By Phil Guido
Conventional wisdom tells us that cities and regions that face a shortage of a resource will likely be the most innovative out of necessity in conserving it. Apparently the leaders of Milwaukee don’t prescribe to this reactive thinking.
Milwaukee, which is situated on one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world, Lake Michigan, decided a few years ago to use its abundance of water to invest in becoming an innovation hub for it.
After only a few years, Milwaukee’s investments are paying off. Nearly 200 water-related businesses have joined together through a brand new industry, academic and government collaborative called the Global Water Center whose function is to be a source for leading edge water technology and solutions. Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
By Rich Hume
With 20 percent of its land below sea level and more than half of the country vulnerable to flooding, The Netherlands depends on a vast network of dykes and sluices to hold back and divert sea, river and rain water. For most of the past 500 years, the ever-evolving system has done its job admirably. (An exception came in 1953, with flooding that caused the deaths of 1800 people.) Yet global warming and the threat of rising sea levels but also more droughts means the Dutch can’t rest on their laurels. So the government is launching an innovative collaboration aimed at harnessing big data to improve management of the water system while restraining cost increases. Continue Reading »
By Eoin Lane
People often say that water is the new oil, but really, it’s not. Oil is a fossil fuel that takes millions of years and a lot of pressure to create. When we burn oil – for example, by driving our cars – it is gone forever (or at least for a few more millions of years before it can be created again!).
Water, on the other hand, cannot be created or destroyed (this is not strictly true, but bear with me). The same amount of water is around today that was around when the Earth was formed. The truth is there is a lot of water on Earth – just not a lot of drinking water. Continue Reading »
By Ahmed Simjee
When I was growing up in South Africa, my family was fortunate. We had access to fresh drinking water. At first we lived on a small farm near Johannesburg, where we used a well. Later, when I moved closer to the city, I had good tap water. But many of my fellow South Africans weren’t so lucky, and, even today, many people in the rural areas and in informal settlements near the cities don’t have ready access to fresh drinking water. That’s why I’m extremely pleased to be spearheading an initiative in South Africa, WaterWatchers, which is aimed at using mobile phones and crowdsourcing to cut down on leaks and wasted water.
We’re launching our free WaterWatchers app today in Gauteng Province, home of Johannesburg and the capital city, Tshwane. With 12.3 million residents, the province represents 23% of South Africa’s population. We timed the launch to coincide with the United Nations’ World Water Day. If you’re in South Africa, please download the app. Continue Reading »
By Jack Kardys
Miami-Dade County Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 260 parks and 12,825 acres of land. It is made up of 17 miles of beaches, the renowned Zoo Miami, golf courses, marinas, large athletic stadiums, campgrounds, pools and more.
As Miami-Dade County looks at new ways to re-vitalize the region, create jobs and spur business growth while benefiting residents, the parks system is at the epicenter. In addition to making sure we’re good stewards of the environment, we are committed to ensuring social equity with the right distribution of park facilities and programs throughout the community for people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and income levels.
Most of the parks in Miami-Dade County are anywhere from 50 to 75 years-old. Our beachfront parks were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s and the saltwater intrusion has been wreaking havoc on the system ever since. Our community pools were built in the 1960’s and the early 1970’s. The pipe corrosion from chlorine and the chemicals we use to keep those in balance tear up our pipes. It’s a challenge we face throughout the region. Continue Reading »
By Angel Petisco
Most organizations would be surprised if they understood the vastness of the data they’re sitting on at any given point. But the magic happens when that data, through proper analysis and mining, is converted into useful information.
That’s what we’re doing in Miami-Dade County. Using IBM Big Data analytics we’re able to provide a greater level of service to our residents by bringing together information from more than 35 different municipal government departments and agencies. Sharing information in this way will help us solve traffic congestion challenges, improve law enforcement by helping to solve crimes faster, and reduce water waste improving the county’s stewardship of natural resources. Ultimately, such improvements to our operations will allow us to save significant costs and identify new ways to spur economic growth and job creation. Continue Reading »
Editor’s Note: This Friday (August 24), be sure to join us for an interactive Smarter Friday conversation about Smarter Cities Challenge on Facebook throughout the business day (New York time). Please Tweet to #SmarterCities.
Nearly four years into the Smarter Planet journey, IBMers have undertaken more than 2,000 engagements with governments and businesses aimed helping them use cutting-edge technologies to make their systems for getting things done work better. These encounters are all over the map, geographically and figuratively. But important lessons are being learned. And, in particular, one interesting pattern is emerging. For organizations of all types, good outcomes depend on addressing the yin and yang of building a smarter planet: a combination of improvisation and preparedness–or long term planning.
Improvisation: In the realm of smarter planet problems and solutions, there’s so much variability that no single blueprint will fit every overtly similar situation. Organizations have to be flexible and creative to get stuff done. They can’t let the need for a master plan or budget-tightening pressures paralyze them.
Preparedness: While creative fixes can help city leaders manage their systems for the short-term, the longer-term vitality of cities, countries and organizations depends on leaders adopting a mission and a strategy for achieving it. But even that’s not enough. They have to anticipate the challenges to come–everything from next year’s big storm to the impacts of climate change to the next big financial shock–and build resilient systems capable of withstanding them.
Across North America, drought-stricken farmers are facing historically small harvests, raising concerns about global shortages and increasing food prices. This summer’s drought should be a strong reminder that we have to manage our water resources more carefully.
In many countries, the competition for water between the countryside and cities is intensifying. Farmers face an uphill battle in the competition for water since industry can afford to pay much more than they can, according to the Earth Policy Institute.
This battle over water is likely to intensify. As the world’s levels of CO2 emissions continue to rise, the frequency of extreme weather phenomena such as heat waves is expected to intensify. Heat waves are expected to further strain the world’s water resources, especially in areas where water demand is increasing and water supplies are shrinking. The challenge worldwide is to meet today’s water needs while putting in place innovative strategies to address future requirements.
One of the best ways to promote sustainability is to make consumers aware of the true cost of water.
The 1990s was the era of reengineering the corporation. Technology helped leaders overhaul their operations–everything from sales to supply chains. Now the phenomenon has spread to cities. Across the globe, municipal leaders ares rethinking and redesigning how they do things.
One of their biggest headaches is infrastructure–their roads, bridges, sidewalks, water lines and sewer pipes. They used to fix things when they broke. These days, increasingly, the forward-thinkers among them aim to fix things before they have a chance to break. And they’re using technology to help them optimize the way they invest in infrastructure maintenance and renewal.
Cambridge, a small city in Ontario, Canada, is in the vanguard of getting this right. It has been working with IBM Research to develop a system for prioritizing the city’s investments in fixing or replacing physical infrastructure so they meet the public’s needs while making the most of their limited budget. “We look at how we can use technology and revised business practices to make the city work better,” says Mike Hausser, Cambridge’s director of asset management and support services.