Internet of H2O teams pitch high-tech solutions to Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms

Five teams will compete Friday in Port Clinton at the first-ever Internet of H2O event, presenting ideas to keep Lake Erie’s water supply safe and harmful algal blooms under control with the goal of winning $50,000 in cash and services.

The idea is to use technology to improve the systems that monitor phosphorus and other nutrients, which cause the toxic green slime on the lake late each summer. The main culprit is fertilizer on farm fields in Northwest Ohio, which runs into waterways during spring rains, especially during heavy storms.

Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario have pledged to reduce phosphorus runoff by 40 percent by 2025 into Lake Erie, which supplies drinking water for 11 million people.

The so-called “Smart Lake strategy” requires the integration of sensors, advanced networking and insights from data, working in real time. After pilot projects, ideas could expand to the rest of the Great Lakes.  

“We’re excited and proud to co-host this second water innovation competition to further support talented innovators and thinkers to create high-tech solutions to our freshwater challenges,’’ said Bryan Stubbs, executive director of the Cleveland Water Alliance.

The alliance, a non-profit founded in 2014 to promote and protect the economic and job-creating potential of Lake Erie, is hosting the event. Partners include Digital C, a Cleveland-based civic tech collaboration focused on using technology to solve city problems, and US Ignite, a non-profit that uses advanced technology to build a foundation for smart cities.

In May in downtown Cleveland, the group put on Erie Hack, a $100,000 international contest to use technology to solve Lake Erie’s problems.

A Detroit team won with plans to put nano-sensors in buoys to detect phosphorus, nitrogen and other contaminants in the water. Extreme Comms Lab from Buffalo placed second with its network of aquatic sensors. 

Those teams have combined forces to compete in Internet of H20.

The competition intends to create a market for winning teams’ technologies and “a path to concrete economic and ecological impact.”

The emerging market for water monitoring systems is global, organizers say. They anticipate a need from 16,000 water treatment facilities and agriculture operations in the United States alone.

Before the teams pitch on Friday, the Internet of H20 has invited political, community and business leaders to discuss the challenges facing Lake Erie.

Judges for the event include:

  • Christopher Winslow, director of Ohio Sea Grant and OSU Stone Lab
  • David Rankin, vice president of programs for the Great Lakes Protection Fund
  • Adriana Felix-Salgado, innovation engineer for the U.S. EPA
  • Kelli Paige, executive director of the Great Lakes Observing System
  • Manisha Ajgaonkar, of Smart+Connected Communities, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Steve Cole, CIP of the Great Lakes Commission
  • Michael Sullivan, global cognitive solutions leader for water and environmental management at IBM
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