The smart grid for electricity has become so mainstream Congress wrote it into the stimulus law enacted earlier this year. IBM's marketing of "smarter planet" goes way beyond electricity and networked grid. I recently spoke with Drew Clark, director of strategy of IBM Venture Capital Group. And we talked smart grid, but it was all about water which may become the planet's most precious resource due to climate change. Clark suspects there is a $20-billion business on the planet for cleaner, potable water. In fact there's more than $15-billion in the American stimulus plan for water projects across the nation. California recently got over $400-million for water projects in the nearly bankrupt state. Clark outlined several efforts IBM is supporting to bring networked sensors and real time data management into the world of water management which has for centuries been little more than a civil engineering challenge. Build a canal or aqueduct and fill it with water. Job done. No longer. Water is now a precious and increasingly scarce resource. Making beer, ethanol, bread, paper? Growing rice, cotton, corn or soybeans? Got a high rise building with 4,000 cubicles. Got water? IBM's WATER PROJECTS Under a contract with the European Union's smallest country, Malta, IBM is designing and will oversee installation of a smart grid for both electricity and water for the island nation. The system will enable both the Maltese utilities and individual customers to monitor use and conserve. Working with New York's Beacon Institute, IBM is collaborating on project to make the Hudson's River, the first "smart river." Over 300 miles of stream they will place buoys with sensors. The "River and Estuary Observation Network" will monitor stream flow, pollutants, fish schools. Instant, constant, all along the Hudson. The goal is to know at least as much about the river and its future behavior as we now know about weather systems. In Ireland IBM's helping create a "Smart Bay," currently shown as most maps as simply Galway Bay. IBM's working with the Marine Institute Ireland. The sea-going sensors will monitor marine and aquatic data, waves, tides, plankton, temperatures. The Irish investment in the "Smart Bay" is to enhance data gathering and planning for wave energy, fishing, shipping. Here's the website of the Marine Institute. THE BRAINS BEHIND MEMBRANES As a major manufacturer of chips, IBM has llong needed to obtain and use clean water. The compnay necessarily became an industrial-scale expert at cleaning up water before it was used in IBM factories. Now they realize this membrane technology, which is unique, is of great, widespread great value in the world of water. IBM is now working as water consultant and getting ready to release their membrane tech via licensing and partnerships, says Clark. They began testing their membrane and conservation expertise in the IBM chip plant in Burlington, Vermont. Result: 35% savings in water use. IBM'S PARTNERS IN CLEAN WATER IBM does not make the specialized sensors needed for their water montioring projects. Among the makers: Hydropoint about whom I blogged late last year.
Sensicore: They are making the 2" diameter, water-going sensors which wirelessly feed data to the data center. The Sensicore products hold several sensors on a single device. Last spring this company was recently purchased by GE.
Accuwater of Austin, Texas, builds web-based systems for collecting and analuzing data from the sensing devices. SynapSense makes wireless data transmission systems. This company is backed by a core of VC firms.