilities industry

 IDC Energy 2010 PredicitonsIDC Energy Insights held its webinar “Top Ten Predictions for the North American Utilities Industry” today.   Rick Nicholson, Vice President of Research at IDC led the call.

During the call the analysts reviewed the important driving forces impacting impacting technology investment within the Utilities Industry for 2010.   Driving forces include energy efficiency and demand response programs, smart metering and the smart grid, renewable and distributed energy and other relevant technologies.

IDC mentioned that energy usage is expected to rebound in 2010 after a down year in 2009 which had an impact on industry-wide revenues.  Also, investments in cleantech is expected to rebound as access to credit improves in 2010.  A big factor in that will be the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Here’s my summary of the top ten predictions reviewed on the conference call:

  1. Energy Efficiency and Demand Response:  will continue to be the “first fuel” choice for electric utilities
  2. Renewable Energy:  Renewable capacity additions will exceed natural gas plant additions
  3. Energy Storage:  Utility-scale stationary energy storage will have its coming out party
  4. Intelligent Grid:  North American intelligent grid ICT spending reaches $18 billion by 2013
  5. Electric Vehicles:  First wave of electric vehicles and accompanying charging infrastructure will emerge
  6. Energy Commodity Trading:  Trading of energy commodities requiring IT support will recover and grow
  7. Sustainability:  Traditional generators will focus on managing their portfolio for sustainability
  8. Water Management:  Scarcity of clean water and availability of new technology will awaken the sleeping water market
  9. Smart Cities:   Smart cities will emerge as proving grounds for the intelligent economy
  10. IT Spending:  U.S. utility industry IT spending growth will accelerate dramatically

I remember back in the 90’s this industry was one of the lackluster (perhaps boring?) industries to be involved with from a technology perspective.  Nothing was really happening back then.  Today it is 180 degrees opposite.  There is so much going on right now to bring technology to this industry.  This is one exciting industry today….and I expect it will be that way for another decade or two.

For more information, IDC Insights has a bunch of resources for you.

IBM: 5 Innovations That Will Impact Us Within 5 Years

IBM 5 in 5 The world is experiencing unprecedented urbanization.  Last year marked the first time in history that the majority of the world’s population was residing in cities.  This trend is not stopping and will have huge implications for our large urban environments we call home.  So what can be done to make our cities economically, socially and technologically healthy–and keep them that way?

IBM recently unveiled a list of 5 innovations that will have the potential to change how people live, work and play in cities around the globe over the next five years.  The following text provides a summary and there is a 3 minute video embedded below…

IBM’s Next 5 in 5…

1) Cities will have healthier immune systems:  Because of population densities, cities will remain hotbeds of communicable diseases.  By standardizing methods for sharing health information and analyzing disease outbreaks, public health officials will know precisely when, where and how diseases are spreading.

2) City buildings will sense and respond like living organisms:   The technology that manages building facilities "will operate like a living organism that can sense and respond quickly." Thousands of sensors inside buildings will monitor everything from motion and temperature to humidity, occupancy and light.  These smart buildings will enable repairs to be made before something breaks, will help emergency units respond quickly, and will let people and companies monitor their energy consumption and carbon emission in real-time.

3) Cars and city buses will run on empty:   IBM predicts that improved battery technology will power the next generation of eco-friendly vehicles. It says the new batteries won’t need to be recharged for days or months at a time (depending on how often the vehicles are driven) and will allow trips of 300 to 500 miles on a single charge.  Also smart grids in cities will allow vehicles to be charged in public places using renewable energy, such as wind power, for charging so they no longer rely on coal-powered plants.

4) Smarter systems will quench cities' thirst for water and save energy:  To deal with the estimate that demand for water is expected to increase sixfold in the next 50 years cities will install smarter water systems to reduce water waste by up to 50 percent.  Smart sewer systems will also be installed that not only prevent run-off pollution in rivers and lakes, but purify water to make it drinkable.  Plus, interactive meters and sensors will provide people with real time, accurate information about their water consumption. 

5) Cities will respond to a crisis:  Even before receiving an emergency phone call. In support of the news:  IBM is helping law enforcement agencies analyze information so they can anticipate crime and be ready to respond when it happens.  Also the New York Fire Department has selected IBM to build a state-of-the-art system for collecting and sharing data in real-time and the company is also designing smart levee systems to prevent cities from devastating floods. 

A common denominator in all five of these innovations is a sophisticated data analytics capability that can take volumes of data, perform modeling and simulation on that data, and turn it into actionable insights for decision makers.  Five years could be an optimistic time frame for a few of these, but in this case, I think a little optimism helps to push the envelope on research and development of the innovations.

Watch the 3 minute video….

Read up more on IBM’s Next 5 in 5

Cleantech Group: 10 Cleantech Predictions for 2010

Cleantech090224_041 Cleantech Group has been providing a list of predictions for a number of years now.  Of course the predictions have to do with the Cleantech industry.  In this year’s version, Chairman Nicholas Parker ‘pens’ the list of ten trends to watch for in 2010. 

Here is the list.

  1. Private capital growth will recover.  The CleanTech Group believes that the amount of money from global venture capital and private equity in clean technology in 2010 will surpass that in 2009 “by a healthy margin” and could be a record year.
  2. Clean economies become the new space race.  Some countries / cities will lead the pack, others will wait and implement later. Greater protectionism surrounding the industry will be a drawback.
  3. Electric cars take the back seat to smart mobility.  The electric car trend will eventually influence urban design and planning. Governments’ tax incentives and budgets will be impacted.
  4. Resource constraints beyond carbon rise to the fore.   Watch for price spikes that impact clean technology sectors as the economy picks up.  This will push companies to use resources more efficiently in order to maintain or boost their profitability.
  5. Commodity trade-off debates intensify.  Look for trade-off debates in the areas of water and energy; land and energy; land and water and carbon and water.   The Cleantech Group predicts that more environmentalists will object to wind and solar projects because of how they use up swaths of land and obstruct the landscape views.
  6. Energy efficiency eclipses solar.  Innovations in information and communication technology, along with more policy support, will help create a boom in energy efficiency.
  7. Marketing suddenly matters. Cleantech Group says that branding will become more important as clean technology goes mainstream.  Marketing campaigns are likely to target more consumers instead of just businesses.
  8. Buffett leads the super rich into cleantech.  Cleantech Group points out how U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett has made plays in clean tech-related companies, including GE, Goldman Sachs and Chinese electric car battery maker BYD Co Ltd.  
  9. Acquisitions and consolidations accelerate.    Cleantech Group looks for the pace of consolidation to accelerate in countries with overcapacity like Germany and China.   
  10. The rise of waste-to-energy, geothermal and aquaculture, as part of a shift to more sustainable agriculture and food production.

For more detail, check out the full article Ten Clean Technology Predictions For 2010

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

Joint IBM and Forrester Research Webinar: The Emergence of the Smarter Home

I heard through the grapevine about an upcoming webinar this week on the topic of Smart Home and thought I’d pass on the news to you.

image The idea of embedded intelligence in the home is certainly not new, but the cost of chips and special sensors keep coming down.  And as broadband networks are almost commonplace, The promise of the smart home is now coming to reality.  Smart devices connecting to services in the network enable a large range of new applications that can make our lives easier, safer, more economical, and healthier.  From increased entertainment choices to medical monitoring, remote security monitoring and management and energy management, these new services can enrich our lives.

There’s also an emerging market for service providers who can gain valuable intelligence and efficiencies by aggregating data in the network.  The most promising approach uses cloud technology in the network to provide the intelligence for the smart home.

The webinar features speakers from both IBM and Forrester Research and should provide a series of informative presentations and a lively round table discussion addressing technology trends, consumer demand, and the revenue opportunities for new services that enable the smarter home.

Topics to be covered during the webinar include:

  • How connectivity, intelligent appliances, smart TV, medical devices, enhanced security, etc. are coming together to revolutionize the home
  • About the growth opportunities not only for electronics manufacturers, but also for the media & entertainment, telecommunications, and energy & utility industries.
  • How the barriers to expansion will fall!

Featured Speakers:

  • Bruce A. Anderson, General Manager, Global Electronics Industry, IBM Corporation
  • Charles Golvin, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research, Inc.
  • Scott Burnett, Strategy & Business Development Director of IBM’s Digital Convergence Group

Details

  • When:  October 15, 2008   9:00 am – 10:30 am EDT
  • Target Audience:    Electronics Industry C-Level and LOB Senior Executives
  • How to register:   Everyone must register to participate in the webcast. Click here to register for the webcast!

Enjoy!

New IBM Commercials Highlight Smarter Planet Issues

imageIBM has just launched five new TV commercials in conjunction with the US Open tennis tournament. 

The TV commercials support IBM’s strategic Smarter Planet campaign, so there is a little selling going on in the videos.  However, these are important emerging trends, so here you go.

  • Cloud – Message:  Workstations used to be tied to a mainframe. Now they're conversing with a cloud.
  • Secure Collaboration -  Message:  The choice between being open and being secure isn't a choice anymore. Collaboration is the key to business on a smarter planet, but you need to make sure your business is protected.
  • Oil -  Message:   Energy is one of the world's most vital resources.  How we extract, use and preserve this resource is vital to our future.
  • Water -  Message:  Water is something we all take for granted, but there is a limited amount in the world. Smarter water management is necessary to ensure our farms, factories and businesses continue to have access to safe, high quality water.
  • Public Safety – Message:  Cities all over the world are getting smarter.  By collecting, analyzing and sharing data, your city can be safer, too.

I really like the creative look and feel of these commercials.  I understand there was a bunch of research that went into them.   While I believe the commercials will appeal to the public at large, they are obviously designed to target the IT audience, line of business leaders and CXOs. 

For more on IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, check out http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/smartplanet/index.shtml

Sensors: Where Do We Need Them The Most?

image

LinkedIn has an app that allows you to create a quick one question poll.

I am inviting you to participate in an unofficial poll I set up by going to http://polls.linkedin.com/p/54211/uxeza.  The poll takes less than a minute.  It asks you for your opinion on where you feel we need to focus the application of sensors to help make our physical infrastructure more intelligent. 

Sensors are becoming a key part of our physical infrastructure.  We can now embed sensors in physical things, like cars, appliances, medical equipment, cameras, roadways, pipelines, pharmaceuticals or livestock.  We can measure entire ecosystems – whole supply chains, business processes, cities, bridges, buildings, even natural systems like forests and rivers.  With sensors, we will be able to gather huge amounts of real-time information about the state of the world.

So, I have set up a LinkedIn poll to get your feedback.  I am asking you to answer the question:  Where do we need sensors and the related data analytics applied the most? 

Thanks for participating.  Those that answer the question can see the results.

Two Days Left To Enter The Intelligent Use Of Water Competition

Passionate about water conservation and water management issues?AG035

This competition is seeking short films (narrative, documentary, animated, experimental and/or student-made films between 1 and 10 minutes in length) that creatively explore methods and ideas to responsibly manage and use e arth’s most precious resource.

Films submitted by August 15, 2009 will be reviewed by a judging panel of film and water management experts.  Finalists will win a trip to Los Angeles, where they will be guests at a formal screening and awards show hosted at The Getty Center on September 23, 2009.

Check out the website for more information!  www.IUOWFILM.com

Thoughts on Water Management

Though it's a worldwide entity, water is treated as a regional issue.  There is no global market and very little international  exchange.

Addressing environmental challenges will require public-private partnerships.  Consider water, a poorly understood and often wasted and mismanaged resource.  Our global agriculture system 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.  And there are nearly 53,000 different water agencies in the U.S. alone, each managing a short stretch of river or a handful of reservoirs.  Despite the fact that water is a shared resource, there’s no coordination of data among these agencies and no holistic view of the entire water ecosystem, or its impact of human activity.  – Source:  Thoughts on Water Management from the Western Governor’s Association.WLDRN069

Water flows through everything – from the air, the land and our own bodies to the global economy.  In fact, every time a good or service is bought or sold, there is a virtual exchange of water.  It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton T-shirt; 2,000 gallons to make one gallon of milk; and 10,500 gallons to make a car.  Though the total amount of water on this planet has never changed, the nature of that water is changing.  Everything from where rain falls to the chemical makeup of the oceans is in flux.   And these changes are forcing us to ask some very difficult questions about how and where we live and do business.

As water management issues continue to mount and costs continue to increase, information technology and collaborative innovation will play an instrumental role helping communities, businesses, and governments deal with the tremendous complexity ahead. The combination of volumes of data, the need for mining across different and new data types and the demand for real-time responses requires a new kind of water management intelligence and models that encompasses scalable, statistical algorithms, and massively parallel approaches.

Some links for those of you interested in water management

Looking to 2050: Ten Challenges For The Human Race

Peter Schwartz is recognized internationally as a futurist and strategist.  He honed his skills at Royal Dutch/Shell Group in London, where he led a widely respected scenario planning effort.   He has written a number of interesting books about the future, including The Art of the Long View. 

This past May he gave the commencement address at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  During the address, he outlined ten longer term challenges for the human race as we look forward to the next 40-50 years.  He encouraged the graduates to come up with innovative solutions to these challenges. 

The top challenges Schwartz outlined are:

  1. Creating long-term solutions to meet our energy demands sustainably.
  2. Launching a bio-industrial revolution with sustainable manufacturing.
  3. Understanding and enhancing the human brain to avert age-related impairments.
  4. Improving agriculture to reduce costs and increase its energy and water efficiency.
  5. Building sustainable cities through better urban planning and "smart architecture”.
  6. Stimulating job growth and economic development.
  7. Fusing the technological with the spiritual and aesthetic dimensions of human culture.
  8. Advancing technological instruments to drive scientific discovery forward.
  9. Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution.
  10. Discovering new ways to lower the costs and environmental impact of space flight and development.  

The list above is an interesting list.  I am not sure that these are the top ten most important challenges, but each of the above ten are certainly important. 

Some comments…

  • Energy tops his list and it is hard to argue that it should not be there.  I can’t see the demand for energy going down anytime soon and we need to figure out how to transition to clean energy. 
  • Improving agriculture processes in developing nations will have have a significant impact on the economy and quality of life.
  • Building smarter and sustainable cities is a very large challenge as the number of megacities grow and grow.
  • Number 9 on his list, “Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution” sounds both scary and beneficial at the same time.
  • Regarding number 10, with announced plans to go back to the moon and to Mars, we will need innovative ways to travel through space and live at the destinations we travel to.

It is worth pointing out that many on the list kind of fall under the push for a smarter planet.

If you want to read a transcript of Peter Schwartz’s commencement address, check out http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2585

Can you think of any other challenges Schwartz’s list?  The only one that comes to my mind right now is the never ending desire to live in a world free from war and conflict, but I don’t suppose for one minute that that will be solved in the next 40-50 years.