Friday, 19 September, 2014

Published August 25, 2014
Building a better life through innovation

A lake in Kandy City, Sri Lanka 

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How can we balance the world's water needs with a limited supply of fresh water?

More than 70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water, but only 0.01% of that water is fit to drink. And the world's population is growing, along with the need for water. Between 2000 and 2025, the world's water consumption is forecast to rise by about 30%.

The solution is technology: technology that can produce fresh water and sustain an efficient water infrastructure in regions where it is scarce. One such solution is the intelligent water system developed by Hitachi: a combination of information technology and water treatment technologies that proactively treats wastewater from all sources and recycles it back to users with minimal loss.

Systems like this are crucial to the survival of regions with low water resources. In Sri Lanka's central province of Kandy, for example, the demand for clean water in the late 1990s hugely outstripped what existing water treatment plants could supply. Much of the region faced a massive water shortage. To solve the problem, Hitachi developed an advanced water treatment system that included very high quality pumps and a high end central monitoring system that could manage a large number of pumping facilities and reservoirs. That water system has never broken down since it was installed, and today it still provides clean water to much of the Sri Lankan population.

Such technology, which focuses on creating an innovative and efficient solution to essential human problems, is known as social innovation. Its fundamental purpose is to better people's lives in a sustainable manner. Hitachi has pursued socially innovative products and solutions for more than a century, covering basic needs such as water treatment systems, energy systems, transportation systems, medical equipment, information and telecommunications, and many more.

Social innovation has always played a vital role in bettering the lives of people, whether in urban or rural areas. As the world's population increases and becomes more urbanised, more socially innovative solutions will be needed to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy a good standard of living. Asia, a fast-growing and diverse region, is especially in need of these solutions. By the next decade, Asia is estimated to make up 60% of global water consumption alone!

Hitachi has 124 companies and more than 28,000 employees in ASEAN alone, along with a dedicated research and development team based in Singapore. Each company and personnel is committed to finding ways of meeting the needs of the region. Based on the core belief that business should work for society, Hitachi focuses on improving lives through social innovation, whether by providing a secure water supply, increasing energy efficiency or ensuring that people have access to medical technology. Some of the social innovation projects Hitachi is now developing include high end offshore wind turbines that can greatly increase the availability of renewable energy, and advanced cancer therapy systems that are safer and more effective.

With social innovation and quality of living at the centre of its business, Hitachi hopes to overcome the barrier of limited natural resources and build a better life for billions around the world.