Element Blue, the leading IBM premier partner for customized, hosted Smarter Cities solutions, on Friday deployed a custom water management platform to support IBM WaterWatchers in collaboration with IBM and the City of Tshwane, South Africa.
Launched on World Water Day (3/22/13), an international movement created to raise awareness and develop knowledge of water cooperation, WaterWatchers is a crowdsourcing project in which every person is encouraged to become a “citizen scientist” to help capture, share and analyze information about the water distribution system in South Africa.

The project features a new citizen portal, mobile phone application and SMS facility, each expertly developed by Element Blue to enhance citizen involvement in city matters, develop communal engagement and satisfaction; and, increase municipal operational efficiency for the good of the community as a whole.

Specifically, South African citizens will be able to report water leaks, faulty water pipes and general conditions of water canals. After taking a photo and answering three simple questions about the particular water canal or pipe, the data will be uploaded in real-time to a central database. In 30 days, vital data points will be analyzed and aggregated into a meaningful “leak hot spot” map and report to create a single view of the issues challenging South Africa’s water distribution system.

“The solution places water conservation tools into the hands of the citizenry, and enables each individual to do his part by reporting water issues throughout the city, allowing city workers to instantly identify non-threatening issues and quickly dispatch the proper maintenance, said Joey Bernal, Element Blue CTO and managing partner. “Citizens will be able to receive updates and comments from their peers, as well as vote on pending service requests, simply by using the app on their smart phone.”

“This project is a natural extension of the work we have done to address non-water revenue in Tshwane with IBM, and as the capital city we will lead the roll out of this program nationally,” said Tshwane Executive Mayor, Councillor Kgosientso Ramokgopa. “We challenge the other cities to join the initiative and help manage this precious resource as best as we can.”

Water cooperation is crucial in preserving water resources, ensuring their sustainability and protecting the environment. If any one person involved in water management fails to deliver, the “cooperation chain” is broken and water resources will not be managed in the most effective way, resulting in probable adverse effects on human lives and the economy. When water resources are cooperatively shared and managed, peace, socioeconomic stability and sustainable development are more likely to be achieved.

“Enhancing the country’s ability to leverage information across all agencies and departments will encourage minimal disruptions of anticipated problems,” said Bernal. “When resources are coordinated rapidly and proactively, the infrastructure of a city is maximized to support the economic, social, and health needs of its citizenship; fully realizing the potential for citizen and business interactions.”

The system is designed using the IBM Intelligent Operations platform and Citizen Collaboration, which allows city or community leaders to leverage information across multiple agencies, departments or system domains. This helps stakeholders make smarter decisions, anticipate problems and minimize the impact of disruptions to available services and operations.

Element Blue and IBM worked together to design this complete and robust cross-brand solution that allows for the delivery of an engaging web experience to citizens and government officials within the community and beyond. The platform has significant potential for similar applications that can be used to monitor and report on just about any aspect of one’s environment: city services, wildlife, noise pollution, air quality, weather and more.