IBM iPhone App Will Help Protect Waterways

IBM's new Creek Watch application for the Apple iPhone is designed to draw upon the millions of iPhone users to collect data on the country's rivers, streams and creeks.

IBM is offering an iPhone app designed to enable people to help keep an eye on the waterways around them.

IBM Nov. 4 announced the Creek Watch iPhone app, which lets users quickly and easily gather data on the various rivers and streams they pass. They then would be able to take that data-including a photo-and send it to local or state water authorities, who will be able to gather and analyze the information and get a better view of what's happening in their environments.

The goal is to draw upon the millions of iPhone users to collect data that overworked and understaffed water boards can't.

"Creek Watch lets the average citizen contribute to the health of their water supply - without PhDs, chemistry kits and a lot of time," Christine Robson, with IBM Research, said in a statement. "Harnessing the crowd-sourced data movement for a cause people care about is a win-win-win for citizens, local water boards and IBM's desire to solve big data challenges."

IBM officials have been pushing their Smarter Planet initiative, which calls for greater intelligence in business and municipal systems and infrastructures and the ability to quickly and accurately analyze and act on the data that is collected in a central database. The free Creek Watch iPhone app, available now in Apple's App Store, fits with this vision: Use the rapidly growing number of iPhone users who are out and about to gather data on water sources, and then enable local water boards, state water authorities and similar groups to gather and analyze the information.

For iPhone users, the work involved with the Creek Watch app is simple. They use the iPhone's built-in camera to take a photo of a waterway, and then answer questions about the water level (dry, some or full), flow rate (still, slow or fast) and trash level (none, some, or a lot).

The information can then be uploaded automatically to a central database, allowing water authorities to get a better idea of what is happening in their waterways. The hope is all the walkers, joggers, drivers and bikers who routinely drive over or by local waterways will now stop and collect information that can be used to protect the rivers and streams from pollution and contamination.

California's State Water Control Board is the first agency to partner with IBM. The state agency will use the data collected by iPhone users to monitor the creeks and streams throughout California, according to IBM.

"With about 800 miles of creeks in Santa Clara County alone, we need innovative technologies like this one to empower the community to help us continuously improve our water quality and the environment," Carol Boland, watershed biologist for the City of San Jose, Calif., said in a statement. "An amazing characteristic of IBM's Creek Watch app is that it's accessible to anyone that has an iPhone and doesn't require a huge commitment to do something that will really benefit the creeks."