Data Driven Advantage Commercial Lead- Environmental, Howden
Digital tech is helping water companies optimise sustainability and water efficiency. More firms will go digital as its capabilities increase, it becomes more affordable and therefore delivers a much greater return on investment.
The fourth industrial revolution, otherwise known as Industry 4.0, is changing the way businesses operate.
Many are switching to digital tools and solutions in order to become more streamlined, efficient and sustainable — and that includes companies in the water industry.
Going digital stands to reason because water companies are having to do more with less, says Graeme Russell, Data Driven Advantage Commercial Lead (Environmental) at global engineering company, Howden.
“Many have ageing infrastructure and plant equipment and need to run their operations more efficiently,” Russell explains. “They therefore see the benefit of extending the life of that equipment digitally, rather than making new capital investments. The cost of this technology has become more affordable and its capability is increasing all the time.”
Predicting demand and improving water performance
Indeed, the data generated by digital tech makes it easy for water companies to, say, predict demand and capacity and improve their response to sustainability and environmental issues; or provide an optimisation profile of a particular facility which, in turn, helps reduce its overall energy consumption.
On the network side, smart meters can identify water leaks, while new types of sensor measurements can predict bursts before they happen.
Data security isn’t an issue if strict controls are in place to ensure there is no vulnerability in the system.
It’s not enough for water companies to simply receive this data. It also needs to be interpreted so that prescriptive advice can be given to them about the action they should take.
A firm using digital solutions can make much better use of its teams and have a better understanding of where to focus its resources.
“But it’s not enough for water companies to simply receive this data,” says Russell. “It also needs to be interpreted so that prescriptive advice can be given to them about the action they should take. Today’s technology means that we can get advice back to the end user while they’re standing next to the equipment.”
Digital solutions also generate live operational data so that issues can be identified well in advance of a major event.
“For instance, by feeding live data measurements into predictive models, it’s possible to estimate the remaining life of a company’s equipment and increase maintenance optimisation,” says Russell.
Advanced technology can optimise human resources
These digital advances have been driven by the Internet of Things, the concept of allowing interconnected devices and equipment to send and receive data, via sensors.
This information can be quickly and easily accessed by water engineers via web interfaces, mobile phones and even wearable augmented reality (AR) tech.
“The amount of data that can be generated is so huge it’s easy to become swamped by it,” says Russell.
“That’s where augmented reality is of such benefit because it’s a richer and more efficient way to interact with data. Plus, AR optimises human resources by giving individuals the expertise and ability to react to and fix problems. I can see it playing a big role in wastewater treatment going forward.”