Smart Water Sensing Technologies

The World Wildlife Fund states that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages and ecosystems around the world will suffer even more.  In addition, an excess of 6.5 billion people are projected to live in cities by 2050, according to recent UN estimates.  The sustainability problem of water scarcity is mounting at a global scale but solutions require highly localized implementation.  We are well beyond mere civil engineering matters at this point and pressures are also growing for cities to get “smart.”  This means that looking to improve water and wastewater management, power generation, and urban demands on rural agricultural production are at the top of the list.  The matter of addressing water scarcity involved many stakeholders – householders, residential and commercial property owners, industrial operations, municipalities, water utilities, regulators, policy makers, lawyers, ecosystems, and farming communities.

This matter of water access is an age old one and has made the big screen more than once (think back to 1974 and the movie Chinatown) but today water is increasingly being managed like a commodity (think the documentary Water & Power: A California Heist) and has become a driver of fear to the point of perception that we’re on the bring of a age of water wars.  To date the value of predictive analytics and maintenance of water based assets has been touted as an area of great hope for these concerns but many of these management approaches and their associated methodologies have sought to conserve water, reduce scheduling of repairs costs, maintenance efforts, and eliminate failures without accounting for many “soft” factors.  Worse, these tactics neglect lower hanging fruit that is readily available.  For example, during a period of about 18 months during the years 2013-2015 the largest provider of water and wastewater services in the United Kingdom, Thames Water, worked with Accenture to try to figure out how to best use sensors, analytics, and real-time data to “help the utility company anticipate equipment failures and respond more quickly to critical situations, such as leaks or adverse weather events.”  A good and necessary start but far from systemic when considering the scale of implementation plans needed for the years 2025 to 2050.

Today water management and smart water sensing technologies exist even for the DIY home owner and this is indeed a great place to start.  It’s low hanging fruit like residential consumers that can lead to increasingly addressing other higher volume end points of water consumption.  Installing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is nearly a dead ringer for water utilities so they can better mange for otherwise they’re unable to measure and that’s a death spiral nobody can afford these days.  The growing pressures on infrastructure that urbanization will bring with it are well known and so to get a smart city one must prepare for growth in commensurate ways that are also able to process the worldwide urbanization phenomena.  Smart water sensing technologies and in turn the education of water consumers is a logical place to start for at scale impact.


JMB2408 COMMENT TO ANOTHER BLOG POST (Automated Underground Bike Storage):

This concept of storage is pretty amazing in high density environments and of course next to nowhere in the United States will this ever generate enough users to financially justify it but it’s really amazing to think it could be part of a future “smart” city plan. In Boulder, CO there are a lot of bikers and some amazing bike lock options in cage-like structures near the train stations and public transit. A scaled down version of this but one applicable in the United States.



Disaster Planning & Rural Communication Challenges: adhoc networks between mobile devices in the absence of Internet and cellular services

Natural disasters, community events, festivals, and gatherings are increasingly driving the need for hyper-local communications.  The growing high standards of expectation that cellular and Internet technologies will persist, even in the face of such unusual circumstances has been difficult to satisfy.  In fact, in many rural areas of the world there is a lack of this communications infrastructure in the first place.  These village-like social environments are the foundations of sustainable communities for without them chaos rules.  As any city or community planner knows, communications are critical in planning for disaster mitigation, well ahead of solutions based on “hardening” infrastructure (build bigger walls, flood gates, stronger buildings, etc.).

Why?  It’s well documented that the potential for a resilient city to rebound when impacted by natural disaster or a for a community in isolation to become more productive they are tied to the need for improved communications.  Further, the movement to make cities more resilient is well underway and solutions such as FireChat are within a group of new generation mobile apps that allows users to communicate with other nearby iOS devices without Internet or mobile phone coverage.

Download it: iOS and Android

Adhoc mesh networking solutions such as this fall within a set of technologies that can be used in a variety of ways.  Again, most aide those who seek to further enable capacity building at a citywide or community scale.  Recently ranked as a top 10 among social networking apps and already in use within 124 countries, this is a niche solution for sustainable cities seeking to support their communities when in most need.

Use case examples:

  • Floods in Kashmir (April 2015) and Chennai (October 2015), a volcanic eruption at Cotopaxi in Ecuador (August 2015), and in Mexico during hurricane Patricia (October 2015).
  • Event use such as during pro-democracy protests in Taiwan (April 2014) and Hong Kong (September 2014) or the anti-corruption movement within Bersih, Malaysia (August 2015), or the Pope’s visit to the Philippines (January 2015).
  • Elections such as the ones in Venezuela (December 2015) and Republic of the Congo (March 2016).
  • Festivals in India, Canada, and throughout the US; think Burning Man.

Stakeholder analysis is simple here for the requirements to use the technology are minimal; users with mobile devices in need fill the whole bucket.  If a city or a community seeks to scale this technology, then local disaster shelters, hospitals, care centers, event and festival information booths, etc. can weigh in to provide their own wireless WiFi networks and in turn grow their reach of how to communicate with those in need.  Deploying this technology is simple: educate, promote, and as needed support.

Beta.ray – Spherical Collector That Combines Photovoltaic and Thermal Power



  • Solar panels are generally fixed and their optimal collection is limited due to collection angle.
  • Cloudy days traditional solar panels are inefficient in collecting sunlight
  • Solar panels take up a large amount of space.


  • Most solar panels are fixed direction, the beta.ray can rotate according to the sun direction, maintaining optimal collection angle – the small sphere, 75% smaller than a panel that collects the same amount of energy.
  • Cloudy days the beta.ray can improve efficiency by 50% due to concentration of sunlight.
  • The beta.ray is small and can be placed on any flat surface.
  • The spherical shape of the solar collector, together with an integrated solar tracking system, cover far smaller surface area than solar panels of equal efficiency, and allow a collection of energy, even if the light is very low
  • The transparent crystal lens that works as a concentrator of incoming light, Rawlemon’s design promises as much as 95% more energy conversion



  • Rawlemon (company)
  • Home owner
  • Building owner
  • Energy companies
  • Green energy policy advocates

Deployment steps:

  • Certification in EU / US / Asia
  • Supply chain (manufacturing partners)
  • Retail distribution (commercial / retail)



Machine learning has a big potential in the supply chain and distribution of food products in developing countries. Beyond just creating healither foods, the technology can be merged with weather data to improve distribution of non-perishable foods.



Beyond plastic bags the Avani Eco can use the technology to create pellets for packaging products.


The technology can be use in rural areas / pacific islands to provide electricity and food.

The Internet Could Heat Your Home

Problem: the need for connectivity and bigger servers is increasing, but they are hugely energy intensive.

Solution: Give the produced heat a purpose, to create energy savings somewhere else and prevent energy wastage.

  • Data centers require a large number of fans and cold water to keep them cool. The fans are really loud, and the heat produced is usually wasted.
  • Stockhold Data Parks runs in partnership with the city’s government, Fortum Värme (heating and cooling agency) to try to optimize the use of this heat.
  • Cold water feeds through pipes to the data centre, where it is heating through the data centre’s cooling process, and then runs back to Fortum’s plants where it is used for heating.
  • Stockholm Data Parks expects to generate enough heat to warm 2,500 residential apartments by 2018, but the long term goal is to meet 10% of the entire heating need of Stockholm by 2035.

Article: Link



  • Possible commercial customers (shopping malls etc)
  • Residential buildings – 10 MW of energy is needed to heat 20,000 modern residential apartments, whereas an average Facebook data centre uses 120 MW.
  • Companies with data centers
  • City governments and local utility providers

Deployment steps: 

  • List and contact stakeholders (listed above)
  • Model partnerships between heat producers and consumers which are geographically efficient.
  • Value the cost incentive – will it save money overall with the new infrastructure investment?

Comment on CyberRain:

This technology could have the potential to be expanded to cities that make use of rainwater for other uses, or monitor city-wide water management during unpredictable rainfall seasons and drought conditions. It could also be incorporated into water payment systems to create incentives for water savings on irrigation.


Sustainability problem: water management

CyberRain is a smart home sprinkler system.

1.It checks your location’s weather conditions, regularly and wirelessly sending updated sprinkling times to the customer’s CyberRain controller.

2.Works with all standard automatic sprinkler systems, connects to existing valve wires.

3.Allows the customer to set up their own water-wise sprinkling schedule based on their landscape.

Stakeholders: Home owners

Deployment: Raise awareness on the importance of using water wisely, demonstrate water and money that can be saved by adopting this technology, integrate into households by creating incentives through a partnership with water utility companies.

Comment on “Not a plastic bag”:

Lab-grown meat: fantasy or reality?

memphis meats.jpgSustainability problem:

Global livestock farming generates 7.1  gigatons of CO2 annually, which represents 15% of human induced GHG emissions.

To top it off, our global population is fast increasing (10 billion by 2050), and so is our meat consumption (+ 4.5% by 2024).

At this rate, it is evident that our GHG emissions from livestock farming are only going to increase at accelerating speed.


Lab-grown meat. There are studies showing that lab grown meat’s carbon footprint is less intensive than slaughtered meat’s.

Currently, fetal serum is taken from unborn calves to grow muscle tissue. The current technology produces about a pound of meat for $9,000.


  • alternative meat producers
  • investors
  • livestock farms meat producers
  • slaughterhouses
  • consumers
  • government


  • Improve technology to reduce the cost of production
  • Launch consumer product
  • Elaborate communications campaign and educational programs
  • Partner with food suppliers and retailers


Additional thoughts:

This technology could revolutionize the way we consume and feed ourselves. Currently though, the only proved advantage is related to animal welfare. Although there are some studies showing a lower associated GHG footprint than with traditional meat, more research needs to be done. Finally, product cost remains astronomical and scaling strategy unknown.

Comment on post ‘Not a Plastic Bag’: This is a very promising technology. I would say that part of the current problem associated with alternative plastic bags is the lack of clarity to the consumer. Are they actually more sustainable? If so, which ones are best amongst the many options? This is a case where consumers need to be better informed in order to actually put pressure on retailers to adopt such technologies and create systemic change.

Comercial Carbon Capture

9_climeworks_iceland_dac_plant_founder_jan_wurzbacher_left_and_christoph_gebald_right_credit_climeworks_-_zev_starr-tambor1) Sustainability Problem:

CO2 gas in the atmosphere is a major contributor to global warming. While many governments,organizations, scientists, individuals, etc. are working on ways to reduce emissions from our everyday actives to prevent more CO2 from entering our atmosphere , some companies are not looking into ways to reduce the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere through carbon capture.

2) Technology:

  • How-technology-workS_V17webready.jpgEach Climeworks system is a 7-foot tall machine resembling a large fan that sucks up 50 tons of CO2 annually out of the atmosphere by using a chemical process to absorb the gas and bind it to filter materials in the system
  • The materials can then be stored or used for another purpose, such as fertilizer, which is used by a greenhouse near the company’s first plant
  • Climeworks is different from other carbon storage systems because its plants have a much smaller footprint and use less water than competitors

3) Stakeholders:

  • Competitors (other carbon capture companies)
  • Government
  • Organizations looking to offset their emissions

4) Deployment/Implementation

  • Increase pilot tests to determine feasibility of plants in different environments: “According to a Climeworks spokesperson, the main goal of the pilot is to gauge how the technology performs in the harsh winter conditions of northeast Iceland and to understand how the systems handle other air impurities, such as sulphur compounds.”
  • Decrease costs in order to scale up and take advantage of their first mover advantage – they are the first carbon capture company to reach the commercially viable stage
  • Partner with corporations to create new uses for the concentrated CO2 byproducts



Comment on Not a Plastic Bag

Is this product fully bio-degradable in landfills? As the article mentions there are issues with bio-based plastics being fully bio-degradable and non-toxic. While this is a big step in the right direction it might not fully solve the problem.

Machine learning for vegan food

  1. Meat and animal products are an important source of protein with a relevant nutritional value. Nonetheless, the environmental impact in terms of land use, water consumption and CO2 emissions have become of significant importance, also due to the continuous increasing consumption. By 2050 world meat production is projected to double, most of which is expected in developing countries. [1]

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions [Co2e] than transport, by 18%. [2]

It is also a major source of land and water degradation. Livestock’s requires vast tracts of land and a significant demand for feed crops, both contribute to biodiversity loss. Moreover, it’s among the most damaging sectors water resources, not only because of its water consumption, but also contributing to water pollution, eutrophication and the degeneration of coral reefs, due to the manure of livestock.

  1. Machine learning is a subset of AI, that generates algorithms that can learn from data and make predictions on it.  In other words make machines learn from experience, experience coming in form of data and the more the data, the more it learns. Machine learning can be useful for making data-driven predictions or decisions.

To create healthier food, companies like Hamptons Creek are automating the extraction and analysis of plant proteins. This includes examining their molecular features and functional performance such as gelling, foaming, and emulsifying properties. Ultimately, the goal is to feed this research to an AI an through machine-learning algorithms identify the most-promising proteins for use in the creation of vegan food that tastes similar to animal products (mayonnaise, muffins, spreads, and other foods). Finally, we are applying generative design to food production. [3]

According to Lee Chae, Hampton Creek’s head of research and development,  Hampton Creek applies deep machine learning to plant biological data to meet its objective of creating healthier food. [4]

  1. This is not really a new technology rather than a new technology application. To deploy this application, more enterprises in the food industry should be making research in this field, or applying the outcomes. More importantly, I personally don’t think that every enterprise should be conducting the same research rather than to have an open database with the results,  would be a great way to expand the adoption of this knowledge.  Furthermore, this new application raises the question of what other industries could be impacted by machine learning, through generative design? Let’s take for example the polymer industry, imagine to feed the AI data about the plant properties to replace plastics.


  1. Since deep learning and machine learning can be applied to several databases, to make predictions as well as generative design, many industries could benefit from this technology. In my opinion is a private sector driven technology, especially due to its large upfront capital investment.  The first step to deploy it is to have a reliable database, this can be either from a primary or a secondary source, depending on the application.

Although it does require a group of people specialized in artificial intelligence, the results could be applied to the industry with no further disruption, this reduces the barriers to technology adoption.

Solar Powered Emergency Lights for Campus Safety

1) Sustainability Problem: Safety

Purdue University has taken an environmentally friendly approach to safety by making the “blue light” Emergency Telephone System (ETS) in the Waldron Street area of campus powered by the sun. Before the installation of this technology, the call boxes in the Waldron area were not illuminated. Most call boxes on campus draw power from neighboring buildings owned by the University. However, this was not an option along Waldron Street because the surrounding buildings are privately owned. This solar powered approach has been able to enhance the safety on campus while also utilizing alternative energy supply.

2) Summary

  • Tom Barbour, the Electronic Technician for Operations and Maintenance at Purdue University, believed it was important to find a way to equip all call boxes on campus with functional safety lights.
  • After trying a variety of methods to make the lights in the Walden area functional, solar power was determined to be a viable alternative.
  • Installing solar powered blue lights on the ETS phones in the Walden area is an effective emergency solution that helps to raise the level of safety on campus.
  • Solar powered blue lights are also cost effective, as the local police department previously saved energy costs by installing energy efficient lighting in the police dispatch center.

3) Stakeholders

  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Community Members
  • Facilities Management
  • Local Police
  • University Administrators

4) Deployment

  1. Identify ETS phones that are not currently illuminated, or otherwise costly to illuminate, on campus.
  2. Install solar panels on the under-illuminated ETS phones.
  3. Provide enhanced campus safety by providing illuminated spaces where emergency calls can be made while also reducing energy costs.


Solar-powered emergency light provides sustainable safety. Purdue Today. Purdue University. September 26, 2011. Web Accessed October 19, 2017.