Is water quality changing? Are fish stocks dwindling? Are there enough waves in the bay to generate electricity?
Ireland's Galway Bay, like many waterways around the world, faces pressing questions about pollution, flooding, fish populations, green energy generation, and climate change threats. Gathering and processing environmental information is the key to answering these queries, and the Marine Institute Ireland SmartBay information project is netting impressive results with the help of IBM InfoSphere Streams software.
Hazards like a pollution spill can cause damage more quickly in Galway's confined waters than in the open sea, so scientists and environmental agencies need to react to any signs of distress without delay. That takes real-time data-and lots of it. "Monitoring water quality and marine life in the bay requires frequent sampling to stay ahead of problems," says Dr. Harry Kolar, IBM chief IT architect for the SmartBay project. "You also need a way to rapidly analyze and deliver that information where it's needed."
InfoSphere Streams is proving to be just the right solution. MII collaborated with IBM to implement the SmartBay middleware and user interface, and IBM is now tackling the unique analytics issues presented by marine environments. "In traditional processing, systems often run queries against static data," explains Kolar. "InfoSphere Streams is designed to continuously evaluate ever-changing data like that found in Galway Bay. Information provided can range from how much wave energy is present for sustainable power generation, to whether chemical levels are increasing."
The data doesn't have to go into a back-end system for analysis, saving both time and money. "InfoSphere Streams allows us to perform realtime analysis where the data is acquired," says Kolar. "For example, we're experimenting with sensors and processors deployed together on buoys out in the bay. The buoys carry sensor arrays that measure over 35 different parameters, from wind to water chemistry, that are vital for reporting and predicting weather, sea conditions, and water quality." Agencies can acquire information directly from the waterborne buoys, eliminating the delay of sending data to a shoreside data center.
Meanwhile, MII and IBM are working on the project's next phase: the buoys will be a beta test bed for distributed platforms capable of performing analytics and intelligently responding to changes. "If a Streams node sees something shifting from from a baseline, it will have enough intelligence to increase the sampling frequency and alert key people," says Kolar.
The successes at MII are opening up possibilities for similar systems at other sites. MII, for one, hopes to use lessons learned from SmartBay to extend the monitoring systems over Ireland's continental shelf and down to the abyssal ocean plain more than two miles beneath the ocean surface.
"SmartBay shows we can meet many environmental challenges using large-scale data collection and distributed intelligence," Kolar says. "With the help of technologies like IBM InfoSphere Streams, it's already becoming a smarter planet."