Digital Utility Transformation: Fueled by Integration, Leadership, and Customer Engagement
Key Takeaways from the SWAN Workshop at WWEM Telford 2018
By Shirley Ben-Dak, Marketing & Innovation Lead at the SWAN Forum
Last week, on Nov. 21st, 2018, smart water industry leaders gathered in Telford to explore the future of water and IT during the WWEM SWAN Workshop. This half-day event featured engaging sessions on the role of digital solutions in addressing water leakage as well as source-to-source smart water management. To close out the session were interactive roundtable discussions led by senior utility experts from Anglian Water, Bristol Water, South West Water, Southern Water and Welsh Water.
While a number of key trends and topics were explored, three general themes recurred throughout the presentations and open discussions:
(1) Holistic & Integrated Smart Water Management is Key
Phil Tomlinson from Metasphere captured this theme perfectly with a strong statement made at the start of his presentation: “When looking at IoT, we really should be thinking of it as the Integration of Things”.
While there is an array of both existing and new smart water solutions on the horizon, many fail to step outside the comfort zone of stand-alone systems. Today, an increasing number of utilities are steering away from proprietary software with no clear exit paths. According to Richard Foster of WRc, “We’re not looking at stand-alone systems, but as overall management systems.”
From the solution provider perspective, being able to pivot and adapt to customer and utility needs has grown in its importance. For instance, David Kenny from i2O discussed an open, agile-led and collaborative approach to collective feedback directly from utilities, which ultimately led to internal product changes (see figure below). Meanwhile, Tom Woolley from Aquasuite - Royal HaskoningDHV, importantly mentioned the concept of AI fatigue – “We need to bring such innovative concepts down to the true interface and value, not merely pointing to a cloud of data”. This type of mindset must increasingly be adopted, especially as the volume of data continues to rise.
Slide from David Kenny’s Presentation, WWEM 2018
(2) Strong Leadership to Determine Utility Innovation Roadmaps
Another key theme that emerged from both the panel presentations and the roundtable discussions was the need for strong utility leadership. In the roundtable on ‘What is the best way to bring about utility culture change?’ led by David Smith, Asset Management and Production Director at Bristol Water, the diverse table participants discussed the vital role utility leaders must play in determining company values, establishing an internal culture that is based on those values, and finally, developing a roadmap for implementation based on clear measurement indicators and enabling mechanism to gather input from all key stakeholders.
One interesting discussion point surrounding the challenge of addressing digital innovation barriers involved understanding how the public sector can best attract qualified young talent. Matthew Hughes, Optimisation Manager at Anglian Water, who led one of the roundtables, highlighted Anglian’s unique initiative to establish an Advisory Board made up of Young Professionals and future water leaders, with direct communication channels to the Executive Team.
Another creative idea, suggested by Mohammed Shehu Sambo, a final year civil and environmental engineering student from the University of Surrey, discussed university alumni working in utilities to mentor and meet with potential students, whether in the form of internships/apprentice opportunities. With such or similar efforts, “young professionals will start their roles with both a passion and understanding about internal systems and processes.”
Roundtable discussion at WWEM 2018
(3) Constant Customer Support at the Forefront of Digital Utility Transformation
In what was one of the most talked about agenda items among all workshop participants, the third key theme stressed the need for utilities to keep the customer in mind during every step of the digital transformation process.
According to Jez Downs, Supply System Strategy Manager of Integrated Planning at Southern Water, “smart networks can help define useful metrics, how we are impacting our customers and the environment.” He further stressed the need for analytics-based software to enable utilities to pre-warn their customers of any potential supply interruptions and remotely reducing network pressure to reduce the likelihood of an event. Additionally, in his roundtable on “What role can SMART networks play in the management of major operational incidents?’, Martin Doherty, Head of Service Improvement at South West Water, mentioned the need for critical stakeholders, especially operational staff, to always focus on how customers may be affected by the introduction of new technologies.
Young professionals can also directly contribute to this space. Most have grown up in the age where access to and sharing of information is immediate. The same concept of immediacy can and should be directly applied to the water sector, in the form of providing constant customer support and user-friendly mechanisms to collect feedback. For instance, in the case of a disruption to the water supply, a customer should be updated right away at the latest, with an emphasis placed on sending alerts prior to supply disturbances. Such high levels of customer service can help ensure better rate settings and consequently encourage customers to manage their own consumption patterns.
To quickly recap, effective digital transformation at the intersection of water and IT rests on a number of key pillars: (1) Integration of data, tools and management systems; (2) Strong utility leadership and value & culture-based agenda setting; and (3) Consistent customer support and engagement. When all three work in harmony, the smart water sector as a whole can realise tangible benefits for the betterment of all stakeholders.
Canadian Water: From Street-Smarts to Smart Networks
Key Takeaways from the CWWA Conference SWAN NA Alliance Workshop
By Emma Weisbord, SDG6 Advisor to the ixo Foundation
Blog published November 25, 2018 (Slide from Graham Nasby's Presentation)
My interest in digital transformation and the data revolution in the water sector led me to attend the recent SWAN Workshop in Montreal, which explored the potential for data-driven, smart water solutions to digitally transform Canadian utility operations and management strategies. The themes of the workshop related to change management, building smart systems on existing institutional knowledge, and collecting good data in sufficient quantities.
The Workshop started with Montreal’s Guy Arnould describing the digital transformation of the city’s wastewater treatment plant (pictured below), which serves 2 million citizens and accounts for around half of the province’s total wastewater treatment. In 2015, the city experienced “Flushgate” when nearly 5 billion litres of untreated wastewater were released into the St-Lawrence river.
The public outcry from citizens was a wake-up call to politicians and utility managers who continue to explore tangible solutions like smart water systems. While the hype around smart water systems may raise expectations, the reality remains exciting and there is much to learn from utilities that are on a digital transformation journey.
The biggest challenge in the digital journey is change management, and utilities need to understand the potential internal barriers to digital innovation. The challenges of digitisation in Montreal were echoed and expanded upon by other workshop participants from across Canada, and advice was shared over the course of the day by experienced water leaders.
A few key takeaways resounded with me. The first takeaway is that our smart water systems need to be more than just digitally smart - they need to be “street-smart”. As senior water professionals retire, the sector risks losing decades worth of street-smarts that comes from valuable experience, institutional knowledge and practical know-how. A “street-smart” smart water system could be achieved by integrating the institutional knowledge of water professionals acquired over years of experience into the smart water systems that we design, build, and implement. This is achievable by bringing the relevant stakeholders into the digital journey from the beginning and allowing time for iteration and collaboration to collect their input.
My second takeaway was that a street-wise smart water system prioritises the customer’s best interest. Reid Campbell from Halifax Water described his utility as “data-driven” and explained that their digital transformation strategy was entirely set by a customer service plan (shown in the IT Strategic Plan below). By improving monitoring of water mains, integrating advanced metering infrastructure and increasing data collection points, Halifax Water has improved their customer service, ensured better rate setting and enabled customers to manage their own consumption. The focus on the end user throughout the digital transformation process was key to a successful outcome.
The third takeaway is that our smart water systems need to be running on good data. As water professionals, we’re used to dealing in waste and so the popular tech phrase “garbage in, garbage out” should resound strongly with us. We need to ensure that the data upon which our decisions are made are solid, validated, and interoperable. Susan Ancel of EPCOR spoke about the importance of regularly “dusting off the data”, meaning periodically monitoring and running quality checks to ensure that what is being collected remains relevant to its use and ensuring that it isn’t stuck in silos. By maintaining quality assurance of data and ensuring that the user interface allows for good interpretation, then utilities are able to contribute to urban water management by making good decisions that are data-driven (see chart below).
Human centered design can be relevant in ensuring that data collection and interfaces such as dashboards are designed with the end user in mind and with an understanding of what the human brain can process.
My final takeaway is about managing the quantity of data, not just the quality. The Kamstrup-led roundtable discussed how advanced metering infrastructure is not about the meter readings, but about the data, which in sufficient quantity can be used for hydraulic modeling, resolving billing disputes, leak detection and rate setting. Sufficient quantity of good data can also be used for machine learning and lead to iterative, self-improving smart systems. High quality and quantity of data and the subsequent analytics are the main driving force of changes in water utilities, according to the experience of the City of Guelph’s Graham Nasby.
For utilities wondering how to start their smart water journey, the advice was to start by focusing on the data which will ultimately drive innovation. Utilities should look at the silos that exist in their company structures and establish multi-disciplinary innovation committees and data stewards who can champion interoperability of data and create smart systems that are useful now and in the future as needs and use cases evolve. As utilities increasingly work on new technology, they need to involve young water professionals who have new and valuable ideas and will be taking over the sector in the next few years. Water utilities that collaboratively develop street-wise smart water systems will become global leaders in resilient, sustainable and data-driven urban water management.
SWAN Montreal Workshop presentations can be found here.
SWAN 2018 Conference Takeaways: Meeting Industry Challenges Through Transformation, Actionable Data, & Collaboration
By Liora Hostyk, Research Analyst, SWAN Forum
The blog below is reposted from a LinkedIn article published on June 5, 2018. View the original post here.
I had the pleasure of attending the recent Annual Smart Water Networks (SWAN) Forum 2018 Conference held in Barcelona, May 21-22. Over the course of the two-day event, which drew 230 attendees from across 26 diverse counties, panelists and keynote speakers covered a wide range of topics from water quality monitoring to smart citizenship. Some general themes recurred throughout, specifically: (I) improving perception of utilities and utility-customer relationships; (II) utility transformation, and (III) data overload & enhanced data management.
I. Improving Utility Perception
The importance of improving the utility-customer relationship came up in multiple panels and roundtable discussions, not only in relation to how customers perceive their local utility company but in terms of communication and customer engagement. In his keynote, Javier Fernandez of Canal de Isabel II stated that water utilities need to transition from the image of “the lovable grandma that is kind and charming, but outdated” to the “connected youngster.” Concerns about branding must be backed up with innovative actions, and communicating to the customer will improve imaging overall.
Another interesting point raised was that customer engagement with a utility is traditionally in response to a problem, a reactive (versus proactive) response. Travis Smith of Sensus pointed out that utilities should be discerning in their messaging to clients as there is more concern and relevant engagement when the information actually affects their wallet. However, as Carlos Campos of SUEZ Advanced Solutions noted in his opening keynote, utilities should be interacting with their customers beyond just sending an invoice or responding to a leak; it is mutually beneficial when customer experience as a whole is enhanced. Campos also discussed how customer relation improvements can and should be quantified as part of the value added from smart modifications (see figure below).
(Source: SWAN 2018 Keynote Presentation, Carlos Campos, SUEZ)
Essentially, how customers perceive their utility and the quality of the water provided is a matter of language, education, and regulation. For instance, Dr. Jiawei Ng from PUB Singapore made the important point that in Singapore, the term “used water” is referred to as “wastewater” to reinforce that water is a reusable resource rather than a single-use waste. Citing his own experience, Lee Pope of Fayette County Water System pointed out that in the USA, public drinking sources are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and are therefore held to much stricter standards than bottled water, which is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Given that utilities provide vital services which are often invisible to the customer, sharing more information about company activities and driving local awareness regarding the cleanliness and quality of drinking water is a must.
II. Utility Transformation
One of the principal challenges for utilities is the daunting process of transformation, often digitally-powered. George Hawkins of Moonshot, LLC / XPV Water Partners (and formerly DC Water) offered strategic advice for utility companies beginning the process of smart adaptations, including involving all stakeholders in the discussion via a “participatory approach” and leveraging indicators to measure growth and change.
Another takeaway from the many discussions about developing smart water networks was the importance of leveraging existing infrastructure, as transformation does not necessarily require an entire system overhaul. Solution providers such as EmNet gave concrete ways to update legacy wastewater infrastructure, including real-time decision support systems. Also discussed was the opportunity to mutualise infrastructure strategies and solutions with other services (such as gas or power) as a form of collaboration that advances all sectors.
An exciting new way utilities can transform themselves and innovate their companies is through blockchain. In her keynote, Anna Poberezhna of Smart4tech discussed the many opportunities of the water sector to utilise blockchain and unique business models in order to create better transactions and improve accountability in their organisational processes (see figure below). Using such a digital platform not only improves trust between the customer and the company, but using blockchain as a data management tool can also help improve record-keeping and streamline reporting to regulators.
(Source: SWAN 2018 Keynote Presentation, Anna Poberezhna, Smart4tech)
III. Reassessing Data Management
One main lesson drawn from SWAN 2018 is that smart data tools in and of themselves are insufficient – rather, proper management and data communication are a must. As was brought up during the WatEner roundtable discussion, an overload of unnecessary data can flood the system and cause overreacting operational actions.
Additionally, a key takeaway from the s::can-led roundtable discussion was the growing market for the service of data rather than data ownership, and the challenges and opportunities that arise from using a service-economy model for data. With this in mind, the Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) model provides various business possibilities as well as opportunities for collaboration across the private and public sectors.
In the case of utility transformation, as discussed earlier, there is an ever-increasing need to view and manage data as an asset. Peter Jackson of Southern Water described effective aspects of formulating a company data strategy, including appointing an internal Chief Data Officer and the need to discuss ways to transform people, processes, and technology; and reporting on progress in order to remain accountable. He also highlighted the necessity of transforming data communication; beyond data scientists, there is a need for “data storytellers” who can interpret and relay the underlying information both within the company and to the public. Such efforts can lead to actionable results and help drive data-based decision making.
In another insightful panel presentation, David Lynch of Klir made the comparison of the current state of water management to early customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Just as CRM transitioned from rolodexes to spreadsheets of data, the water field has gone through a similar transition, but has not yet reached the next step as CRM has with automation and full data integration. In the water management sector, there are currently many structured data systems but no true system that integrates these “signals” into a focused mission; such integration is the next step in the evolution of smart water network management.
Conclusion: Industry Cooperation and Collaboration
The importance of collaboration and industry synthesis came up across many discussions, from integration on a system level to cooperation between various partners. During her keynote, Beverly Rider of Hitachi discussed such challenges faced by utility companies, but also the importance of considering the entirety of the ecosystem during water management, not just on the quality and quantity of the water. Joan Carles Guardiola Herrero of Global Omnium discussed their approach to fostering innovation in the water sector, including their contribution to a European consortium (SH2) bringing together utilities, universities, and tech companies together with the mission of consumer engagement and awareness. Another concrete concrete example of cooperation among stakeholders was given by Daisee Aguilera, the Councillor for the Environment on the Formentera Island Council. The Alliance for Sustainable Water Management was created in Formentera (which works actively with FCC Aqualia) with representatives from public institutions, private entities, social and agricultural sectors – all with the common goal of integrated freshwater islands management.
In terms of some insightful figures, when polled by Vitens, 78% of SWAN attendees said they believed innovation is best done as a collaborative effort with external partners (see figure below). Cooperation remains a key element not only of company transformation but to truly advance the water sector into a smarter future. Interestingly, when polled, the majority of Conference attendees stated that social innovation is currently more important than technological innovation (figure below). This is interesting because it highlights the importance of the customer role and behavior beyond the smart innovations the company might provide.
(Source: SWAN 2018 Conference Mobile App Poll)
Lastly, while planning for future developments in the field, it is important to keep in mind where the industry is now and where it is headed. Pat Stevens of ADS Environmental Services spoke during his panel about three decades of technology adoption from (1) understanding (2) early adopter and (3) the standard phase. When polled, a majority of respondents indicated that the water sector is currently in the decade of “early adopter”, and that in a decade’s time, the industry will be in the “standard” adoption phase.
For smart tools to become a standard quickly, partnerships and open communication between all stakeholders will be required. Cooperation and coordination within the industry are key for this transformation, with support from proper data management and enhanced customer engagement.
SWAN Members can view all SWAN 2018 Conference materials and presentations here.
2018 – The Year of Smart Wastewater
By Sam Konstantinov, Research Analyst, SWAN Forum
Published January 2, 2018
2017 was a transformative year for the smart wastewater sector with major industry advancements such as new ways to detect and prevent combined sewer overflows (CSOs), the advent of a smart wastewater pumping system, and the emergence of innovative business models such as data-as-a-service – all bound to gain more traction in 2018.
In 2017, SWAN conducted an Urban Sewershed Monitoring Survey on behalf CH2M and WE&RF to analyse the existing challenges, capabilities, and state of implementing sensor networks in urban sewersheds (sewer collection systems). The groundbreaking study was completed by 20 utilities and 20 technology providers, with the below chart illustrating how each group ranked the most important uses for sensor technology in wastewater networks.
Source: SWAN, CH2M and WE&RF Sewershed Monitoring Survey, 2017
These results demonstrate a growing interest in advanced sensor applications in wastewater solutions. Both utilities and technology providers indicated the most important uses for sensors were for an early warning system, followed by compliance monitoring, and real-time control.
Fueled by this increased interest, SWAN and industry leaders have identified the following smart wastewater trends likely to be at the forefront of 2018 discussions:
Detecting and Preventing CSOs
Wastewater utilities are increasingly implementing technologies to ensure compliance and addressing such challenges as inflow and infiltration (I&I) and combined sewage overflows (CSOs). During rain events, stormwater overwhelms the capacity of a combined sewer systems resulting in harmful overflow events. Companies such as SmartCover Systems and ADS provide solutions to detect and reduce overflows by utilising real-time flow and weather data, and similarly Eastech uses sensors for micro I&I detection. Data-driven solutions to address CSO’s will remain a priority for utilities in 2018, as these approaches are proven to be more effective and efficient.
Real-Time Network Control
Employing EmNet’s real-time control solution, the City of South Bend, Indiana was able to effectively leverage data analytics to automatically control valves and optimise their wastewater system. EmNet’s system intelligently and dynamically adapts to changing storm conditions to maximise storage and conveyance. This enabled South Bend to reduce overflow events from a yearly average of 27 to only 1. Digital solutions can also be used to evaluate and finance infrastructure initiatives to reduce CSOs.
Funding Green Infrastructure
Inadequate stormwater management practices have directly contributed to higher CSO volumes. Since most infrastructure is not permeable, stormwater is often funneled through large areas into centralised locations, which then deliver large runoff volumes into combined sewer systems. In a progressive move, DC Water was able to finance its permeable surface infrastructure initiative through an Environmental Impact Bond and use data-driven flow models to evaluate the impact of permeable surface infrastructure. This allowed DC Water to avoid a $3.3 million contingent payment. In addition to reducing CSO volumes, data oriented management practices can increase energy efficiency within wastewater networks.
Maximising Pump Efficiency
In 2017, DC Water introduced Xylem’s smart wastewater pump system. This interconnected system is expected to produce energy savings of up to 70% compared to a conventional pumping system and reduce inventory by up to 80% due to flexible performance. Emerging business models in the smart wastewater market also promise to create new partnerships and initiatives between technology providers and utilities.
Implementing the DaaS Business Model
One of the greatest challenges in integrating new digital wastewater technologies is convincing utilities to take on the risks of emerging technology solutions. The data-as-a-service (DaaS) business model addresses this challenge by shifting project risks onto technology providers. In this scenario, utilities only pay for the final data they receive and do not incur any technology related costs. This model is already proving successful in India through s::can’s Ganges River project. Using water quality monitoring stations measuring 17 different parameters, s::can is able to register live spikes in hazardous chemicals.
Looking Towards 2018
Trend-setting, progressive utilities like the City of South Bend and DC Water are laying down the groundwork for continued integration of smart wastewater solutions in 2018. Challenges in controlling CSO events, increasing energy efficiency, and ensuring effective implementation will need to be met with new digital solutions and innovative business models.
To learn more about the latest smart water and wastewater trends, challenges, and solutions, SWAN invites everyone to the 2018 SWAN Annual Conference in Barcelona. Join us May 21-22 to learn about how smart water can meet tomorrow’s challenges today.
The below blog is reposted from an article which appeared in Automation World on December 21, 2017. View the original article here.
To Embrace Digital, Water Needs to Tackle Fundamentals
By Aaron Hand, Executive Editor, Automation World
David St. Pierre, with a background in process control, moved from oil refineries to water utilities in 1986. The difference was night and day. More than 30 years later, he still sees a need for the water industry to understand the basics.
Published December 21, 2017
In the early days of David St. Pierre’s career in process control, he had plenty of exposure to old pneumatic systems and single-loop controllers—by the late 1970s in oil refining, there were banks and banks of single-loop controllers. Not unlike what control software does today in a digital format, those controllers had to be precise. “You want it to work,” St. Pierre says. “If it fails, you blow up the town.”
But since moving over to water in 1986, St. Pierre has been amazed at what is lacking in the automation of the industry. “The difference between making gasoline and controlling water is night and day. It was like taking a step back in time,” he said. Part of the reason for the difference, he contends, is that water is inherently less dangerous than oil and gas. “Water isn’t going to blow up the town. There’s just not this real urgency to get it right.”
The automation advances that had taken place in the oil and gas industry were missing in water. Now, as executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC) and vice president of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), St. Pierre sees obstacles in three main areas as the water industry tries to make its way into the digital world: automation, system health and labor.
“We have to figure out how to implement true automation in water,” St. Pierre urged industry professionals last month. He was keynoting a day-long workshop in Chicago called Modernizing North American Water Systems in the Digital Age.“ In each city that I go into, they really aren’t applying normal control strategies, which have been tried and true for ages. I see programmers that are starting from scratch on a blank sheet of paper, trying to recreate control systems that already exist in the systems that they’re buying.”
The water industry needs to get past the idea that it has to do things differently than other industries, and instead embrace just automation fundamentals. “We think we’re unique. It’s simply not true,” St. Pierre said. “We need just simple process control implementation—using the physics that you understand and applying it to a system. We need to get to the fundamentals. We need to apply the tried and true.”
The second set of obstacles come in the area of system health. Though water utilities have a network of systems that should be able to point to problems like lost water pressure in a fire hydrant, for example, the information isn’t getting where it needs to go.
In a water system in St. Louis, St. Pierre encountered a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that was so complicated, it was of little use. “We must’ve had 50 different codes to tell you what we were doing out in the field,” he recalled. “All you had was garbage going in and garbage coming out. There was no way you were going to utilize that system for information management.”
They set about figuring out what information was truly valuable. “I have to get good information out so it means something to me and helps me advance forward,” St. Pierre said. “We decided we needed three resolution codes instead of 50.”
Labor management is a huge aspect of keeping water utilities running efficiently that needs to be brought under control, St. Pierre also said. “Almost 70 percent of what I spend a year is labor,” he said. “Do you think it’s kind of important to figure how to manage that labor and get value out of that labor? It probably is.”
Using St. Louis as an example again, St. Pierre referenced the pump station group, made up primarily of mechanics and instrumentation folks. “The mechanics had never worked on a pump,” he explained. “Instead, what were we doing? We were hauling out failed pumps—failures upon failures. It was a very expensive way to do business. If you drove your car that way, you wouldn’t want a car. It’s not really asset management.” So he sent the mechanics to pump school.
Many water utilities simply need to implement basic asset management, St. Pierre insisted. “The equipment we have in water is pretty simple equipment. It’s nothing unique—it’s compressors and blowers and pumps. They should have a standard timeframe reference,” he said. Utilizing predictive sensors correctly would also go a long way, he added.
“There is such a need in water for the fundamentals. Once you get those fundamentals down, you can start becoming the excellent agencies that we want to be,” St. Pierre concluded. “If we want to accelerate the advancement of digitalization in water, it’s really all about getting the fundamentals right.”
The below blog is reposted from an article which appeared in Water Online on July 10, 2017. View the original article here.
Smart Water Questions Answered
By Kevin Westerling, Chief Editor, Water Online and Will Maize, Senior Analyst, Bluefield Research
Published July 10, 2017
A smart-water expert details the impact of data and analytics on the water sector.
It may be time to shed the quotes around the term “smart water.” When it was the water industry’s pipedream, so to speak, the buzzword-y connotation was appropriate. But smart water technology is now fully functional and greatly effective, at least where implemented, with a trajectory that is both ascending and inevitable. Or, as market intelligence firm Bluefield Research contends, smart water is here to stay.
The prediction for profound impact comes from the many benefits, mostly geared toward improved efficiency, enabled by smart water technology. And while the transition to a proven, more-efficient water management system makes common sense, it is still far from commonplace among utilities. Smart water is here to stay, perhaps, but it nevertheless has a long way to go.
So, in these still-nascent stages of a new era, you may have a number of questions about smart water technology basics, capabilities, operation, and obstacles. The following Q&A — a conversation with Will Maize, Bluefield’s senior analyst covering smart water applications and emerging technologies — provides some answers.
How do you define smart water?
There are a lot of varying definitions out there, but we define smart water as a group of emerging technology solutions that help water managers operate more effectively. These solutions harness state-of-the-art hardware and software to provide increasing levels of system intelligence, visibility, automation and control, and customer service.
At Bluefield, we take a holistic approach to consider the entire spectrum of smart water solutions — from hardware (e.g., smart meters) to software solutions (e.g., data platforms). The aim is to improve customer and network management through new technologies, data-driven platforms, and more advanced business models.
To give you an idea of scale, Bluefield forecasts the U.S. municipal water sector’s spend to surpass $20 billion on software, data, and analytics solutions over the next decade. It’s still early, so this could scale quickly.
What is the problem that smart water solutions are attempting to solve?
Historically, utilities have been hobbled by their inability to generate actionable insights from disparate network and water usage data, but this is changing with more advanced data management and cloud-based solutions. Water utilities have been stereotyped in the past as stodgy and never-changing, but this no longer holds true; smart water is bringing the water industry into the 21st century as companies look to adopt these cutting-edge solutions.
By leveraging Big Data, analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), key players in the water sector are proactively innovating to help solve issues of water scarcity and address aging water infrastructure. Smart technologies help water utilities be more proactive vs reactive. For example:
- Using imaging to inspect corroding pipes, enabling predictive maintenance;
- Analyzing data in real time to identify leaks that would otherwise go unnoticed; and
- Leveraging software to help utilities and consumers track their home water usage.
Why is the industry turning to data and analytics now?
There are a number of factors that are leading to somewhat of a perfect storm. First, there is more pressure than ever on utilities to do more with less. Consumers are pushing back on rising water rates and expecting better customer service.
Utilities and municipalities find themselves facing mounting financial constraints driven by falling water revenues and pressure to address aging infrastructure. Approximately 50 percent of U.S. infrastructure has been evaluated as poor to beyond planned life, according to latest EPA reports. And companies are looking for new, innovative ways to address issues such as aging pipes and leakage management. This has sparked an uptick in demand for innovative solutions to more cost-effectively manage billing and customer management, leakage rates, and energy consumption.
Water loss is a big concern, and states are attempting to increase regulations in this area. Water scarcity events have influenced the development of state-driven regulation targeting water loss.
We have seen great advancements in the areas of Big Data and IoT, leading other industries, such as energy, to adopt these technologies. With pressing issues mounting, the water industry is now taking advantage as well.
Can smart water technologies make a difference?
The short answer is yes. The results have been significant. In some cases, smart water solutions have halved nonrevenue water — leaks and billing errors — and reduced energy consumption from 20 to 40 percent. As much as 30 percent of water utility operating expenditures can be improved almost immediately through more dynamic and real-time system monitoring, according to Bluefield’s analysis.
What are the fastest-growing segments?
Often the first step in U.S. utilities’ smart water journey is through smart water meters —automatic meter reading (AMR) or advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Meters will continue to represent the lion’s share of forecasted expenditures at 82 percent from 2017 through 2026. The challenge, however, is that the data collected from these meters — if collected at all — needs to be managed and analyzed. This is where we see big improvements and opportunity.
We are also seeing huge potential in two other areas: asset intelligence and leakage management. We predict that asset intelligence, including pipeline monitoring, asset condition inspections, and asset management will emerge as a key smart water segment as utilities seek efficiency under mounting pressure of operating and capital replacement budget stress. Over $2.7 billion will be directed towards asset condition assessment and pipeline monitoring through 2026, according to our analysis. Given the state of municipal infrastructure, there is a wealth of low-hanging opportunities for improvements.
At the same time, operating expenditures on leakage management will total $1 billion through 2025 as smart solutions for leakage management, driven by fixed-network acoustic technologies, satellite leak detection, and improved real-time network intelligence, capture increased market share.
Which companies or utilities are leading the charge?
Smart water is bringing a wide range of new companies into the water industry from multiple sectors and value chain positions, which is fitting for an industry opening itself up to the massive potential.
Seizing on this burgeoning demand for solutions is an outside group of venture-backed startups seeking to leverage their data expertise, much of which draws from other industry applications. These data and analytics companies are looking to integrate disparate sources of data to optimize networks, track water quality, and generate insights for asset performance management. Their primary challenge, however, will be overcoming a credibility gap with demonstrated pilot projects and buy-in from municipal utilities. These companies are not new to data and IoT, but many are new to the water industry.
Since 2014, 42 acquisitions in smart water have exceeded $8.2 billion, reinforcing the growing confidence larger water companies are placing on water data and analytics as growth opportunities. We are seeing more diversified players like Honeywell, Trimble, and Xylem moving deeper into the sector.
Early-adopting utilities, including American Water and East Bay Municipal Water District, are leading the shift towards smart water technology adoption. Market leaders, including Mueller and Itron, have moved downstream into communications, data management, and analytics, while recent market entries via acquisition will further reshape the competitive landscape.
As a result, more than 40 companies in the U.S. are positioning to deploy state-of-the-art solutions to enable more advanced levels of system intelligence, real-time network visibility, energy efficiency, and customer management.
We can also look to Europe as a model. European utilities are really at the forefront in driving this space — in the areas of energy efficiency, smart meters, and leakage management.
What hurdles does the water industry face in adopting smart water technologies?
Culture. This is killer to innovation and improvements. For so long, out of sight, out of mind was the modus operandi for utility operators. Today, however, a combination of drought, water quality events in Flint and Pittsburgh, and customer expectations for real-time data and knowledge are increasing the demands on the utilities.
The solutions are not new, and water utilities also face some of the hurdles that other industries are confronting when it comes to Big Data and IoT. They must address key questions such as who owns the data — the utility, the homeowner, or the technology provider? What defines a smart utility? Which of these startups will be around in the next three to five years?
There are issues to be worked out, but we are not that far off from consumers being able to see water usage alongside electricity usage — all from their smartphones.
What would you say to skeptics who say smart water is just a fad?
I would say that just a few years ago there was only a handful of hardware players. But now the market looks entirely different. We are seeing larger, diversified companies enter the fray, utilities reshaping their mindset, and Silicon Valley applying data expertise. This combination has huge potential to change the way the U.S. water industry works.
Smart water is a big deal for the water industry and is here to stay. On the one hand, we are grappling with age-old issues of water infrastructure, pipes over 100 years old. At the same time, there are major technological advances that could revolutionize the water sector.
The bottom line is that the water industry has a huge need to be more efficient. And there are higher expectations than ever from customers that information networks be more sophisticated. I don’t see any of this going away. If anything, there will be more players entering the market and more investment in this space.
Where can our readers get more information on smart water?
Bluefield provides data and analysis across global water markets, and smart water is a key area of focus for us. In April, we released a new report, US Smart Water: Defining the Opportunity, Competitive Landscape, and Market Outlook, which is available for purchase and download from our website (www.bluefieldresearch.com)
Lessons from the SWAN 2017 Conference
By Shoshana R. Cohen, SWAN Research Analyst
Published May 26, 2017
The SWAN 2017 Conference brought together smart water and wastewater industry leaders to collectively share experiences in transitioning towards a smarter and more resilient water future. In this blog, I will highlight three, important reflections I made and how they can impact the water industry. By encouraging smart water policy, multi-level coordination among key stakeholders, embracing ICT technologies, and creating a centralised vision of a community’s water consumption, global cities can ensure the resiliency of their water and wastewater systems.
Cities face numerous water governance challenges such as water scarcity, wastewater overflows, aging infrastructure, pollution, overpopulation, and catastrophic events – see OECD figured below. By adapting to changing conditions, cities can better prepare for shocks and stresses in their system in the long-term and strengthen their ability to bounce back after a disturbance.
(Source: OECD 2016 Water Governance Survey)
Based on the main insights from the Conference, here are three recommendations for improving the resilience of smart water processes.
Lesson #1: Multi-Level Management
Coping with water risks requires the implementation of technical, financial and institutional solutions. With the increasing effects of desertification, water scarcity is proving a more prevalent stress on municipalities and utilities. Improving a city’s ability to absorb shocks requires a resiliency plan that identifies the weak points in the system. These plans represent strategic tools to increase the line of sight between day-to-day and long-term goals. Therefore, it is necessary for urban water management to have a multi-level functional approach to water functions, one that involves both national and subnational coordination. In this regard, Will Maize, Senior Research Analyst at Bluefield Research stated that “market drivers, such as water scarcity and operational efficiency, are causing utilities to turn to new technology. There is no-one-size-fits-all solution, but a need for place-based policies and overarching frameworks, strategy and rules.”
In an online poll (see above), 87% of Conference attendees selected that the adoption of data-driven technologies within water utilities is a “management,” rather than a “technological challenge.” Thus, smart water adoption is often about changing traditional mindsets to embrace digital solutions.
Lesson #2: Digital Transformation
In the past, utilities relied on acoustic listening devices and field team sweeps for leak detection. Eddy Segal, VP of Sales for Utilis Ltd, stated that instead of checking an entire area for leaks, utilities should utilise technologies, such as pressure sensors and satellites to detect the precise location of leaks. Meanwhile, innovative data analysis processes such as OSIsoft’s Process Intelligence (PI) system and SUEZ’s Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) are revolutionising water management practices. The SUEZ diagram below displays how these technologies can effectively transform the process of infrastructure-utility communication to analyse data flows and make timely predictions.
(Source: Didier Sinapah, SUEZ)
OSIsoft’s PI System can further capture and store data to create real-time, self-learning artificial neural networks. In this way, data can be collected from numerous sources, encouraging data sharing among a community of utilities, regulatory agencies, customers, governments, and private companies with the ultimate goal of optimising water network management.
Lesson #3: Connected Customers
In order to improve their daily processes, utilities must include the customers in their water management plans by sharing the data with them. This way, customers can more closely monitor their household water use. At the same time, utilities can also have a better understanding of individual household water consumption and be able to enhance segmentation within the system. For instance, Jan Gooijer, Innovation Manager at Vitens, explained that “with the development of technology within the smart water sphere, only customer-centered companies will survive.”
One example of engaging the customers within the data collection process is the integration of digital meters and social media. George Theo, CEO of Unitywater in Australia mentioned that tapping into data is an “analytics revolution for the business and the customer. Unity has used data to create knowledge and use that knowledge to create solutions.” Utilities can further provide incentives for the households that decrease their water consumption the most in a year.
To build a resilient water future, we will need sound management and policy, reliable infrastructure, ICT communication, and connected customers.
To view the SWAN 2017 Conference presentations, visit: https://www.swan-forum.com/swan-2017/
The Need for Water Service Resilience
By Shirley Ben-Dak, SWAN Marketing Manager
The need for adopting sustainable water resilience strategies is becoming more apparent than ever. By 2050, the global population living in cities will increase from 50% today to 70%. A McKinsey study on transforming water economies reveals that cities are already facing increasing water stress, with demand expanded to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030. On this note, according to Arup’s recent publication, Water Resilience for Cities, “Ensuring a resilient water supply as climate patterns change and populations grow requires cities to introduce active water resource management measures.”
With this mind, city officials and water operators will need to take into account long-term thinking and planning, support the deployment and implementation of ICT and smart water technologies, as well as collaborate with global industry stakeholders. As the Global Resilience Partnership explains in their piece on fresh water resilience, “A 21st century approach to water and to development is one that builds resilience. This means that we look for ways in which people at risk could actually thrive under recurrent water challenges – to anticipate, mitigate and rise above floods, rather than being swept away from them.”
Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in developing a resilient water management plan.
Common definitions of “water resilience” focus mostly on climate change and mitigating the impact of natural disasters. For example, according to the UK water regulator, Ofwat, resilience is “the ability to cope with and recover from disruption, and anticipate trends and variability in order to maintain services for people and protect the natural environment, now and in the future.”
Another key component highlighted by SWAN, the Smart Water Networks Forum, relates to “water service resilience,” which can be broken down into four, key pillars and applied to both the water and wastewater sectors: (1) Safe Water – Quality; (2) Reliable Service – Customers; (3) Secure Systems – IT; and (4) Efficient Operations – O&M.
The Four Key Pillars of Water Service Resilience
The above pillars can all be optimised by transforming collected network data into actionable information using smart water and wastewater technologies, explored further below.
Pillar 1: Safe Water – Quality
Traditional water quality sampling relies on time consuming and often costly monitoring techniques such as ‘grab’ sampling and field/laboratory analysis. However, there are now online sensors, which can communicate real-time data about various quality parameters to a software platform to rapidly locate the source and spread of contamination. Such efforts help manage and avoid quality issues before customers are impacted. This is also relevant to the wastewater industry, as there are technologies preventing harmful sewage overflows through the deployment of data technologies.
Pillar 2: Reliable Service – Customers
The concept of water service resilience doesn’t only refer to the infrastructure and the network itself, but also the end users that can be impacted by water flow and quality – namely the customers themselves. More and more water utilities are already seeing the importance of improving online customer engagement and are embracing the advent of smart water meter solutions and relevant smart leak detection technologies such as fixed, acoustic sensors and remote alert systems.
Pillar 3: Secure Systems – IT
When discussing water service resilience and the transition towards smart water networks, we must consider the importance of securing our systems from an IT perspective. The move to smart water networks is supported by ICT, as automation and cybersecurity technologies and systems are helping reduce risks involved in moving towards digital water and connected grids.
Pillar 4: Efficient Operations – O&M
Improving water service resilience will require utilities to maximise their operational resilience, including making strides towards adopting robust hardware, predictive modeling systems, and making intelligence decisions that are based on data collected and analysed. These and similar efforts are essential when looking to provide for more efficient O&M of water networks.
Building a sustainable water future will require not only understanding the now, but will require planning strategies 20-25 years down the line. According to a joint Arup-Siemens report, to become resilient, cities will need to think in in terms of robustness, redundancy, diversity and flexibility, responsiveness and coordination. To help streamline the process, water utilities and policymakers should first consider defining their main water service resilience indicators and goals, and then determine which individuals and/or team members will be needed in order to meet certain milestones. As this undertaking will require both management and employee support and collaboration, it should be neither rushed nor launched from a top-down approach.
To effectively secure resilience, forming industry partnerships and collaborative platforms will be essential. By taking into account different global perspectives and learning from best practices worldwide, cities and water utilities will be better equipped to handle the main shocks and stresses that infrastructure networks are facing due to both climate change and increasing water demand.
Gaining a Global Perspective
We encourage all those interested in learning more and exploring the topic of water resilience to join us for the upcoming SWAN 2017 Conference from 9-10 May in London. This will be the leading smart water conference of the year featuring 20 global water utility speakers from 13 different countries. Participants will have the opportunity to hear about more in depth case studies about the four key pillars of water service resilience as well as contribute their own insights on this increasingly important topic.
What are your views regarding water service resilience? Please share your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Streamlining Innovation in the North American Water Sector
By Amir Cahn, SWAN Executive Director
Published on February 2, 2017
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Smart Water: Tapping Technologies for Water Utilities, a joint-Workshop hosted by the SWAN North American Alliance and Cleantech San Diego at the Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego. The Workshop attracted nearly 200 attendees, several of whom were water utilities interested in learning about the vast opportunities in the smart water sector. The cross-industry panels sparked engaging discussions, particularly about the innovation processes of North American water utilities. Utility speakers highlighted the need for a “reverse pitch,” the challenges stemming from rigid RFP processes, and the idea of an “innovation lounge.”
Gary Eaton, Chief Innovation Officer at the San Diego County Water Authority, cited the importance of three “C’s.” First, creating a culture receptive to innovation in a risk-averse environment. Second, becoming agile, or building the right capabilities for staff to be innovative. Thirdly, creativity is necessary to take staff ideas from conception to implementation. Gary also stressed the idea of a “reverse pitch,” or gathering internal organisational feedback to develop a “wish list” of desired solutions. However, he stated that a significant challenge to enabling innovation is the long and arduous RFP cycle where desired technologies can become out of date or companies can even go out of business. To effectively manage the procurement process, adopting an open architecture format for other public agencies to utilise would be beneficial.
The need to be cutting-edge, not “bleeding edge” was emphasised by Joey Randall, Assistant General Manager at Olivenhain Municipal Water District. He mentioned that his utility needs to change the way they think about water to work smarter, not harder. In the end, it’s about how they do business and they must decide how their water service will change. Meanwhile, the concept of an “innovation lounge” was advocated by John Arena, Business Outreach Section Manager at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Such a lounge would be an open platform for utility staff members to collaborate and suggest different projects and improvements.
Paul Gagliardo, Innovation Director at American Water further spoke in depth about their evaluation process to work with outside vendors and how they decide where to invest their resources. Below, is American Water’s seven step innovation process, which can also be applied to other utilities.
Source: Presentation by Paul Gagliardo, Innovation Manager at American Water during Smart Water Workshop, Jan. 25, 2017 in San Diego.
As the leading global hub for the smart water sector, the Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN) brings together key players in the water industry to collaborate and share knowledge in order to accelerate the development of data-driven technologies in water and wastewater networks worldwide. For example, the SWAN North American Alliance is now free to join offering free workshops such as the recent one in San Diego, specialised webinars, as well as a soon to be centralised source for smart water resources. By joining SWAN or participating in the Alliance, utilities can leverage best practices from other global utilities and access a global innovation lounge.
View the recent Smart Water Workshop presentations: https://www.swan-forum.com/smart-water-workshop-2017/
Join the SWAN North American Alliance for free: https://www.swan-forum.com/swan-na-alliance/
7 Smart Water Trends for 2017
By Shirley Ben-Dak, SWAN Marketing Manager
Published on January 5, 2017
After waving goodbye to an exciting year for smart water, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and welcome in 2017. Given concerns related to water scarcity, reliability and security, it’s now imperative to implement digital solutions to improve operations and efficiency, as well as build the right organisation and processes to support it.
For water utilities, the emergence of smart water tech providers and Internet of Things (IoT)-related devices offers ample opportunities to increase resilience and streamline operational performance. According to Deloitte, data-driven insights “have great potential to transform the way consumers, the government and utilities think about water as a resource and how the industry plans, invests and manages water infrastructure for the future.”
While there are many exciting developments in the water sector, here are 7 smart water trends to look out for in 2017 based on insider and SWAN expert analysis:
1. Online Customer Engagement
Today, water utilities are coming to understand and embrace the advantages of customer engagement. Through the advent of AMI solutions, utilities can now utilise direct two-way communications from customer meters to the utility, then back to customer web portals and smartphone apps. This allows utilities to deliver high quality service by alerting customers about possible leaks, blockages, pollution, etc. Customers can also proactively track their water consumption and monitor their monthly bills. In 2017, customer engagement technologies will play an even more crucial role as customers seek increased transparency and available solutions become more personalised.
2. Smart Irrigation
The global irrigation industry is undergoing a transformation with the help of technology, widely known as precision or “smart” irrigation. The irrigation industry faces significant challenges due to water scarcity, increasing crop production, and climate change. By adopting smart irrigation technologies, farmers can maximise yield rates by pinpointing where and when to irrigate through sensors or water flow controllers. This current $8.34 billion market will likely generate increased interest in the coming year.
3. Smart Wastewater Management
With increased environmental regulation, climate change, aging infrastructure, and the need to improve customer service, cities are now turning to “smart,” data-driven solutions to improve their wastewater systems. These solutions allow operators to detect infiltration and inflow, prioritise actions, quickly respond to system failures, and apply predicative modeling. In 2017, there will be a growing shift towards smart wastewater solutions. For instance, the latest SWAN research report shows how four U.S. cities are already preventing harmful sewage overflows through data technologies.
4. Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring
The ability to effectively manage problems associated with water networks, both at the source and at the distribution level, is related to detection capabilities. Contamination events such as the Flint water crisis in Michigan and the recent incident in Corpus Christi, Texas, drew global attention to water quality issues in developed countries. Utilities can proactively manage and avoid potential threats through real-time water quality monitoring. In 2017, an increased emphasis will be placed on the need for such solutions to ensure water network security.
5. Mergers and Acquisitions
2016 was highlighted by “game changing” deals, which consolidated the industry and formed strategic partnerships. Xylem acquired Sensus and Visenti. GE Water & Process Technologies signed multiple cooperation agreements with WaterSmart Software and Smart Earth Technologies. Also, Belkin, a leading consumer electronics company, announced a joint venture with Uponor to “bring water up to speed with the rest of the smart home.” 2017 will likely produce similar partnerships to offer integrated solutions.
6. An Automated Future
Automated solutions for the water sector are evolving and being rapidly deployed. For instance, today, drones can collect data and inspect operations and a wastewater pumping system has integrated intelligence. The industry is changing with the development of cloud computing, big data analysis, and machine learning through remote control systems. These sophisticated systems include technology devices which can interact with one another and feed information in an optimised process. 2017 will continue to see the emergence of new automated solutions which will likely change the face of the water sector.
7. Industry Collaboration
The importance of the smart water sector will require key industry stakeholders to collaborate and leverage best industry practices. Such synergy will be needed in 2017 in order to best explore ways to address global water sector challenges. To help facilitate and expand these relationships, SWAN, the Smart Water Networks Forum, invites all smart water professionals and enthusiasts to join the upcoming 7th Annual SWAN Conference to be held May 9-10, 2017 in London. This year’s Conference will focus on creating smart, resilient water and wastewater systems from an IT and service perspective. Register today to reserve your spot.
What are your views regarding the future of smart water in 2017? Would love to hear your thoughts: email@example.com.