REON river monitor

The Beacon Institute and IBM recently announced a plan to create the first technology-based monitoring and forecasting network for a major American river and estuary.

According to IBM, the River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON) will allow for constant monitoring of New York‘s Hudson River via an integrated network of sensors, robotics and computational technology distributed throughout the 315-mile river. Once completed, the Beacon Institute and IBM anticipate that the network will be replicated on other river systems.

The first of its kind project is made possible in part by IBM’s ‘Stream Computing system’, a computer architecture that can examine thousands of information sources to help scientists better understand what is happening as it happens.

‘Imagine predicting environmental impacts the way we forecast and report the weather,’ said John Cronin, Director and Chief Executive Officer of The Beacon Institute. ‘With that technological capability we can better understand the effects of global warming, the movements of migrating fish or the transport of pollutants. The implications for decision-making and education are staggering.’

In accordance with the collaboration, IBM will be developing an advanced sensor network that will capture data streams and conduct advanced data analysis in real time. The IBM Stream Computing system can capture data from a multitude of sensors that measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and pollution loading; map fish populations via acoustical data; and track particular fish species through radio tagging.

‘This is an ambitious initiative that will require substantial innovations in the methods by which environmental data are collected, interpreted and distributed,’ said Anthony Yu, Vice President, Semiconductor and Emerging Industries, IBM. ‘The development of a river observatory network is a technological frontier for science, engineering and policy. Once achieved, it can have applications for rivers worldwide.’