In a recent speech in London, IBM Chairman, President and CEO Sam Palmisano laid out IBM's vision of the next decade as the decade of the smarter systems. Among the many areas IBM is focusing on to enable a smarter planet is smart water management.
"By a smarter planet, we mean that intelligence is being infused into
the systems and processes that enable services to be delivered; physical goods
to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold; everything from people and
money to oil, water and electrons to move; and billions of people to work and
Yet, despite water being viewed as cheap and abundant, due to existing water
management systems, one in five people on the planet do not have adequate
access to safe, clean drinking water, IBM
However, the total amount of water on this planet has not changed, but the
nature of that water is constantly changing. Everything from where rain falls
to the chemical makeup of the oceans is in flux, IBM
said. Thus, IBM's efforts are aimed at
preserving and protecting clean water for drinking, bathing, electric power,
industrial manufacturing, food and the irrigation of crops.
Particularly, during the winter season and holidays, the combination of cold
weather and more home cooking makes this time of the year a high-risk season
for sewage overflows and leaky pipes. Many water and sewage infrastructures
date back to the 1800s and early 1900s, and are overwhelmed by the fats, oils
and grease poured in kitchen sinks or other drains, which can cause blockages
in city sewer lines, resulting in overflows that pollute the environment.
Smarter systems of the type Palmisano describes can help to prevent such
According to Lux Research, better information about water usage will save
utilities money, make water management more efficient and provide one of the
simplest solutions to the problem of water scarcity. In fact, Lux
estimates that the market for water IT will reach $16.3 billion by 2020.
Analytics, Asset Management
Indeed, to be truly efficient, water utilities and treatment plants need
real-time management and analytics systems to track the condition of each
critical component, or "asset," including water pumps, valves,
collection pipes and electrical equipment, so that potential problems such as a
burst water main or a sewage overflow can be quickly identified and resolved.
IBM analytical software gives maintenance
and operations staff a view of all assets across the utility to help prevent potential
water emergencies. And IBM systems tap
geospatial data to show exactly where that asset is on a map while describing
its condition, cost and maintenance history.
Software lies at the heart of these systems. IBM's
acquisition of MRO Software in 2006 enhanced
Big Blue's decades-long work in the rail, water and other vertical industries
by adding asset management capabilities. IBM
attained MRO's Maximo asset management
software in that acquisition, and Maximo is a key component of IBM's
Smarter Planet initiatives because it helps organizations track each and every
asset across their enterprises-spanning both physical and IT assets, IBM
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.