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AI and IoT technology help boost water quality in China

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Water is one of the planet’s most precious resources. Yet our waterways in China are under constant threat—from pollution, invasive species, drought and flooding. Many people don’t realize that keeping our water resources safe, clean and usable requires extensive infrastructure and administration at every level of government.

Monitoring waterways with streaming video

At RichWay Technology Development Co., we help government agencies monitor and protect water throughout China. Since our founding in 1998, we’ve seen massive changes in our industry. Indeed, we have helped drive many of these changes, using emerging technology to improve water conservation and management.

In 2015, we built the first cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform for China’s water industry. Setting up an innovation lab in collaboration with IBM China, we linked thousands of IoT devices being deployed along rivers, reservoirs, fish farms and other bodies of water.

The IoT platform was a big step toward greater visibility into the country’s water resources, resulting in a 40 percent reduction in management costs for our customers. But we didn’t stop there.

Making upstream water management more intelligent

For the past year, we’ve been using IBM technology to build AI tools that alleviate much of the manual work involved in monitoring waterways.

You see, a customer can point hundreds of cameras at a particular river, but they still need an operator behind the scenes, 24 hours a day, to watch for debris or rising water levels. Monitoring the streaming video is a tedious task, and operator fatigue is a real issue. It’s also a major personnel expense.

With AI, we’re changing this outdated and inefficient model. Powerful image recognition capabilities from the IBM Visual Insights solution scan live video feeds from thousands of cameras along China’s waterways.

We trained the system to recognize problematic conditions and activities, including illegal fishing, mining and even swimming, and alert officials when necessary. This foresight can save lives and property in downstream communities. It also helps government agencies manage water resources more cost-effectively.

IoT and AI: watershed technologies for RichWay

It’s amazing how quickly this technology is catching on. In the past three years alone, we have expanded our customer base from 300 customers to more than 500, with over 30,000 IoT devices to manage. That number continues to grow as our customers see just how powerful it can be to put IoT, AI and the cloud to work.

It’s a testament to how important it is to tackle water conservation challenges using big ideas and advanced technology. How critical it is to think beyond our current limitations. As cutting-edge as this approach is, at RichWay, we believe this is only the beginning—a foundation to build on as we fuel our business transformation.

Listen to Fu Dawei talk about how powerful it can be to put IoT, AI and the cloud to work in water management:

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