This year's large size is mainly due to heavy stream flows in May, Rabalais continued, which were about 34 percent above the long-term average and carried higher-than-average amounts of nutrients through Midwest waterways and into the Gulf. In its action plan for the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force recently extended the deadline until 2035 for achieving the goal of a 1,950-square-mile dead zone, which would be roughly the size of Delaware. Shrinking the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone down to that size, however, will require a much higher 59 percent reduction in the amount of nitrogen runoff that flows down the Mississippi River, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The bottom line is that we will never reach the action plan's goal of 1,950 square miles until more serious actions are taken to reduce the loss of Midwest fertilizers into the Mississippi River system," says University of Michigan aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, lead author of the paper.
Monterrey itself has a strong incentive to take part in this study, since it loses an estimated 40 percent of its water supply to leaks every year, costing the city about $80 million in lost revenue. That's why that desert nation's King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals has sponsored and collaborated on much of the MIT team's work, including successful field tests there earlier this year that resulted in some further design improvements to the system, Youcef-Toumi says. Currently there is not an effective tool to locate leaks in those plastic pipes, and MIT PipeGuard's robot is the disruptive change we have been looking for." The MIT system was actually first developed to detect gas leaks, and later adapted for water pipes.
Because many processing facilities can't quickly identify the chemicals in this household waste, the items are often simply lumped together and incinerated – which is expensive. Their start-up, Smarter Sorting, has installed a barcode scanning system at four waste disposal sites in the US used by the public – in Austin, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Portland, Oregon; and Mesa County, Colorado. "The machine goes'beep' and at that point the screen simply tells the worker, 'this is where you should place this item'," says Chris Ripley, who co-founded Smarter Sorting together with Charlie Vallely. Also testing the technology is Hope Petrie, hazardous materials manager at Mesa County Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, although she isn't yet using it to alter the way large numbers of items are processed.
In 2013, he and Stonebraker moved up the data value chain and founded Tamr, the Cambridge, MA-based software company aiming to provide a unified view of data in the modern enterprise. Those enterprise data sources should be managed and organized similarly to how search engines crawl and organize the modern world-wide web. From brokering that data internally to business units that want to run analytics, it's a logical extension to monetize data by selling it outside the company. TW: If I'm an enterprise customer, what criteria should I take into account as I look to adopt data integration, machine-learning, data self-service technologies?
Watson, a machine learning system, became a household name when it managed to outdo some formidable Jeopardy contestants. Tom Ash of the Inland Empire Water Utilities Agency, a waste treatment agency and wholesale water distributor serving customers near Los Angeles, discussed the benefits of this approach. The engineering firm Black & Veatch cited the potential for data to improve water utility operations in its most recent report on the state of the industry. There are "opportunities to deploy technology in the form of sensors and data analytics platforms to create value across the entire lifecycle of the utility system while improving overall business operations and safety of water utility providers," the report said.
And one company is now applying IBM's Watson machine learning system in an interesting way to tell water utilities something they would love to know: how efficiently their customers are using water. A geographical analytics company called OmniEarth has Watson churning through banks of aerial and satellite photos to estimate the demand for water on a property-by-property level based on what the property contains. For the Inland Empire Water Utilities Agency and the municipal districts it works with, accessing OmniEarth's data was part of the response to the ongoing drought and the 25-percent reduction in water usage mandated by the state of California last year. Ash noted that the districts working with this information last year learned something useful for California in general--last year's across-the-board emergency 25-percent cut to water usage could be achieved on a permanent basis if everyone just met the state's efficiency standards.
On Wednesday, California suspended its mandatory drought restrictions, saying that the state is turning over responsibility of the water restrictions to individual communities, letting them set their own restrictions based on their water budgets, with the state only stepping in if the budgets are unrealistically optimistic. "Water is one of the most fundamental things for life on Earth," OmniEarth co-founder Jonathan Fentzke told Popular Science. In this case, OmniEarth has told Watson to look at an aerial or satellite image of an area of land and recognize trees, shrubs, grasses, pools, solar panels, houses and impermeable surfaces (like parking lots). Using that information, water authorities or companies can target areas or homes where people are wasting water, and send specialized educational materials to let people know how they can cut down on water waste.
The supercomputer, which may be best known for destroying human opponents in games like Jeopardy and Go, has been enlisted by environmental consulting firm OmniEarth to track water use across California. Even without OmniEarth or Watson's help, Californians are working to track and cut down their water consumption. Instead of laboring for several hours to scan 150,000 images, OmniEarth can tap Watson to process those images in 12 minutes, according to Jonathan Fentzke, chief strategy officer at OmniEarth. OmniEarth provides its water use data to 90 local government agencies in California, including the City of Folsom and the East Bay Municipal Water District.
Software as a service platform Jodone's latest design makes sorting recyclables from trash faster, more efficient and ultimately, more profitable. Made for use with industry standard robots from multiple suppliers, the interface turns the acts of recognizing and categorizing recyclables into a game. As waste travels along a conveyer belt, workers swipe a touch screen to classify items as recyclable. As environmental standards rise and governments get tougher on industries and their waste management processes, Jodone sees gamification as key to both cost saving and improved working conditions.
The project, which is being done with Sweetwater Tech Resources, utilizes Water Planet's IMS-5000 Integrated Produced Water Treatment Solution powered by IntelliFlux. The "brains" in membrane systems, IntelliFlux learns how the filter responds to the influent water quality to determine custom-optimized flux maintenance actions (i.e., backwash, CIP, regeneration, etc.). It works in membrane systems designed to meet a wide array of applications including oil & gas produced water treatment (conventional, EOR, fracking, offshore); chemical, pharmaceutical, biotech, food and beverage waste treatment; refining, power and other industrial water treatment/recycling/reuse; seawater desalination pre-treatment for algae bloom resilience; and critical filtration in aerospace, automotive and biomedical industries. Water Planet's product lines include IntelliFlux membrane systems and PolyCera membrane products.