by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Los Angeles on 09. 2.07
The Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, a non-profit scientific research organization based in Beacon, NY, has teamed up with IBM and several other research groups to develop a high-tech environmental-monitoring system for the state's Hudson River that would transform its 315 miles into an interconnected network of sensors. These would collect data on the river's biology and chemistry and transmit them to a central location for further analysis by IBM's new system — which will take the information and create a virtual model of the river to simulate its ecosystem in real time.
"In terms of having an integrated network of sensors, and given the magnitude of it for the Hudson River, this project is without a doubt a huge advancement and on a much larger scale than anything that has been done before," said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). The project is currently in the "design phase" — which John Cronin, CEO of the Beacon Institute, expects will be complete within the next two years.
Some of the network's sensors will be mounted on a solar-powered robotic underwater vehicle (seen above) built by RPI and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) while others will be fixed in place along the river bed or suspended from buoys. The IBM system will use the gathered data to monitor the river's temperature, pressure, salinity, dissolved oxygen content and pH levels — which will help indicate whether pollutants have entered the Hudson River — and its sea life.
Though they haven't yet nailed down how many sensors they plan on deploying, officials from IBM and the Beacon Institute estimate that the number will run in the hundreds, with more to be developed along the way. Since the Hudson River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, the network may eventually even be connected to various oceanic observatory networks. Once it is up and running, Cronin hopes to bring the concept to rivers in developing countries around the world