In Western Ontario, Canada researchers have (with the help of IBM Canada) set out to gather unprecedented amounts of data on the Grand River, specifically an 80 sq. km stretch near Waterloo, Ontario. That data is, in part, supplying information about the change in volume and quality of water, allowing predictions that help to secure drinking water and prevent floods. This is just one example of the Grand River Conservation Authority’s many projects to collect data, which means the amount of data that will be up for analysis in the end is massive. Participating in this project are the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Western University and Laurier University.

This specific watershed is equipped with 160 wireless sensors, which send out information about 150 data points every 15 minutes. In specific events such as heavy rain, the intervals shorten to once a second, allowing for a more detailed analysis of even stronger streams of water. The degree of resolution this sophisticated network of sensors can offer is unique. But this is only the beginning. When it comes to big data, the motto is “the more, the merrier’, so the Southern Ontario Water Consortium aims to collaborate with other research facilities and industry. Odum Idika, data platform manager and watershed facility manger for the SOWC phrases their outlook like this: “We’re a platform for people to test and demonstrate new water technologies, and what we’ve done is instrumented this watershed on a scale that’s never been done before. The idea is to be able to take the data and link with other partners and research groups and industry to allow them to augment the tools they already have. So if they want to do more advanced modelling with the real-time data we have they can do that. This is the first phase. now we want to start working with industry.” The SOWC’s endeavours have been supported by IBM Canada through the donation of a copy of their Intelligent Operations for Water suite as well as technical support in setting up the data integration and management platform, as part of the company’s Smarter Water practice. By IBM, The SOWC has also been equipped with a software development kit that allows them to create tools according tho the needs that arise during the project.

By allowing a huge scope of data to be analysed, visualised and shared this project offers a unique example of collaboration between academic research facilities and IT companies. The results that come out of this partnership not only provide helpful information for the future analysis and modelling of developments in drinking water quality and the like. They also shine as an example of how productive the collaboration of academia and technology can be, especially on an industry/institution level.

Read more here.

(image credit: Laszlo Ilyes)

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