Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘smarter water

Research In Nairobi

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Over the past several years, you’ve probably noticed that IBM has become much more active on the African continent.

IBM’s newest research lab will be the first on the African continent, in Nairobi, where scientists will conduct basic and applied research to tackle some of East Africa’s toughest challenges, including smarter water systems and transportation congestion.

IBM’s continued investment in this emerging and important continent were expanded upon yesterday when IBM announced that Africa would be the next frontier for innovation in IBM Research.

IBM Research – Africa will have its first location, in Nairobi, Kenya, in collaboration between the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) through the Kenya ICT board.

This new venture will conduct basic and applied research focused on solving problems relevant to African and contribute to the building of a science and technology base for the continent.

Key areas of research will include the following:

  • Next Generation Public Sector: Governments have a mission critical role to play in the growth and sustainable developments in Africa. With the right kind of ICT, including big data solutions, advanced analytics, and cloud technologies, government organizations can draw insights and benefit from the vast amounts of data held by any number of government agencies. This can help advance e-government capabilities such as helping to reduce the cost of social services, improving efficiency and productivity, deterring fraud and abuse, improving citizen access to services, and enabling digital interaction between citizens and the public sector.
  • Smarter Cities – with initial focus on water and transportation: Rates of urbanization in Africa are the highest in the world. The single biggest challenge facing African cities is improving access to and quality of city services such as water and transportation. IBM, in collaboration with government, industry and academia, plans to develop Intelligent Operation Centers for African cities – integrated command centers – that can encompass social and mobile computing, geo-spatial and visual analytics, and information models to enable smarter ways of managing city services. The initial focus will be on smarter water systems and traffic management solutions for the region.
  • Human Capacity Development: A skills shortage is hindering the leadership and innovation of new industry in Africa. The IBM Research – Africa lab, while carrying out research, will help to elevate the level of ICT and related scientific skills in Kenya by working in collaboration with select universities, government agencies and companies. Boosting the innovation culture in Kenya and engaging local entrepreneurs and innovators in developing solutions that matter to the people of Kenya and the region may also assist in accelerating economic development.

“In today’s world, innovation is the main lever for a competitive national economy, is a source of employment, and has the potential to improve lives,” said Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology. “The IBM research lab, will not only rubber stamp Kenya as Africa’s leader in ICT, but will help the country to transform into a knowledge based economy.”

Operations at IBM Research – Africa will commence immediately. Expansion into other parts of Africa may be considered in a second phase.

IBM Investment in Africa 

IBM is making a significant investment in Africa, ramping up its profile on the continent as part of its focus on emerging markets. The expansion program is part of a major business plan to increase IBM’s presence in growth markets and support global strategy. The company is present in more than 20 African countries and recognizes the huge potential of research and smarter systems in transforming business, government and society across the continent.

Alongside its day-to-day business of providing advanced technologies and services to clients in Africa, IBM has deployed an array of programs aimed at building economic capacity such as IBM’s employee volunteer program, Corporate Service Corps, which is modelled on the U.S. Peace Corps. For example, IBM is working with the Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) to review the country’s changing economic landscape and develop a plan to deliver financial services to rural areas.

IBM Research – Africa will join existing labs in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

IBM Research laboratories are credited with the creation of many of the foundations of information technology, including the invention of the relational database, disk storage, DRAM memory and much more. IBM Research has been recognized with five Nobel Prize Laureates, and many leading scientific and technical medals and awards.

Recently IBM Research created a question-answering supercomputing system called Watson that defeated the champions of a major televised quiz show, showing its ability to match humans in answering a wide range of free text questions.

When It Rains, It Pours

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Considering that the city of Austin and much of Texas have not gotten very much rain this year, it’s somewhat ironic that IBM and the University of Texas at Austin are announcing today applied advanced analytics solutions for river systems that can help with flood prevention and preparedness.

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, but traditionally flood prediction methods are focused only on the main stems of the largest rivers — overlooking extensive tributary networks where flooding actually starts, and where flash floods threaten lives and property.

IBM researchers and researchers from UT Austin are using these analytics to predict the Guadalupe River’s behavior more than 100 times the normal speed.

IBM’s new flood prediction technology can simulate tens of thousands of river branches at a time, and could scale further to predict the behavior of millions of branches simultaneously.

By coupling analytics software with advanced weather simulation models, such as IBM’s Deep Thunder, municipalities and disaster response teams could make emergency plans and pinpoint potential flood areas on a river.

As a testing ground, the team is presently applying the model to predict the entire 230 mile-long Guadalupe River and over 9,000 miles of tributaries in Texas.  In a single hour the system can currently generate up to 100 hours of river behavior!

“Combining IBM’s complex system modeling with our research into river physics, we’ve developed new ways to look at an old problem,” said Ben Hodges, Associate Professor at UT Austin Center for Research in Water Resources. “Unlike previous methods, the IBM approach scales-up for massive networks and has the potential to simulate millions of river miles at once. With the use of river sensors integrated into web-based information systems, we can take this model even further.”

Speed on this scale is a significant advantage for smaller scale river problems, such as urban and suburban flash flooding caused by severe thunderstorms.

Within the emergency response network in Austin, Texas, professors from University of Texas at Austin are linking the river model directly to NEXRAD radar precipitation to better predict flood risk on a creek-by-creek basis.

In addition to flood prediction, a similar system could be used for irrigation management, helping to create equitable irrigation plans and ensure compliance with habitat conservation efforts.

The models could allow managers to evaluate multiple “what if” scenarios to create better plans for handling both droughts and water surplus.

The project is currently being run on IBM’s Power 7 systems, which accelerate the simulation and prediction significantly, allowing for additional disaster prevention and emergency response preparation.

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