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Jasper Schroder, IBM Global Center of Excellence for Water Management - Lead Developer

Jasper Schroder, IBM Global Center of Excellence for Water Management – Lead Developer

By Jasper Schroder & John Cohn

Around the world, more than 20 terabytes of weather data is generated every day. If we could use all of this data to build more precise, accurate weather forecasts, we could dramatically improve the way cities and businesses plan for and manage through storms, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and more.

Yet in Africa – a vast continent with widely varying weather conditions – there is a relatively low density of weather stations collecting climate data, leaving scientists without the information they need to build this kind of advanced forecast.

That’s why Delft University of Technology Professor Nick van de Giesen created the The Trans African Hydro Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO), a project that aims to build a dense network of hydro-meteorological monitoring stations across sub-Saharan Africa. To do it, TAHMO will look to set up 20,000 stations, costing no more than $200 each, one every 30 kilometers. The stations will be placed at schools and integrated into educational programs. The data will be combined with models and satellite observations to obtain a very complete view of water and energy distribution.

One of the biggest challenges facing the project was coming up with a way to build inexpensive weather stations equipped with robust sensors. So TAHMO put the issue to a test and launched the TAHMO Sensor Design Competition which brought in designs from students all across the continent.

John Cohn, IBM Fellow, Corporate Technical Strategy

John Cohn, IBM Fellow, Corporate Technical Strategy

The winners of the competition joined Professor van de Giesen and a team of TU Delft researchers in Nairobi during the first week of August to integrate all the winning sensors into one big weather station. The “Plug and Play” sensor solution was developed as part of the Digital Delta project, a joint research program by Rijkswaterstaat, Delfland Water Board, Delft University of Technology, Deltares and IBM, which was created to help make the water management system in the Netherlands much more efficient.

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The Plug and Play sensor solution is designed to make it very easy to integrate new types of sensors so scientists and students can spend more time using their data and less time on setup, connectivity, data flow and storage. Getting this capability ready for the TAHMO teams involved a truly worldwide collaboration.

The Digital Delta team from IBM Netherlands developed the Plug and Play solution and led the deployment. The core of the solution is IBM Intelligent Operations for Water (IOW) running on the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise and supported by IBM researchers in China, Ireland and North Carolina. A group of IBM volunteers, dubbed “Hello Sensors,” donated their lessons-learned on connecting sensors over MQTT (the communication protocol for the Internet of Things) to IOW. A volunteer from the Raspberry Pi  Foundation from the University of Cambridge, UK helped the teams to connect the sensors to Raspberry Pis (inexpensive, credit-card sized microcomputers), making the sensors part of the Internet of Things. Volunteers from IBM’s new Nairobi Lab helped the teams with equipment and logistics.

The amazing thing is that the entire TAHMO solution came together in less than three weeks and worked as planned. The TAHMO teams and the volunteers had a great time and IBM demonstrated the flexibility and ease of use of our Digital Delta solution.

For more information on TAHMO, visit http://tahmo.info/about-tahmo

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