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.

 

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Smart Cities & Off-Grid Energy Storage Systems

“Reliable Power Day and Night,” that’s what a Tesla Energy residential energy battery storage solution promises.  For better and worse, the Tesla Powerwall is no longer just for the few seeking off-grid energy storage systems and want to mitigate against utility outages.  In fact, smart energy offerings such as this are well beyond the top branded Tesla EnergySunrun launched their BrightBox solar-plus-storage product offering, Orison audaciously funded a home storage product through a Kickstarter campaign, and even the old school engineering firms such as Lockheed Martin have taken a foray into the energy management and storage market.

From a citywide sustainability perspective these solutions support the growing public desires to reduce dependency on fossil fuel burning energy sources so we should be pleased these technologies have emerged.  Thing is, their capacities to deliver beyond green washing are vast and actually executing this at scale requires sophisticated regulatory and infrastructure coordination, not to mention a whole other set of technologies for load balancing.  Scaling such offering at a citywide level, well, that’s even more complicated.  Yes, this is what a smart cities should be doing to ride the wave of consumer demand that has gone beyond the need to build a bug out shelter for the next Zombie Apocalypse but integrating solar or renewable energy systems such as wind with battery storage is unfortunately a wicked problem.  In executing these CO2 reducing and intelligent energy management solutions there are significant secondary outcomes.  At the top of the list is the challenge of dealing with the historically denoted “consumer,”  that in the process become a producer.  Hands together now, let’s welcome the prosumer to the stage; the true problem child for energy utilities!

How does an electric utility (one only ever known to sell energy) deal with this new bread called a prosumer?  If all producers install off-grid energy storage systems, what is the new role and responsibility for an electric utility?  In this position, can they garner sufficient income to pay for the maintenance of wires and poles?

To solve these challenges there must be significant regulatory involvement in advance of the transition.  Equipment manufacturers and system integrators also need to find ways to make commercially viable solutions that capitalize on consumer demand, but do so in a way so as to not send out a cry and in turn initiate a utility death spiral; ultimately leaving those without an ability to participate in this new energy marketplace footing the bill for the the entire delivery system.  Lastly, through smaller scale pilot projects all the stakeholders can work out best in class methodologies that will take us from where we are to where we clearly are going.

Thankfully, innovative energy marketplaces and regulators are seeing themselves as critical catalysts and the stakeholders in this new world of distributed energy resources (DERs) are stepping up on a global scale.  Pilot projects have begun and successes through public-private partnerships are happening.  The 2016 Southern California Edison and Tesla unveiling of the world’s largest energy storage facility and the New York City program called NY REV have led the way.  Each is but a portion of larger deployment plans for grid-connected storage batteries and both seek to reduce fossil-fuel reliance.  Comprehensive energy strategies initiated in this way will be a win-win for the utilities that want to defray the costs of replacing peakers plants reaching retirement age and for the prosumer wanting to help reduce CO2 emitting fuel in the energy mix.

 

thoughts on “Internet of Trees – When You Give a Tree an Email Address”

  1. Wow, this is really creative! It makes the trees “come alive” and is pretty amazing for potential in many ways to come. I can only begin to imagine how many other things could be categorized and brought into the electronic fold this way. I’m not sure the value of the email as a form of representation and would like to see that stepped up a bit but it’s a start. Surely the more things in cities get tagged the future will show geocaching is not just for those that are high tech in nature.

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.

Smart Cities: Microdosing as a Future Sustainable Technology

CASE EXAMPLE LOCATION: Silicon Valley, California

California and in particular Silicon Valley has long been at the forefront of innovation.  Recent use of a new “technology” is gaining momentum and it may hold the keys to better understand how we can make cities smarter.  Surely GDP isn’t a sole measure of success but Silicon Valley and California have been studied and well documented to be far in excess of what some countries generate.   The fact that Silicon Valley corporations have drawn top talent from around the world and in turn they built a subculture operating on success principals directly tied to a willingness to experiment is unique.  This approach has generated innovations that have many times over changed our planet so surely within are insights on how to make a smart city.

TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION: Microdosing

Increasingly professionals in Silicon Valley are taking small doses of psychedelic drugs in an attempt to increase performance.  The mass media (Huffington PostBBC, and Rolling Stone) is well aware of it and drivers to increase creativity, multi-tasking, and focus are are behind this movement.  This practice, known as “microdosing,” fits all to well with the already pervasive agile software development subculture, venture capital market outputs, and the solution is far from high-tech.  The method is quite straight-forward; minute quantities of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (i.e. magic mushrooms), or mescaline (sourced from a Peyote cactus) are taken regularly, just like most take a morning vitamin.

SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) & 2030

People are in denial, time lacks to use education based methodologies as a means to build capacity, and raising awareness is a tedious and long-term challenge.  The World Bank has tried for decades to meet these challenges with hit and miss success.  Insufficient economic support exists to solve at scale infrastructure transformation and even if the means of building capacity  were free through means such as online education it would still lack the human experience based elements required to change human behavior. 

In the period of time we’ve left to work up solutions that can respond to climate change or meet the SDGs we need much more corporate, citywide, regional, state, and federal engagement.  The effort to sync policy for just the 2030 targets is daunting and already many think tanks engaged have concluded we are likely to fail.  There is an increasing number of institutions and experts starting to conduct gap analysis reports and thus we’ve turned the corner, all  evidence transcends wondering if climate change exists.  Science now seeks to determine what the worst and best case scenarios will could like in the years to come.  Earth needs a “quick fix” and societies respond well the belief that simple solutions exist so working toward motivating people to change, finding techniques to catalyze increased awareness, and make people “smarter” to the challenges is critical.  The development of sustainable solutions lies in the challenge of how to best learn from those with a history of sustainable thinking, a methodology to economic success, and who demonstrate the ability to make change at scale.  Manufacturing that recipes they use and distributing them on a global basis just might be the magic bullet, otherwise the world we are about to leave to those who shall live in 2050, especially when accounting for population growth, is frightening to ponder.

IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS: Pilot Science Based Clinical Studies

Clinical research with psychedelics was stopped in the 1960s and many of the substances were scheduled by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as Schedule 1.  This means at present there are no legal routes forward with this microdosing technology but some experiments are surfacing.   In fact, now that we’re past the rush of popular cultures interest in the 1960s psychedelic scene many of these substances have been significantly altered in their use and societal acceptance.  Recent interests are now supported by rigorous scientific research and pharmaceutical scale financial support.  The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a premier solution provider for any implementation plans and can aide in the development of pilot study experiments with this microdosing technology.  Further research can develop understanding how microdosing may impact people’s choices to engage in environmental issues and ultimately reveal what’s behind the making of one of the smartest regions in the world, Silicon Valley.  Take note, no research exists today on microdosing, it’s a newly developing technology.

STAKEHOLDERS: Famous Technologists as Leaders to Market Adoption

Silicon Valley has a history of psychedelic drug use and famous people have attested to the use having direct impact on their ability to become more creative and contribute.  Some of the founding pillars in our technology world today are people such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, famously attributed to their own personal experiments with LSD.  Engaging high-profile supporters in partnership with clinical organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) would be sufficient start to establish case studies that will comply with the standards created by the FDA

From there, based on success in treatment and use studies, the means to further promote and engage stakeholders in the use of this technology as well as how to best apply it to make cities smarter is nearly brainless in effort.  There are hordes of people willing to experiment with these substances at much higher dosages and use them for recreational purposes, garnering interest in microdosing and recruiting subject cities, regions, states, countries, etc. is a matter of presenting science results and signing up participants.