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IBM Unveils "Smart Water" Technology and Services

IBM has introduced a new set of products and services designed to support smarter water use.

IBM, which has been promoting the virtues of its smart grid and smart traffic technologies, today announced it’s jumping into “smart water,” too. The technology and services giant introduced a new suite of services and products aimed at better using water resources.

At the top of the list, a new membrane that filters toxins more efficiently than current methods, IBM says. The membrane uses a unique chemistry in what IBM calls a  “water super-highway.””  The rate at which the water super-highway removes arsenic from contaminated water doubles as the pH increases. When contaminated water is forced through the membrane salts and a number of toxins are filtered out  and what’s left is pure drinking water.

The technology applies some of the same concepts used to help develop semiconductor chips but researchers were able to apply the methods to water filtration.

The membrane, which can resist damage from chlorine, was developed by scientists at IBM Research, in collaboration with Central Glass of Japan, the King Abdul-aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia, and the University of Texas, Austin.

The services IBM announced include tools to help manage water levels and quality, provide flood control and levee oversight, create smarter water-metering and a service to help water utilities better respond to emergencies and improve their operating efficiency. Big Blue also unveiled Green Sigma for Water ™, a business consulting service  based on Six Sigma metholodies helps create process improvements reduce water used. IBM said pilot programs have reduced water use by 30 percent.

The company also showed off its SmartBay sensor system, which monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels in and around Galway Bay, Ireland. The system, developed by IBM and the Marine Institute of Irelan can provide real-time information about conditions. For instance, fisherman can report on the size of their catch from the bay via text, or report a floating obstacle in the water. The system can then predict the location of that obstacle over time and relay information to boats.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the membrane would be commercially available. The move to promote water conservation is the latest in a series of environmental moves for Big Blue. Last month IBM touted its efforts to build a 20-petaflop supercomputer that’s also energy efficient.The company is also building a smart grid for the whole island of Malta, and has even promoted planet-saving video games.

Considering the earth’s ever-increasing population problems, and the fact that one-in-five people worldwide wide don’t have access to clean drinking water, this new foray has the potential for big payoffs for IBM.

Photo credit: Hypergurl’s Flickr stream, via a Creative Commons License.

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Written By

Dave has over a decade of experience in journalism covering a wide variety of topics. He spent 7 years on the business beat for the Rochester (N.Y) Democrat and Chronicle, covering technology issues including the state's growing green economy. When he's not writing, you'll find Dave enjoying his family, being a bit of a music snob, and praying that the Notre Dame football team can get its act together. He lives in Rochester.


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