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They are some of the leading thinkers, tackling some of the biggest issues in the marketplace. And IBM is lucky to count them among our numbers.

In some ways, we're all experts on water. We can't live without it. But Cameron Brooks, Carey Hidaka, and Djeevan Schiferli have unique perspectives on how we can be smarter about water management.

 


 

Cameron Brooks

It takes... 10 liters of water to make one sheet of paper, 40 liters of water to make one slice of bread, 70 liters of water to make one apple, 70 liters of water per dollar of Industrial product, 91 liters of water to make one pound of plastic, 120 liters of water to make one glass of wine, 140 liters of water to make one cup of coffee, 1,300 liters of water to make one kilogram of wheat, 4,800 liters of water to make one kilogram of pork, 10,855 liters of water to make one pair of jeans, 15,500 liters of water to make one kilogram of beef, 16,600 liters of water to make one kilogram of leather.

For every $1 invested in safer water and sanitation, there is an estimated return of $3 to $34, depending on the region and technology. Source: World Health Organization.

Say "water" and few people will automatically think IBM. Unless you're Cameron Brooks.

As senior executive of strategic initiatives, it's his job to develop and shape IBM solutions to tackle the issues surrounding water management. He does this by talking to clients, business partners, government agencies and global think tanks about the various issues relating to water—and figuring out how IBM technology can help. In fact, many of his conversations involve explaining why IBM is thinking about water at all.

"We have to develop relationships with partners who can get us into engineering and operations." Water, he said, "is way more of a play than just for the CIO."

So how did Cameron become one of the water experts at IBM? Perhaps not an obvious start, but it all began with a supercomputer.

Previously, Cameron was program director for the Blue Gene supercomputer (US). He helped take it from a research project in 2004-2005 to a commercial product for IBM. He eventually helped launch Blue Gene P in 2007. Once that was done, he was ready for the next big thing. Then he talked to Sharon Nunes.

"I was looking for something new—a challenge—and Sharon asked me to join Big Green Innovations (US), which sounded like an exciting project," he said. Sharon's focus widened to include smarter cities (US). And Cameron's focus narrowed to water.

Despite that, Cameron does not position himself as the ultimate expert on all things water-related. In fact, his degree is in electrical engineering and he has half a dozen patents to his name.

To expand his own base of knowledge, Cameron spends a lot of time out of the office. "I've talked with a hundred or so clients and learned something new from each one: their challenges, the industry and what they see in the future. That will help shape our strategy."

For example, in a recent meeting with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), Cameron and his team were discussing all the challenges that the city faced regarding the capturing and handling of stormwater. Massive rain storms and wreaked havoc on the city's infrastructure—even though it has over 500 million gallons of water storage capacity throughout their sewer system.

"Accurate, real-time information regarding rain fall, expected rain fall, and flows throughout all 3,000 miles of sewer infrastructure is critical in order to solve this multi-dimensional optimization problem and manage the system. And Milwaukee is only one of about 800 cities across the US with this challenge: one of the top three for the water industry in the United States."

Thankfully, Cameron doesn't keep this information to himself. He racks up frequent flyer miles as a part of discussion panels, sitting with industry reporters, and up front as a keynote speaker at events like the Montana Watershed Symposium , (link resides outside of ibm.com) the Massachusetts Water Resources Conference (link resides outside of ibm.com) and at the Colorado Clean Technology Association. (link resides outside of ibm.com)

All this face time keeps him from making heavy use of social networks. He contributes to the smarter water Twitter account and the Smarter Planet blog. (link resides outside of ibm.com) He also recently penned a huffingtonpost.com (link resides outside of ibm.com)article about the need for smarter water management.

When he's not on the road to talk about water, Cameron Brooks is at home with his family in Westchester County, New York. In some of his previous roles at IBM, he often felt his children—and most people, for that matter—didn't understand what he was working on. But when he talks about water, everybody gets it.

"The most important thing for us is not just giving clients the tools to better manage water. There is education necessary to communities and younger generations that water is not something we can take for granted," he said. Particularly in certain parts of the world. "People can spend many hours each day walking to get water. Availability is a critical issue. My hope is that through this work with the water industry, we will not only provide solutions to the developed world, but also perhaps help raise the quality of life for these people as well."

And that's what excites Cameron most about what he does: water can change lives.


 

Carey Hidaka

For every $1 invested in safer water and sanitation, there is an estimated return of $3 to $34, depending on the region and technology. Source: World Health Organization.

For the first nine years of his professional career, Carey Hidaka was focused on water. Using his masters in environmental engineering, he worked with commercial and government clients designing water and wastewater treatment plants as a consulting engineer in the early days of the Clean Water Act. (link resides outside of ibm.com) Then it all dried up.

That was over 27 years ago. The momentum behind the legislation had slowed to a trickle. Funding was scarce. So Carey turned his attention to the IT industry and joined IBM.

During the next decade, Carey worked as a marketing rep in the downtown Chicago office of IBM. He spent some time at Motorola before returning to IBM in 2001, where he worked as a wireless consultant in the public sector. Then he discovered Big Green Innovations—the predecessor to smarter planet.

With this new endeavor, Carey found a way to apply his environmental engineering expertise in combination with his wireless and RFID public sector expertise. While continuing with his previous responsibilities, Carey helped the team foster relationships and build experience within water management. Then in early 2010, his career came full circle, and he was focused back on water full time.

Fortunately for Carey, not much had changed in the water management space during his absence. And that, he says, is a large part of the problem.

"You hear about our crumbling infrastructure," he said. "Pipes are buried and out of sight, out of mind. Some of those pipes are over a hundred years old. Of all drinking water produced, on average about 15 to 17 percent of that water is lost through leaks. That's part of the smarter planet message. Water is a scarce resource. We need to do a better job in using the data around us to better manage it."

It's this issue that has Carey in the first wave of some of IBM's most exciting water projects, including the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (US), the SmartBay (US) project in Galway, Ireland and the Sonoma County Water Agency (US) in California.

When he's not with clients or in a boardroom, Carey spends a lot of his time helping to educate and train the IBM customer-facing teams. The challenge, he said, is talking to the right people in a customer organization.

"The clients who would benefit from smarter water solutions aren't usually in IT. They are in operations. In a city, it would be the public works or water department. The people we talk to are not traditional IBM clients. It's a plus because they are new [to IBM], but it's a minus because they don't immediately make the connection between IBM and water."

To further spread the smarter water message, Carey joins his colleagues at industry conferences for organizations such as the Illinois Green Industry Association, (link resides outside of ibm.com) the Water and Wastewater CIO Forum (link resides outside of ibm.com) and the American Water Works Association (link resides outside of ibm.com) (AWWA). Additionally, Carey participates in events such as the IBM PULSE conference (US) and various IBM jams. (link resides outside of ibm.com) He's written whitepapers and solution briefs and recently submitted articles to be published by the AWWA and the IBM Journal of Research and Development.

Ask Carey what is coming down the pike for water management you'll hear some pretty startling statistics.

"Water is the next oil," he said. "The amount of freshwater in the world is finite—there is only so much. The average amount of water that an American uses on a daily basis is about 150 gallons." That's over 500 liters. In fact, according to Waterfootprint.org, the top five biggest average daily users of water are the United States, Australia, Italy, Japan and Mexico—all five of these use well over 300 liters daily. The countries where water poverty is the worst and water usage is the lowest are Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia and Uganda—these five use 15 liters or less daily. As the world population keeps growing, the competition for water will become greater and greater.

"We're not going to create more water. But we can help people be proactive and be smarter about how we deal with the water we have."

Carey lives outside Chicago with his wife and four children. His youngest, who just happens to be a Watson Scholar, just left for college as an older sibling returned home to begin a job search. And with his two other children getting married in the last year, Carey and his wife were pleased to discover a new passion: dance lessons.


 

Djeevan Schiferli

Djeevan Schiferli's job title doesn't fit on his business card. Officially, he is an IBM worldwide sales and distribution business development executive for climate change and water management. But if you ask him, he's a translator.

Djeevan's job is to understand what climate change is doing to IBM's clients. He talks to governments, water boards, private companies and public agencies. He asks a lot of questions, and then translates the answers into IBM capabilities and technologies that address them.

This translation is critical because clients, as Djeevan said, "don't talk in IT terms. They will never say, 'We need more powerful computers or analysis software.' Instead, they talk in terms of the effects they feel." Those effects include water shortages and extreme weather.

One example is in Djeevan's native Netherlands. With 50 percent of the country below sea level, flooding is always a clear and present danger. Their previous defense relied on forecasting based on historical weather data. But weather patterns are changing rapidly—even more so in Europe. So the government needed to add more sources of information, such as water levels in Germany and rainfall in Switzerland. And that's where Djeevan stepped in. To put all these data streams together, they needed high performance computing and analytics tools.

As a result of the partnership with the Dutch government, he said "IBM is in year three of five to identify potential flooding…twice as fast and 10 times as accurately."

But that's not where Djeevan was four years ago. That's when his assignment as innovation officer for IBM Europe was coming to an end, and Djeevan was asked to help identify new revenue streams and areas of opportunity for IBM. Among those identified were virtual worlds and gaming, secure logistics, healthcare and climate change. And that last one caught his attention.

Djeevan's LinkedIn profile features a personal statement: collaborate beyond your comfort zone. And what he did next is proof of that concept.

"I just went out and banged on doors and introduced myself. 'I'm Djeevan from IBM. We're looking into climate change and water management. Can you tell me what they're doing to your organization?' I was nervous about the reaction I would get."

Three months later, the result was a formidable PowerPoint deck with 250 slides of data that helped to form IBM's climate change position in three areas: energy, carbon and water. Water management in particular has become a 20 million euro innovation program.

To share this vast body of information he has, Djeevan travels the conference circuit, including the World Congress on IT, (link resides outside of ibm.com) held in Amsterdam every two years. This was the first time that water management was on the agenda—and IBM was the only IT company in that area. In addition, Djeevan has participated in the World Water Forum (link resides outside of ibm.com) in Istanbul and the WATEC (link resides outside of ibm.com) conference in Israel.

One day a week, Djeevan can be found in the offices of the Netherlands Water Partnership. (link resides outside of ibm.com) He finds it a true wellspring of collaboration. "I have more than 1,000 business cards from the last three years," he said. "I was looking for ways to scale up my contacts. Just by being there physically, people recognize me. They come to me and share information, involving me early on in the projects or conferences they're working on."

Looking ahead, Djeevan is focusing on some exciting new areas for water management, including insurance. "We have had more costs from heavy storms in Western Europe than in the past, and insurance [companies] have calculated what rates should be on property. They feel they have a huge risk by not having the right information."

When he's not at a conference, at the Netherlands Water Partnership or banging on doors for more information, Djeevan takes his spirit of collaborating beyond his comfort zone into the kitchen. There, he experiments and explores in the culinary arts, outdoing himself for friends and family alike.

"I like to do great stuff with simple things", he said. "Same with climate change. It's extremely complex, but in the end can be simplified: carbon, energy, water. If you invest enough time in whatever it is—doesn't matter if its cooking or business—if you can make it look simple then you can succeed in helping other people understand."

He is also the busy parent of three energetic children whose favorite activities involve—what else—water.