Renowned actor and environmentalist Kevin Costner and Erik Hoek, at that time a professor of engineering at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), had originally teamed up in 2009 to conceptualise and develop a system geared towards cleaning water brought about by oil and gas production. In 2010, the system was used to clean up the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a somewhat different test. During that time, Costner and Hoek had built a durable partnership that persists to the present day with Water Planet, Inc., an organisation based in Los Angeles that markets the globe’s very first smart membrane products.
In 2011, a year after the oil spill, Hoek and colleague Subir Bhattarcharjee, who is currently serving as Water Planet’s Chief Technology Officer, co-founded the organisation, and Costner and his long-time business partner, Rod Lake, were the founding investors. Water Planet went on to realise swift and phenomenal success in a little over half a decade, commercialising two cutting-edge water treatment technologies and being named a finalist in the category of Breakthrough Water Technology Company of the Year in the illustrious Global Water Awards.
To put it into perspective, the process of commercialising water treatment technology and bringing it from research and development (R&D) and into the market usually takes around 10 years, sometimes more. Additionally, the majority of technological advancements in the rightist water treatment industry tend to be evolutionary in nature, and not disruptive.
But Water Planet is going against the grain, with its revolutionary IntelliFlux® artificial intelligence-based control software, and breakthrough PolyCera® membranes that combine the durable but expensive ceramic membranes with the economical polymeric membranes to create an affordable, sturdy membrane capable of treating the most challenging waters. And the organisation is already fielding numerous orders from the Middle East to North America for systems integrated with its IntelliFlux® artificial intelligence-based control software.
Today, Water Planet is leading the water treatment industry in the usage of true artificial intelligence, or machine learning.
“Artificial intelligence brings features that society has grown accustomed to in other areas of their lives to the water industry. The complex mathematics that goes into optimising a water filtration process can’t be calculated offline by humans fast enough to be helpful,” Hoek said. “Computers excel at rapid computations, including compiling waves of information and performing integration, derivatives, or logarithmic fits. Our experience already shows significant cost savings by using artificial intelligence to optimise membrane systems, which helps deliver more water at less cost.”
Keeping in line with this year’s World Water Day theme, “Why Wastewater”, both Hoek and Costner remain devoted to developing water sustainability through reuse.
“It took an environmental disaster to make the connection with Eric and now Water Planet, but I am proud to be involved with a team that is poised to make a fundamental difference for a world seeking solutions to ensure our water future,” Costner said.