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These innovations are driving collaboration in the Cascadia region | Microsoft On The Issues

As far as enviable commutes go, a short hop in a seaplane, flying over water and past snow-capped mountains, is up there.

Connecting Seattle and Vancouver, a recently launched flight route is testament to the growing ties between the locations.

The two-way trading relationship between Canada and the United States remains one of the largest in the world – and the links between British Columbia and Washington state are growing. In 2016, the launch of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor formalized the connection. And a July 2019 study also found that a high-speed rail line connecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland could bring $355 billion in economic growth in the region.

Here are a few of the ways this region is coming together.

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Innovation at scale

Microsoft, along with many other business, academic and research institutions, has been working to maximize the opportunities the corridor presents – and the Canadian Digital Technology Supercluster consortium is one example.

Bringing together names in tech, healthcare and natural resources, this consortium hopes to advance technologies by developing innovation and talent. It will also be a boon to the local economy, with the goal of creating 50,000 B.C. jobs over the next 10 years, fuelling growth across multiple sectors and expanding opportunity across the region.

A meeting of minds

Home to some of the world’s leading research and medical organizations, the Cascadia region is also aiming to become a global leader in biomedical data science and health technology innovation.

Stock image of people working in technology

Accelerating cancer research has been a key target. Working in collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Microsoft has established the Cascadia Data Discovery Initiative, which is tackling the barriers that make research breakthroughs difficult, such as data discovery and access.

Microsoft’s partnership with BC Cancer is taking another approach to finding a cure for the disease. Using Azure, scientists can collaboratively analyze vast amounts of data, accelerating the pace of research. Interns from the Microsoft Garage program have been working to take this a step further, using the HoloLens platform to create mixed reality tools to help researchers visualize the structure of a tumor.

Inspiring the next generation

Work is also happening at the grass-roots level, helping to create the next generation of graduates ready to build the technologies of the future. Through a partnership with Microsoft, the British Columbia Institute of Technology is delivering a first-of-its-kind mixed-reality curriculum, with the goal of training students for jobs in digital media and entertainment along the Cascadia Corridor.

British Columbia students are also benefiting from a Microsoft initiative to help high schools build computer science programs. The TEALS program first started in Washington state in 2009 and recently expanded to B.C. It pairs computer science professionals with teachers, giving schools the training and support to help their students build skills for in-demand local careers.

A lesson for others

The Cascadia Corridor is already helping Vancouver, Seattle and the region achieve more than they could do independently.

A steering committee established at the end of 2018 will help build on the economic opportunities, growing human capital in the region, investing in and expanding transport and infrastructure, and helping to foster an ecosystem that encourages innovation.

For more on the Cascadia Corridor and other Microsoft work follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Cleaning up the Ganges River with help from IoT – Internet of Things

Springing from the Himalayan mountains and flowing into the Bay of Bengal, the Ganges has been the holy river of India for centuries. Personified as the goddess Gaṅgā, the Ganges is worshiped by Hindus who celebrate lost relatives by immersing their ashes in its waters, and who believe that bathing in the river causes the remission of sins and liberation from the cycle of life and death.

Stretching across nearly 1,600 miles, the Ganges is also an economic powerhouse and a vital lifeline for the country. The river provides water to about 40 percent of India’s population in 11 states, serving an estimated 700 million people. It is home to at least 150 species of animals and marine life, irrigates more than 140 million acres of arable land in the basin alone, and supports as much as 54 percent of India’s gross domestic product.

But for decades the Ganges has been in peril. Cities and populations in its path have expanded dramatically, demanding more from the river while leaking a growing scourge of urban refuse into it. In daily use by citizens, the Ganges is polluted with all manner of contaminants — from plastic bottles to sewage to industrial waste and even human remains. Agricultural runoff is up as well, while more dams and an increasingly arid environment slow the river’s renewing flow of fresh water.

In an effort to turn the situation around, three years ago the Indian government created a new ministry with a charter to restore, manage and monitor the Ganges. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been tasked with the huge challenge of not only cleaning up the ancient river, but also monitoring its water quality levels to enforce requirements for each Indian state along the waterway.

To combat pollution and restore balance to the Ganges, the CPCB has turned to IoT. As part of its Digital India initiative, the government has been working with Indian ISV TechSpan Engineering to implement a monitoring system built on the Azure IoT platform, using sensors provided by the Austrian firm s::can.

Taking a look at the numbers behind the devastating pollution of the Ganga River. Image courtesy or World Bank Group.

TechSpan’s EnLite water quality monitoring application and HydroQ+ portal were customized for the project. Using the power of the cloud, IOT and big data, the solution taps into the robust s::can sensors already in use by the CPCB to provide measurements across 17 parameters — from chloride and fluoride levels to temperature and color.

To bring the full power of the cloud and Azure data-handling to the solution, TechSpan is using Azure IoT capabilities such as Azure Stream Analytics, in conjunction with SQL Server, table/blog storage integration and more.

The solution now includes 36 monitoring stations, spread across 2,500 kilometers and spanning four Indian states. Every 15 minutes, the stations send data to the Azure IoT Hub capturing live water quality measurements. In the coming weeks the board plans to roll out 24 more stations, with an eventual goal of 200.

The data is being used initially to enforce environmental policies that apply to Indian States with shores on the great river. The approach is solving a longstanding political problem around enforcement, where states have routinely blamed each other for pollution.

Through the real-time information being captured, the CPCB can clearly see which areas of the river are experiencing the most pollution, as well as the types of pollution present at each monitoring station. States with water quality levels falling outside established thresholds can face hefty fines or other incentives to drive adherence to water quality regulations.

Along the way, the Indian government is collecting a vast supply of data on pollution trends, sources, chemical compositions and more. And as the board continues to build out its data-gathering capabilities, the system’s accuracy and effectiveness can be improved — through analytics, machine learning and bot-based solutions — to boost the potential of achieving a long-term win in the fight against pollution, for the Ganges and beyond.

With that goal in mind, the Azure-based solution from TechSpan has been made available to s::can—the Austrian firm is beginning to offer the technology globally so other companies can benefit from the innovation happening along the ancient shores of the Ganges.

It’s all part of how the near limitless adaptations of IoT can be used to solve the world’s most complex challenges. Monitoring the health of a river ecosystem across hundreds of miles may have seemed like an impossible task just a few years ago, but today IoT is creating a practical way for nations to care for these irreplaceable resources.

Tags: Azure IoT Hub, Azure Streaming Analytics, Central Pollution Control Board, CPCB, Ganges, India, s::can, TechSpan