IBM is looking to harness the power of PC owners in an
ambitious project to help scientists uncover new technologies and techniques to
produce cleaner, safer water.
The company announced the World Community Grid project
Tuesday, which will initially undertake research projects on three continents.
IBM noted that safe, clean water is an increasingly scarce commodity for some
1.2 billion people worldwide and that it hopes this initiative will give
scientists the tools they need to solve one of the world’s most pressing
“I can think of few endeavors more important than making
sure people across the globe have ready access to clean water,” Stanley Litow,
IBM’s vice president of corporate citizenship and president of the IBM
Foundation, said in announcing the venture. “I would even suggest that it’s a
basic human right, and a hallmark of sophisticated and compassionate societies
The computational power behind the project will be
supplied by a grid of 1.5 million PCs from some 600,000 volunteers around the
world. The networked PCs will perform computations for scientists when they
would otherwise be underutilized.
IBM says this “World Computational Grid” will be
equivalent to one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, providing a platform to
“engineer cleaner energy, cure disease and produce healthier food
One research project being undertaken will simulate how
human behaviors and ecosystem processes relate to one another in watersheds such
as the Chesapeake
Bay. University of Virginia scientists will model the effects
of agricultural, commercial and industrial decisions on the bay, which is a
vital estuary on the East Coast and home to nearly 17 million people.
A second project called “Computing for Clean Water” is
looking to produce more efficient and effective water filtering technology. The
project, which is being led by Tsinghua
University in China,
aims to develop ways to filter and scrub polluted water, as well as convert
saltwater into drinkable freshwater, with less expense, complexity and energy
than existing techniques.
A third project, being led by Brazil’s Inforium
Bioinformatics, seeks to cure schistosomiasis – a parasite-based disease
prevalent in tropical regions - responsible for killing up to 200,000 people
IBM donated the server hardware, software and technical
expertise to build and host the World Community
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