World Water Week: Micro-weather, Connected Mangroves and so much more
This is the third year that Ericsson participated in World Water Week (WWW), the world’s largest recurrent global water conference, which is arranged every year in the Swedish capital by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). This year’s theme was “Water and waste: reduce and reuse” and I was there to listen, learn and share Ericsson’s perspective on the contribution that ICT can make. As signatories of the CEO Water Mandate (a part of the UN Global Compact) Ericsson representatives were also invited to attend the UN Global Compact’s sessions at Water Week and contribute to one of its special panels.
This year’s Stockholm Water Prize was awarded to Professor Stephen McCaffrey of the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California, for his unparalleled contribution to the evolution and progressive realization of international water law. The prize was presented to him by H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, at a banquet ceremony in Stockholm City Hall that my colleague Mats and I had the honor of attending.
ICT’s role in water-wise management
According to ICT & SDGs, a research report co-authored by Ericsson and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, no other technology in history has been adopted as quickly and globally as mobile telephony and broadband. As a result, these technologies are in a unique position to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
For SDG 6 (Water), ICT can play a pivotal role in water-wise management by monitoring water quality and the condition of water infrastructure, for example. Since climate change is making ecosystems around the world more vulnerable to extreme weather that exacerbates flooding and drought, the fact that ICT solutions can be used to help achieve SDG 13 (Climate Action) is also of great interest from a water management perspective. According to Ericsson peer reviewed research (p 20-21), ICT solutions could help to reduce total global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15 percent by 2030 from 2015 levels.
Knowledge sharing at Water Week
As one of Ericsson’s two representatives at World Water Week, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel that included speakers from NASA, UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and Morgan State University. My comments focused mainly on the topic of how we can use the expanding capacities of ICT to address all of the SDGs, including the question of how data gathering, analytics and the like can be used to address water-wise management, particularly as it related to the theme of this year’s conference.
I was happy to have the opportunity to share some reflections about Ericsson’s experiences relating to how we as a company work with water in our own operations and with our suppliers. I also had the chance to talk about some of our latest research findings and proof of concepts in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT) and water, highlighting our Micro-weather project in Gothenburg and our Connected Mangroves project in Malaysia in particular, as well as mentioning Digital Water Demo in Stockholm, Connected Water in Atlanta, and Connected Aquaponic in India.
The Micro-weather project, a joint effort of the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), Hi3G Sweden and Ericsson, demonstrates how ICT can support better quality weather forecasting and enable more accurate calculations of rainfall. The starting point for this project is the fact that microwave links are sensitive to rain, which causes a certain reduction in signal strength across the link. While the reduction in signal strength is not significant enough to affect overall performance, we have shown that it is significant enough to enable accurate calculations of rainfall. There are approximately 4 million microwave hops worldwide that are used to wirelessly connect mobile radio base stations, which is a far larger number than the number of rain gauges in the world, and they cover a greater part of the world than weather radars. In light of this, there is significant potential for increasing the number of observation points and improving the quality of weather services, including forecasting, now-casting, flood warnings and hydrological measurements.
In our Connect Mangroves project, we used mobile, IoT and cloud technologies to create a customized, real-time monitoring solution for Malaysian mangroves. As a result, communities can take prompt action to address changing environmental conditions and increase the survival rate of the samplings. In 2016, the project won a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Momentum for Change award, which honors initiatives that contribute to climate resilience.
Field trip to Ericsson Studio
During the last day of WWW, Ericsson arranged a half-day field trip to Ericsson Studio that included showcases on how ICT supports the SDGs, examples of sustainable cities, the connected mangroves, micro-weather, and what 5G can bring. We also had a presentation from the Vice Mayor of Environment in the City of Stockholm in which he talked about how the city addresses changes today and what strategies it has for future water challenges, such as increased storm water and droughts. Ericsson representatives also did two presentations – the first on sustainable urbanization and the background to the Digital Demo Stockholm Water project, and the second on the subject of how ICT can address the identified pain points and what challenges we face.
After a full week of sharing knowledge with global experts in water I feel honored to have had the opportunity to learn so much about the complexity of water issues. The water, energy and agriculture nexus was of particular interest to me. It is clear that technology and especially ICT can play a vital role in improving water-wise management, if we start by addressing the water pain points, measuring the results and supporting decision-making for a better future.