IBM opens tech tap to fix urban India’s water woes

Preeti Mehra New Delhi | Updated on April 12, 2011

Amid increasing water woes across the country's towns and cities, IBM sees a big opportunity. The IT major is in talks with a number of metros, urban local bodies and municipalities to introduce its information technology-driven water management solutions.

The company's ‘smarter water management technologies' is part of its $100-million investment to expand into environmental fields under its Big Green Innovations initiative.

The technologies, developed for varied usages, help utility companies reduce their pollution levels, improve the quality of drinking water and increase the supply of usable water.

advanced analytics system

This is done through a real-time advanced analytics system that tracks and reports on several conditions of an infrastructure including the filtration equipment, water pumps, valves to collection pipes, water storage basins and laboratory equipment.

Dr Cameron Brooks, Director, IBM Smarter Water Management, explains that the ability to monitor these systems in real-time means that potential problems such as a burst water main, a slow leak, a clogged drain or a hazardous sewage overflow can be quickly identified and resolved. It can even be predicted and prevented. The system has the ability to also tap into geospatial data to pinpoint the exact location of problem areas.

Swim solutions

Though the company was not willing to as yet share details on the projects being planned for India, Dr Cameron cited IBM's Strategic Water Information Management (SWIM) solutions platform as ideal for the country.

The SWIM platform comprises smart information architecture and intelligent infrastructure that enables automated sensing, monitoring, and decision support for water management operations. The solutions could be a mix of ‘smart' sensors, modelling, visualising tools and analytics which monitor and inform on the physical water infrastructure and environment.

“SWIM is a proven solution that can help us reduce non-revenue water (NRW or water that has been produced and is lost before it reaches the customer) by almost 60 per cent. NRW refers to water that a water utility does not receive any compensation for. It includes water not billed as a result of leakage, inadequate measurement, illegal use, and free (authorised) use. Estimates in Asian cities, show that 50–65 per cent of NRW is due to apparent losses. In India 60 per cent water is lost owing to distribution. Hence, it is vital to minimise the same,” he says.

Water management

Currently, IBM is working with several utility companies across the globe to solve challenges in water management which are similar to the ones that are in India. The company's major projects for modernising the management of ageing water and sewer infrastructure include DC Water, the Fukuoka District Waterworks in Japan, Power and Water Corporation in Australia, the Sacramento Area Sewer District, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

In the city of Shenyang in China, as part of its Smart City project, IBM is involved in analysing data from the city's sewage and plumbing systems to determine where water is being wasted and how access to clean drinking water can be improved.

Published on April 12, 2011

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