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.
In his Jan. 12 speech at the Chatham House in London, Palmisano said:
""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 live.""
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 said.
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 problems.
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 officials said.