Selecting and employing sound water utility management techniques play a critical role to increase the efficiency of water conservation efforts. See how technology streamlines process modern water management.
FREMONT, CA: The water utility industry is rapidly evolving to meet the demands of the dynamic and competitive market. Climate changes are resulting in water scarcity and altering flood patterns. Global warming is giving to extreme weather conditions causing urban water supply to dry down. Performing long term impact assessments and managing ecosystems to monitor resource extraction, industrial use, and consumption is no longer optional. In response to these challenges, water utilities are navigating along the path of transformation. Change management has become a daily activity, and compelling providers are responding and adapting to these new business and technology requirements. New opportunities come along with these challenges as global utilities being the beneficiaries.
The transformation of water utilities is from a data-rich environment to more of a knowledge-rich environment. The digital transformation reflects the extensive adoption of technologies such as remote sensing, asset management, customer engagement, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. The value of digital technologies in transforming water utilities is clear. There may be an opportunity to harness these technologies to fuel the adoption of alternative water supply and demand solutions. There is now an expanded menu of technologies beyond traditional infrastructure solutions. Below is an overview of digital technology categories and its application for water utilities.
Going digital always means using data to make informed decisions. Calculated key parameter indicators, images, texts, and sensors are the sources of data. Sensor data is crucial as they are more reliable. There are novel sensors in the arena, which can include automatic cleaning devices as additional developments are required to enhance the reliability of sensor data and reduce maintenance efforts. A few solutions are specialized in providing reconciled data for monitoring, controlling, and online simulation. Some sensing-based technologies include satellite image for efficient leak detection. Water utilities are also using smart remote sensing products that are placed in tunnels to provide early detection of any damage.
Most utilities have the opinion that utilizing data from the legacy system is challenging. The vital factor to maximizing the use of data is the ability to assess the data when the applications need it. There is increased use of Application Programming Interface (API). API provides a programmatic way for retrieving data by any software application. Variety of software applications among water utilities are using APIs to access the data from existing systems, sensors, and other applications regardless of their location and the functionality. The same data sets can be reused for other tasks and thereby, increasing the value of digital solutions.
There is a surge in the use of machine learning within the water sector. It is a subset of artificial intelligence that comprises a set of algorithms that learn the behavior of a system from retrieved data and develops a model to utilize for predictive maintenance. Companies around the world are developing custom software based on utilities' demands. Most hardware companies today are also providing software services as their products are enriched with data analytics for insights, optimization, and future automation. Because water utilities are critical infrastructure, cybersecurity is often a priority. Future water utilities will need to enhance its operations with innovative cybersecurity solutions and migrate its software to cloud-based solutions.
The idea of managing the lifecycle of capital assets or asset management is becoming crucial in the water sector. Most water utilities today are working towards having every asset within the system with structured and unstructured data for actionable insights to decrease costs and risks. The integration of data structures with artificial intelligence can provide more accurate predictive asset management resulting in asset life extension. Increase in mobility is a principal change agent for reliable asset management. Mobility can provide access to data and critical application from anywhere by anyone. Asset management is also about mitigating risks in the water utility system. New business models such as pumps as a service or platform as a service are popping up in the sector, making a positive impact.
Customers are a top priority for water utility providers. Improving overall customer experience includes both transparent engagement and the delivery of cost-effective and reliable services. Sharing data with customers are helping to build trust and hope in case of an outage or water quality issue. Blockchain can expedite the transfer of data between customers and providers, resulting in more open transparency for all stakeholders. Many water utility providers are using engagement tools to enhance the overall customer experience. The water utility of the future may engage more with the customers and focusing on customization of services and creating new services. Ultimately all these translate into business success.
Digital technologies are drastically transforming the water sector. Imagine a hybrid utility that combines the positive attributes of centralized water systems with localized systems. Imagine customers and providers monitoring water quality at the tap on a real-time base with the ability to prevent health impacts. Yes, digital technologies could be the fundamental change agents for all of this to become a reality!