How Microsoft is Using the Cloud to Transform Water Management

 |   Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist

Photo: Thomas Slack — s l a c k c r e a t i v e

Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting Chicago and sharing the stage with our partner, Ecolab, to discuss how technology is transforming the way resources are managed and used, with a particular focus on water. Christophe Beck, President of Ecolab, and I participated in a joint keynote at the National Association of Manufacturers’ Leading Edge Executive Forum and it was exciting to hear how sustainability has been infused into the priorities and agenda at the National Association of Manufacturers.

We discussed how water scarcity, water quality and water management, present manufacturers with an incredible opportunity to rethink and reinvent the ways in which water is used and managed. By leveraging advanced analytics, mobile devices, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and genomics, companies like Ecolab are helping transform every aspect of how people live, work and learn. These trends offer huge potential, not only to help business, but also will help address pressing sustainability issues like energy, transportation, food and water.

Water may well be the ‘next carbon’ in terms of the severity and scope; The demand for water has risen alongside population growth, urbanization, changing diets and rising demand for energy. In fact, the United Nations’ World Water Development Report 2015 predicts that, within 15 years, demand will outpace supply by almost 40 percent, and the lack of freshwater will be a major source of stress for two-thirds of the world’s population.

But we see a great opportunity to use the cloud, IoT and machine learning to transform water management. At the event, Ecolab discussed how cloud technologies are being used to create solutions to reduce, reuse and recycle water. The cloud and advanced analytics tools will provide not only real-time sensing and control of water-intensive processes, but also will help Ecolab make recommendations for their customers that may lead to further reduction in water, energy and labor costs.

These technologies can also be used beyond water management scenarios to include decision support tools to evaluate risks and uncover solutions for water security and biodiversity. In Seattle, we partnered with the oceanographers at the University of Washington and a local shellfish company, Taylor Shellfish, to create a cloud-based solution aimed at biodiversity. The solution, LiveOcean, provides geo-targeted forecasts of ocean acidity levels, enabling shellfish farmers to make smart decisions about when to hatch and plant oysters.

These water solutions are also important for cities. Already, Microsoft is working with Chicago to leverage these technologies in the City Digital initiative to develop and test smart and sustainable solutions to make the city more resilient. This includes projects focused on water, such as the Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring pilot, which will allow city planners to measure green infrastructure solutions against traditional infrastructure solutions.

We are excited about the transformative power of the cloud to change the way people and organizations manage and use resources like water. And we’re committed to building out a cloud for global good, which includes building a responsible cloud that minimizes our use of water. Our work on water is just beginning – stay tuned for more updates.

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