IoT and Smart Water

IMG_4570Minnesota DEED Trade Office hosted a Smart Water Round Table event at the Uponor corporation on May 10th, 2018.   Featured were a host of IoT companies showcasing their work in smart water solutions.   The audience and speakers who attended came from as far away as Europe and South America.   This event came on the heels of the Minnesota IoT Fuse conference.   The solutions they covered spanned a vast array of topics including:  precision agriculture, water treatment, smart cities,  transportation, city infrastructure optimization, etc.    The companies also represented specializations in hardware & sensors,  data aggregation and analytics, and business model development.

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Great Lakes Water Controversy

United-States-Map-2Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker  is proposing that the City of Racine be allowed to divert 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water everyday as part of the Foxconn deal in southeast Wisconsin. However, conservation groups oppose the plan, and argue that it not only undercuts the Great Lakes Compact of 2008, but also such a diversion for private industry use is unprecedented.  Source: SSTi

This is another example of the growing struggle to jointly manage shared natural resources.   Many cities, both in the USA and Canada rest on the shores of the Great Lakes.  Who dictates that cities uses of their shoreline and access to the water.   In the past law suits have come around pollution claims of an up stream user contaminating the water for those down stream and many of those suits have held up in court with large reparations to the offending party.   While most cities try to regulate water usage for the greater good it becomes more concerning when private industry wants large scale access to those shared resources for their personal profit.   Complicating the matter even more is that multiple nations share natural resources like access to fresh water sources and the seas.

This rising crisis of global sustainability is bringing many of the Grand Challenges to the forefront of national agendas.   The world will need to create a new dialogue and ability to regulate and manage a court of appeals on a global level.   Ownership of shared natural resources will also be contested, as will, the issues of unsymmetrical distribution of many resources.   Today we have some internal bodies like the United Nations,   ICJ/HAG, and  G20 to name a few.   These can serve as models to learn from while exploring a more globally inclusive model to represent all nations.

I encourage everyone to follow and share stories about Natural Resource controversies,  appeals, and deals that will begin to set the precedents for the decades to come.   We all need to be alert to the lobbying forces of private interest over the greater good.

 

Wisconsin Water Cluster Growing

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Wisconsin’s water cluster initiative continues to attract companies from across the nation and world to participate in their innovation and education centers,  the growing network of ecosystem development and their growing brand of industry leadership.

A recent example of attraction comes from Austrialia and south east Asia.  With its head office located in Sydney, Australia, a sales and operations office based in Singapore and a contract assembly hub in Shanghai, China, the BioGill team knew it was time for a U.S. office to be established.

In January of 2017 the company established BioGill North America Inc., and in July opened its Milwaukee office within the Global Water Center, employing Annie Weidert as Regional Manager for the Americas. In October BioGill exhibited at WEFTEC, along with The Water Council, in Chicago. After the company delivered a technical paper at the event there was a tsunami of interest in the technology, which has led to the expansion of its U.S. team by adding a second full-time employee in January 2018.

“One of my beliefs in business is that one plus one should equal three. To successfully scale up in business, you need to look for ways to value add, leverage and network. And that’s what the water hub in Milwaukee has delivered to us. We’re plugging into an influential and well- established industry network, helping us to make better informed decisions as we grow our client base in the U.S.” – Paul Hatten / CEO BioGill

“We looked at many locations and states for our U.S. operation, but Milwaukee and Wisconsin best suited our needs,” said Paul Hatten.  “While we have many sites and proven projects around the world, the U.S. is a relatively new market for us. The Water Council has proven to be a powerhouse of knowledge, contacts and advice. In the end, it was an easy decision and made perfect business sense to locate in Milwaukee.”

Source:  The Water Council

Wisconsin continues to lead in the US in terms of cluster development and building a global brand for industry leadership.   They have already launched over 6 cluster initiative in varying cities across the state but have the infrastructure and operational models to continue to move into more emerging industries faster than states that have no vision for cluster development and the regional advantage and attraction it creates.

MN DEED Export Roundtable: Water Technology

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I participated in the December meeting of the MN Deed Export Roundtable.  The event series is focused on developing the exports of Minnesota through education, networking, and support of the MN Trade Office.   Topics for each round table rotate through a variety of areas including technologies,  working with geographies, and global grand challenges and opportunities.  The 2015 December event was hosted at the Walter Library on the U of M East Bank Campus.   The focus was on Water technologies.   In attendance where corporations, scientists, entrepreneurs and exports forced on this sector.
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The format for this particular event was to focus on emerging technologies and networking these innovation to the audience.  I wanted to highlight several of the technologies that were showcased and some of the conversation from the different stakeholders in the room in reaction to the innovations.
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Several UMN professors showcased water filtration technologies.  One example was the global problem of mercury contamination of water sources.  The contamination enters the food supply through fish and beverages.   The impactful example that brought the urgency forward was rapid decline mental abilities of children when exposed to mercury.  (See handwriting images in gallery link below).  The case study in Japan also showed the financial impact to the corporate involved.   The company was fined $86M and the government is still paying over $100M annually for the ongoing treatment of the contamination and care for people impacted.  IQ decreases are attributed to over $8.7B lost in productivity of the workforce given current contamination levels.  Bring the problem back home, today lakes in Minneasota has over six times the minimum acceptable levels.   The university had developed nano technology to create sponges with Selenium.  The Selenium efficiency was the ability to filter from a 10ppm to .0004ppm (99.95%) with the added bonus that Selenium kills bacteria.  The sponge format was chosen as it increases surface area over 30 times from a single layer filter.  Compressibility of the sponge also made for high density disposability / space.  A single sponge, about the size of a simple dishwashing sponge, can clean up a medium size lake.   Removing all  the mercury from a medium size lake would be about the size a quarter of solid mercury.  They estimate this is a $10B dollar market and their solution is simple and cost effective approach.   Audience discussion explored other aspects of contamination, specifically pulling mercury out of the sediment layers.   Mercury is released over time to the water, but the sediment layer was not directly addressed by this technology.  Other solutions where also reveled and how new filtration methods can drastically change the economics of time, energy, and processes required compared to today’s methods.   Many methods had broad application, but could be configured to great specificity.   This created a challenge for commercialization by identifying the market needs and practice paths to commercial focused products that could be in high demand and use the profitability to further develop more specialized needs.
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A another thread of presentations explored fluid dynamics and nano levels of managing flow, elasticity, velocity, etc.  The ability to have new methods of measuring and categorizing dynamics at that level is emerging.
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A great deal of conversation focused on approaching commercialization through patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, etc.   The trade-offs for corporations was quite apparent when balanced against achieving a market leader position.   Other topics included exploration of export of technology/products early in the commercialization process and practices for building international partnerships.
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See more of the event in the image gallery