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Technology to keep electronic eye on Hudson River

The Beacon Institute and IBM are teaming up to build the River and Estuary Observatory Network, the first technology-based monitoring and forecasting network for a major American river and estuary. The network will allow for minute-to-minute monitoring of the Hudson River via a network of sensors, robotics and computational technology distributed throughout the 315-mile waterway.

The project is made possible in part by IBM's "Stream Computing" system, a new computer architecture that can examine thousands of information sources to help scientists better understand what is happening in the world as it happens.

"Imagine predicting environmental impacts the way we forecast and report the weather," said John Cronin, Director and Chief Executive Officer of 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. The implications for decision-making and education are staggering."

The Hudson flows in the eastern part of New York State and runs past the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Manhattan, among other landmarks. About 12 million people live within its watershed.

"Although the Hudson River won't flow any faster as a result of this project, the speed at which we can access, analyze and interpret data coming from the river and its watershed will increase by many orders of magnitude with the inception of the River and Estuary Observatory Network," said W. Rockwell "Rocky" Geyer, Ph.D., of the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The Beacon Institute and IBM expect the network to be replicated on other river systems once it begins operating on the Hudson.