System to monitor river, predict environmental impacts

IBM Stream Computing captures and analyzes data from thousands of sources

IBM systems will provide constant monitoring of New York's Hudson River with a network of sensors, robotics and computational technology spanning the 315-mile waterway, in a project that could be replicated in other rivers.

The idea is to predict environmental problems the same way meteorologists forecast the weather, according to IBM and its partner in this project, the Beacon Institute.

"With that technological capability we can better understand the effects of global warming, the movements of migrating fish or the transport of pollutants," said Beacon Institute CEO John Cronin in an announcement issued Thursday. "The implications for decision-making and education are staggering."

IBM and the Beacon Institute say the project, when completed, will be the first technology-based monitoring and forecasting network for a major American river and estuary. Both organizations anticipate the network will be replicated in other rivers.

The underlying technology is IBM's Stream Computing system, so named not because it's being used in a river but for its ability to analyze data as it streams in from thousands of sources, increasing the speed and accuracy of decision making. The system, first demonstrated in June, can be used in a variety of disciplines, from security surveillance to Wall Street trading, a New York Times story said.

Data collected in the Hudson River will help scientists understand how changes in its chemistry and biology affect fish and the river.

"IBM will be developing an advanced sensor network that will capture data streams and conduct advanced data analysis in real time," IBM says. "The IBM Stream Computing system can capture data from a multitude of sensors that measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and pollution loading; map fish populations via acoustical data; and track particular fish species through radio tagging."

The Beacon Institute, a river research organization in New York, also plans to build a US$40 million (AU$50.2 million) research lab for engineers, scientists, policymakers and educators doing work related to this Hudson River project. The project's formal title is the River and Estuary Observatory Network.

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