IBM Partnership Tracks Groundwater in California Using Blockchain

By Tracy Hannes | February 13, 2019
IBM Partnership Tracks Groundwater in California Using Blockchain

IBM has taken on yet another multi-partner collaboration utilising blockchain. This time, according to a recent announcement (Feb 8), IBM Research is teaming up with SweetSense, and The Freshwater Trust (TFT) in an attempt to accurately monitor and track groundwater use in one of the largest and most at-risk aquifers in North America.

The pilot project will use blockchain and remote Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in measuring groundwater usage in California’s Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta transparently, accurately, and in real-time. The delta spans 1,100 square miles, provides water to the San Francisco Bay Area and coastal and southern California. Nearly 75% of its land is used for agriculture. It also supports legally protected fish, plant and animal species.

SweetSense is a provider of low-cost satellite connected sensors, while TFT is a non-profit organization focusing on the protection and restoration of freshwater ecosystems.

How the collaboration will work is that sensors will transmit water extraction data to satellites used to detect weather correlations and then to IBM’s blockchain platform hosted on its own cloud. The blockchain will record of all data exchanges or transactions made in “an append-only, immutable ledger”, explains IBM. The blockchain will also use smart contracts to automatically execute certain transactions when conditions are matched.

IBM further explained that water consumers, financers, and regulators will able to track groundwater use through a web-based dashboard. Users can also trade unused water credits on the blockchain to each other. Those who do not need all their assigned water supply can exchange it for credits with those who require more.

SweetSense CEO Evan Thomas said his team is already monitoring groundwater supply in Kenya and Ethiopia using IoT sensors, and that its system is “directly translatable” in California.

Dr Solomon Assefa, Vice President for Emerging Market Solutions and Director of IBM Research Africa, said that with the addition of blockchain “we can bridge critical trust and transparency gaps making it possible to build a robust, scalable and cost-efficient platform for managing precious groundwater supplies anywhere in the world”.

IBM has in recent months been announcing a slew of blockchain-related projects in different parts of the world – from healthcare in the US to shipping in Spain and cobalt mining in the Congo.

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