Monday, Nov 30, 2015

Six Degrees of Selling to Zebras-Bringing Freshwater in the Form of a Glacier

Will Rose/AFP/Getty Images

By Brent Nauer

So the basics of the idea are that everybody in the world can be connected to another person through six or fewer relationships. But for a company we’re going to do a little better than that.

Working with a lot of great companies lends itself to some pretty interesting stories. Here’s one of them:

Since the 1970’s a Saudi prince has been gathering a group of experts in hope of transporting an iceberg from the North Pole to the Red Sea. Why would anyone want to do this? Well we may take it for granted, but 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water today. The imminence of a freshwater shortage amidst an estimated 50% population growth in the next 50 years is all the more reason to begin addressing the situation. With billions of gallons of freshwater flowing unutilized into the ocean as a result of melting icebergs, this seems like a plausible step.

The “Iceberg Transport International” team managed to woo conference delegates in Iowa when they successfully transported a two-ton mini iceberg from Alaska to Iowa, utilizing a helicopter, plane and a truck in 1977. While an impressive feat, it was anywhere near cost-effective.  Their ultimate goal of wrapping a 100-million ton iceberg in sailcloth and plastic and bringing it to the Red Sea was estimated to cost $100 million and never got off the ground.

So how is Selling To Zebras connected to prince Mohammed al-Faisal and the great iceberg adventure? Well, recently an original team member and French engineer, Georges Mougin partnered with the French design firm, Dassault Systèmes, a ZEBRA client, and reopened the case! Dassault Systèmes had recently used their 3D simulations to help an architectural firm explore a theory on the construction of the pyramids and grabbed the engineer’s attention. With 30 years of technology in their back pocket since the last expedition, the team thinks they are close to solving what was once only a dream.

Dassault Systèmes collected months of real world environmental and mechanical data, including, ocean currents, fuel consumption rates, and melt rates and was able to successfully simulate the operation.

In three steps, towing an iceberg with a tugboat:

Step 1:

Pick the right time of year, for temperature and ocean currents, and find yourself a finely shaped iceberg.

Step 2:

Wrap a geotextile skirt around the iceberg.

Step 3:

Tow the iceberg to your destination, with your tugboat, utilizing the power of ocean currents.

This reminds me of an engineering quote I once heard: “A scientist studies what is, an engineer studies what never was.” Now is this the most efficient way to harness clean drinking water? Maybe not, but you have to respect the bold vision in the race to provide the world’s most fundamental resource.

For more information check out this article featuring more Dassault rendered images.



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