Cloud computing meets water computing in Galway’s SmartBay

16 Mar 2009

IBM and the Marine Institute Ireland (MII) have completed the SmartBay pilot information system to monitor wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels in and around Galway Bay.

The real-time advanced analytics pilot is turning mountains of data into intelligence, which is paving the way for smarter environmental management and development of the bay.

The vision for SmartBay is a marine research infrastructure of sensors and computational technology interconnected across Galway Bay, which would collect and distribute information on coastal conditions, pollution levels and marine life.

The monitoring services, delivered via the web and other devices, benefits tourism, fishing, aquaculture and the environment.

The pilot, which includes a move from manual to instrumented data gathering, will allow researchers to deploy quicker reactions to the critical challenges of the bay, such as pollution, flooding, fishing stock levels, green-energy generation and the threats from climate change.

“This collaboration between IBM and MII is vitally important to a mind shift in the way we view our marine sector, in terms of economic opportunities through the application of knowledge,” said Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO, MII.

“Never before has there been a way of doing large-scale marine environment research that allows us to observe ecological phenomena at multiple levels at once. IBM’s real-time monitoring technologies, data analytics and next-generation content delivery on SmartBay allow us to do that.

“SmartBay offers a significant new opportunity for Irish industry to create new businesses for Irish technology companies, as well as enhancing the viability of the seafood, shipping and water-monitoring sectors,” Heffernan added.

SmartBay will help to reduce the time delay to acquire data used in the complex testing of wave-energy converter prototypes for green-electricity generation. This brings wave-generated electricity a step closer to reality and supports Sustainable Energy Ireland programmes.

With the SmartBay pilot project, commercial fishermen are able to share information about problems such as floating physical hazards and instantly raise an alarm to the harbour master. This system alert triggers SmartBay to track, in near real-time, and predict over 24 hours, the location of the floating hazard.

The SmartBay pilot project can also be used to demonstrate novel applications whereby fishermen can directly report their catch, destination and estimated arrival time to fish markets on land, via simple text messaging from mobile phones or onboard internet connections.

Public Health monitoring agencies and laboratories that study water quality are also analysing SmartBay’s new sensor technologies for pollution monitoring.

Using the SmartBay information portal, researchers have access to environmental data that is readily accessible, usable and in near real-time direct on their desktop anywhere in the world via an internet connection.

SmartBay is being developed using cloud computing, an emerging approach to shared infrastructure in which large pools of systems are linked together to provide IT services.

The SmartBay project sees IBM and the MII working directly with Galway Bay’s harbour master and commercial fishermen, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Irish Water Safety Council, the Hydraulics & Maritime Research Centre at University College Cork, and the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland.

Key academic institutions in this research collaboration include Dublin City University, University College Dublin and the Tyndall National Institute in Cork , which will develop smarter water-management systems.

“Our successful demonstration of the first phase of SmartBay completes the first major milestone on our project, and is a significant achievement in a very short space of time,” explained Dr Harry Kolar, IBM chief IT architect for SmartBay.

“The MII and our stakeholders can now access, visualise and analyse a broad range of data related to Galway Bay. We look forward to the further development of SmartBay into a pioneering technological tool for the advancement of marine science and environmental resource management and smarter businesses related to the maritime sector.”

Last June, IBM announced the establishment of an IBM Centre of Excellence for Water Management in Dublin with the support of IDA Ireland. The centre focuses primarily on innovative research and services for monitoring, managing and forecasting environmental challenges such as the movement of pollutants in fresh water, marine and oceanic environments.

By John Kennedy