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How IBM is using water to learn the cloud

October 7, 2010: 12:50 PM ET

IBM wants to turn an entire city in Iowa into a lab. There's more in this for the company than just helping Dubuquers measure their water bills.

Julien Dubuque Bridge with Dubuque Downtown

Downtown Dubuque, Iowa. Image by puroticorico via Flickr

On Monday, IBM unveiled the latest step in a long-term project in Dubuque. IBM will monitor how over 300 volunteer households consume water. IBM doesn't build any of the hardware—a company called Neptune built the low-flow water monitors that all Dubuque residents are having installed in their homes. The monitors take many more readings than normal, about once every fifteen minutes, which should offer people valuable information about water usage or leaks.

On the surface, IBM (IBM) benefits because it can test new cloud-computing software that crunches numbers for water and electricity consumption from a real community. Then members of the community will give IBM feedback on the service. "These are insights that you can never create by developing stuff in a lab," says Milind Naphade, the director of the project in Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque residents will benefit from accessing that information and establishing the city as a sustainability hub. More

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