IBM today unveiled its first portfolio of smart water services and technologies, and a scientific breakthrough--a more energy efficient membrane that quickly and reliably filters out salts and deadly toxins, such as arsenic.
Using advanced analytics, developed by mathematicians in IBM's labs, as well as the company's information management, technology services, and business consulting capabilities, IBM's new Strategic Water Management Solutions include the following offerings to help governments, water utilities, and companies monitor and manage water more effectively:
· 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 percent.
Additional IBM Announcements
The company also announced the following:
· Achievements of the SmartBay sensor system, which monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels in and around Galway Bay, Ireland. The system, developed by IBM and the Marine Institute of Ireland, provides 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.
· New reports that explore public and private sector water issues, and discuss the connection between water management and data management.
"Regardless of industry or geography, smarter water management is an issue faced by every business and government on the planet," says Sharon Nunes, vice president for Big Green Innovations at IBM. "Without sufficient insight into near- and long-term factors affecting your water supply and usage--complex issues such as access, quality, cost and re-use--you increasingly run the risk of failure."
The new membrane uses a unique chemistry to create a "water super-highway" that is far more efficient than other approaches to filtration. The rate at which the water super-highway removes arsenic from contaminated water doubles as the pH increases. When contaminated water is forced through the membrane, salts and a number of toxins are filtered out and only pure drinking water flows through to the other side. Additionally, the membrane is also resistant to chlorine damage. The membrane was developed by scientists at IBM Research, in collaboration with Central Glass of Japan, the King Abdul-aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia, and the University of Texas, Austin.
A recent study, conducted by IBM's Institute for Business Value, indicates water issues are increasing for businesses and governments. According to the study, which surveyed more than 100 public and private sector executives, 77 percent consider water management "extremely important" to their organizations, and 71 percent expect water to create more cost and complexity over the next 5 years. Yet, 63 percent said they lack systems needed to deal with the water issues they currently face. The majority of those surveyed believe better integration and business intelligence is needed, in addition to stronger internal and external collaboration.
Additionally, a report on IBM's recent Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) on water (link to: www.ibm.com/ibm/gio/water.html), which also was released today, reveals that society and business are facing increasingly complex challenges when it comes to understanding and managing water resources on this planet. A lack of viable and actionable data was identified as a key inhibitor to effective water management. IBM's GIO on water was a series of brainstorming sessions with hundreds of the world's leading water management experts.
"Any water management strategy of any company should be based on detailed knowledge of both its own water use, as well the local water situation," said Neil C. Hawkins, vice president Sustainability, The Dow Chemical Company. "The strategy should be driven by both a need to maximize water efficiency, reduce the energy used to manage water and minimize costs within the company, as well as a desire to reach local sustainable water management targets."
IBM is working on many water management projects around the world:
· IBM is collaborating with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to build practical web-based tools for river basin management. · IBM is working with the country of Malta to establish an end-to-end electricity and water smart utility system. · IBM has established a Global Center of Excellence for Water Management in Amsterdam to help governments develop enhanced prediction and protection systems for low-lying coastal areas and river deltas.
· IBM and the Industrial Development Agency of Ireland (IDA Ireland) have established a Centre of Excellence for Water Management, which focuses on innovative research and services for monitoring, managing and forecasting environmental challenges such as the movement of pollutants in fresh water, marine and oceanic environments.
· IBM is collaborating with the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries in New York to build a technology-based monitoring and forecasting network for the Hudson River.
"Together with IBM, The Nature Conservancy is developing computer tools that will enable companies to gain a better understanding of the environmental and social consequences of their water use," said Brian Richterb, director of The Nature Conservancy's Global Freshwater Team. "By fostering sustainable water management practices, companies and municipalities will be able to make better decisions to the benefit of both local communities and nature."
The development of IBM's smart water offerings are a result of IBM's 'Big Green Innovations' initiative. Announced in October 2006, as part of IBM's $100 million investment in 10 new businesses generated by InnovationJam, Big Green Innovations has concentrated its efforts on water management, alternative energy, and carbon management.
IBM Smarter Purification
IBM Tokyo-based Central Glass and the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) unveiled the novel membrane technology that stands to alleviate the growing shortage of drinkable water worldwide. Scientists at IBM Research, together with collaborators from Central Glass, KACST and the University of Texas, Austin have created the new membrane that filters out salts as well as potentially harmful toxins in water such as arsenic while using less energy than other forms of water purification.
Today, one in five people lacks access to drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, arsenic-contaminated water has been a major health concern worldwide since the 1990s. Arsenic toxicity is cumulative; studies in countries where the population has had long-term exposure to arsenic-contaminated water show that one in 10 people who drink the water may ultimately die from cancers known to be caused by arsenic, including lung, bladder and skin cancer.
Membrane filtration is currently one of the most energy efficient techniques for removing salt and improving water quality. But, conventional membranes used today are easily damaged by chlorine, which is commonly added to water to prevent bacterial growth that can cause health problems. Now, the collaborative research team has designed a new concept in membrane materials that combines resistance to chlorine damage and high performance separation behavior in mildly basic conditions, making it suitable for arsenic removal in addition to water desalination.
"As clean water becomes more scarce and disease from impure water impacts more of the world's population, the race to find efficient methods to purify this important resource is at a critical juncture," said Bob Allen, manager of the water purification project at the IBM Almaden Research Center. "The kind of research we're doing, and the promising results we're seeing, stand to create a whole new paradigm for how we manage natural resources such as water."
Because of its unique chemistry, the membrane contains ionizable hydrophobes that undergo a dramatic change when they encounter mildly basic conditions - they become substantially hydrophilic. In short, the membrane, which is made with fluorine materials, transforms from a low water transporting filter to a high water transporting state in a basic environment-what the researchers call a "water superhighway." Fortuitously, high pH also causes arsenic to become ionic resulting in a relatively easy separation by desalination membranes. Because of these conditions and reactions, when contaminated water is forced through the membrane, the arsenic is filtered out.
"Access to fresh drinking water is more than a regional challenge; it's a global challenge," said Dr. Turki AlSaud, vice president for research institutes, KACST. "Currently, Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of desalinated water in the world, and the kingdom continues to invest in research and development to make access to fresh water more affordable. Our collaborative research with IBM is providing innovative technological solutions and paving the way toward cost effective technologies in the field of membranes for water desalination that will help meet the increasing global demand of fresh, clean water."
Global Innovation Outlook
IBM also revealed the findings from its Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) on Water--a series of brainstorming sessions around the world, that brought together hundreds of the world's leading water management experts-scientists, academics, businesses and governments-to share knowledge and discuss strategies for improving the efficiency of the world's water systems. The sessions revealed that society and business are facing some complex challenges when it comes to understanding and managing water resources on this planet. A lack of viable and actionable data was identified as a key inhibitor to effective water management.
xSimilarly, a new IBM study underscored a growing gap within businesses and organizations around acknowledging water issues and managing increasingly complex water processes. A majority of companies ranked water management as a top priority, but lacked necessary processes and systems for administration and control. For example, 77 percent of those surveyed felt that water management was extremely critical to their businesses, but 51 percent lacked formal guidelines for implementation. In addition, 63 percent of executives lacked access to integrated water management systems and decision support systems.
"Regardless of industry or geography, smarter water management is an issue faced by every business and government on the planet," said Sharon Nunes, vice president for Big Green Innovations at IBM. "Without sufficient insight into near- and long-term factors affecting your water supply and usage -- complex issues such as access, quality, cost and re-use -- you increasingly run the risk of failure."
Key GIO Water Findings
·You cannot manage what you cannot measure. Water is poorly understood and widely mismanaged. More data is needed to fully understand how water is used by industry, agriculture, and individuals. Water use must be monitored and metered to locate inefficiencies. And both the data and the analyses that result should be shared between governments, academics, and industry.
· Water is an integral part of nearly every other system on the planet, including commerce, food, and energy production. Water is used to make everything from electricity to automobiles. As such, the complex interactions between these systems must be modeled and better understood in order to inform political and economic decisions.
· Despite being the most valuable natural resource on the planet, water is often free or very cheap, unlike food or energy. This leads to waste and misuse. But there are viable models that combine human rights to water and pricing structures that would reduce waste.
· Not all data on water is expensive to collect. In fact, much of it already exists, in bits and pieces, all over the world. It just needs to be collected, coordinated and shared.
· An example of a successful collaboration that promotes the useful collection of data across public and private sectors is the SmartBay Galway project in Ireland. The project will collect streams of real-time data on water quality, sea and coastal conditions, chemical content, and provide more support to local industries and the maritime environment and economy of Ireland.
· Technology will play an important role in supplying water to the billions of future urban dwellers. Smart infrastructure -- including real-time metering, pipe sensors and automatic repair -- will provide solutions to address urbanization.
"Any water management strategy of any company should be based on detailed knowledge of both its own water use, as well the local water situation. The strategy should be driven by both a need to maximize water efficiency, reduce the energy used to manage water and minimize costs within the company, as well as a desire to reach local sustainable water management targets." - Neil C. Hawkins, vice president Sustainability, The Dow Chemical Company.
"Governments, industry and society need to work together to start to address these systems - water, energy and agriculture - in a more strategic and integrated way. We need to use a broader perspective."-Joppe Cramwinckel, sustainable development lead at Royal Dutch Shell.
"Together with IBM, The Nature Conservancy is developing computer tools that will enable companies to gain a better understanding of the environmental and social consequences of their water use. By fostering sustainable water management practices, companies and municipalities will be able to make better decisions to the benefit of both local communities and nature."- Brian Richterb, director of the Nature Conservancy's Global Freshwater Team.
"You can't manage what you can't measure. We need all kinds of data collection, including real-time, because it is a lack of credible, available and viable data that is holding us back."-Doug Miell, Water Resource Management Expert, Miell Consulting.
Additional Multi-Media Materials
• For more information about IBM and water visit:
• To read the GIO Water report online, visit:
• To order hard copies of the GIO Water report (at no charge):
• To watch themed videos of the GIO Water participants, visit:
• For regular updates on the progress of the GIO, visit the GIO blog at:
• For more information about IBM Research, visit www.ibm.com/research
• For more information about Central Glass, visit http://www.cgco.co.jp/english/index.html
• For more information about KACST, visit http://www.kacst.edu.sa/default.aspx