Clemson University Intelligent River(R) details

John Kelly, VP, Economic Development

From the first time I met Gene Eidson, I could tell he was a big picture thinker. We were building the Restoration Institute at that time. We needed some work done in environmental studies and Gene was the perfect match.

Gene is an interdisciplinary person. When he came to campus he began to attract people from across the campus as we hoped he would. He linked up with the computer science people and they formed a technology between Gene's expertise and Jason Hallstrom's expertise that will allow us to do direct sensing of nature.It's a very unique application that can be used across the world, and it incorporates the strengths of faculty across the university. There are more than 50 faculty directly involved in the project. It also has great economic development potential.

Gene Eidson, Director, Institute of Applied Ecology

Our goal is to optimize every drop of water... and how do you grow the economy, how do you protect the environment. We believe you can do it all, but you need data in order to do that. You need a system.

We believe the Intelligent River will bring that system to the market.

Our approach is different because we are looking at a long-term monitoring program and we are developing new technologies. The cost to do this type of work is prohibitive based on current technologies on the market. What we decided to do was to scrap the existing technologies and start from scratch and create our own.
NarratorThe Intelligent River team is developing new technology that will bring the environment to our desktops. At the heart of this effort is the MoteStack, a specialized sensing device that will be installed throughout the Savannah River basin.

Jason Hallstrom, Computer Scientist

The drought emergencies that we see in South Carolina are happening all over the world. What we need is a better way to manage water resources to be sure that water is being used at the right place in the right quantity at the right quality level. To do that, we really need a large amount of data collected throughout the state and that is what the MoteStack is going to allow us to do.

A MoteStack is a very small, battery-operated computer.  It collects information about the environment, processes that information and then transmits that information.  In a nutshell, it is a small computer with the ability to sense environmental data.

What the MoteStack allows us to do is to deploy a very large number of sensors throughout a very large area and to operate that network efficiently. The MoteStack is energy-efficient, very small and allows large scale, long-lived sensing.

Chris Post, GIS Scientist 

My group has created a range of hardware and software innovations to support the Intelligent River. We developed new ways to reliably deploy the MoteStack, connecting the sensors and river systems. This patent-pending buoy system looks like a standard mooring buoy, but actually contains the MoteStack batteries and has hooked the sensors to the river. As data is picked up from the sensors, it is transmitted in real-time to the Clemson high-performance computing infrastructure. During rainfall events, when the water level rises, the buoy submerges to protect it from floating debris and trees in the river.  


The Intelligent River is causing a transformative change in the way we observe and monitor our planet, drawing on the talents of an interdisciplinary team that spans the Clemson campus. 

Sensor data will be collected at unprecedented scales and transmitted in real-time to Clemson's high performance computing systems for storage and analysis.

Sebastien Goasguen, Computer Engineer

So my expertise is in cyber infrastructure and cloud computing and my involvement in the NSF and the IR project can be summarized in two things basically. 

The first thing is that we are going to put the Savannah River in the cloud. That means that all the data that is collected by those sensors, we are going to move it on the network, so that everybody can access it. Just like in the ad for Microsoft when you have the lady saying, "To the cloud", and she goes and edits a picture, and we are going to be able to go to the cloud and access the data from the Savannah River. 

The second thing is that we are going to be able to use the Palmetto Super Computer to analyze this data and extract knowledge from it. So I think it will be a terrific resource for the student, the researcher and hopefully it is going to be a boost for the knowledge economy.  


Finally, the sensor data will be presented to scientists, policymakers, and private citizens in a range of presentation formats --- from web-enabled applications to Hollywood-quality animations.

David White, Environmental Informatics

The website is a visualization tool for the Intelligent River Project. From the basic function of a website, we have information on there just to tell you what's going on with issues related to water resources.

In addition, a big piece of the website is that we've developed multiple applications that allow the user to see that data from multiple locations throughout South Carolina and outside South Carolina now.

It's important to see data in real time because a lot of it comes down to management of resources. As pressures on natural resources increase, because they are going to increase, we have to make better-informed decisions.

What we're doing here at the Intelligent River is building an entire infrastructure that can provide the tools to help the managers make the right decisions.

Jerry Tessendorf, Visual Effects Engineer

So the Intelligent River system will produce a flood of data about the ecosystem of the river. In order to make sense of all of that data that will be coming out, we are building a new state-of-the-art computer system that uses the latest technology and graphics processing units in order to be able to simulate the river system as it might actually be occurring. The level of detail and realism will include moving waves going down the river, bushes and trees blowing in the breeze, animals, plants and atmosphere, and weather conditions that are appropriate for that moment. And we hope that this will help to better understand how the river ecosystem components work together.  


The Intelligent River project builds on the team's work over several years. 

Cal Sawyer, Biosystems Engineer

Storm water is the focus of much of our research and education programs because it is such a big problem, but also because it can be difficult to address unless we understand where it comes from and what we can do to treat it.
This type of polluted run-off is created when rainfall hits the ground and washes over the surface of the ground and picks up all sorts of diffuse pollutants along the way; such as bacteria from pets and livestock, oils leaked from cars, fertilizers from lawns and from the agriculture industry.

Brad Putman, Civil Engineer

I've been involved with the Aiken Green Infrastructure Project for the last couple of years. What we're doing there is trying to reduce the impact of storm water on the city of Aiken and especially on the erosion that is happening in the Sand River. To do this we've been using bio-retention cells and porous pavements as a way to promote natural infiltration of stormwater, as opposed to using the infrastructure that we currently have in place, which just takes it out into the Sand River. 

Dan Harding, Architectural Design The sensors and the technology that's in use in the Intelligent River Project have an outstanding application to farming and vertical farming. A vertical building in an urban context that can grow food is something that you can only do if you can control the environment and monitor the environment in the manner that these sensors give us the ability. 

Jason Hallstrom, Computer Scientist

In the future, we are considering the MoteStack for intelligent farming, intelligent traffic monitoring, intelligent agriculture; the list is virtually endless.
The same type of technology that is used to monitor rivers can be used to monitor virtually anything within South Carolina or throughout the world. We are really just starting to understand all of the application opportunities that are available.

Gene Eidson, Director, Institute of Applied Ecology

We are creating a technology that will transform the way that we monitor both the natural and the built environment. This is the green economy and this is a knowledge-based economy, which will not only bring a new cost-effective way to monitor resources within our state, it will bring jobs.
I believe the Intelligent River is in its infancy. We're just beginning.

Jason Hallstrom, Computer Scientist

In 2011, we received an award through the National Science Foundation's major research instrumentation program. This award represents a federal investment of over three million dollars in the Intelligent River program, with an additional investment of over 1.3 million dollars in matching funds. Our team views this award not only as important recognition of the work that we have been doing over the past several years, but as an opportunity to do something that is going to be really amazing.  

We're in the process of planning to deploy the Intelligent River along the full 300-mile reach of the Savannah River basin.  This instrument is going to reach from the headwaters in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the coastal estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. We're literally going to bring the river basin to your desktop. And this is going to take us one step closer to safeguarding the planet's water resources. To make this happen we have had to bring together an incredibly talented team that touches nearly every corner of campus, from hardware and software engineers, to river ecologists, to wetland ecologists, to forestry and natural resource experts to applied economists.

At Clemson, all of this talent lives under one roof, and we think it's going to allow us to do something that is going to be just incredible.