Big data – smart water

‘Big data’ represents real opportunities for the water industry and this is driving investment in smart water technologies. As the cost of storing data has reduced and collection of data has become easier, the mining of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data is paying dividends.

‘Smart water’ is all about effectively integrating this big data with technology solutions that allow the water industry to optimise all aspects of their water systems. Using smart-water technologies can not only help organisations understand their customers but it can also help them create efficiencies, improve longevity of assets and predict future trends. Researchers estimate that billions of dollars can be saved through the implementation of smart-water technologies.

“We are seeing an industry shift in language and mentality in the water industry. Five to 10 years ago the focus was water, sustainability, community and service,” says Dr Annalisa Contos of Atom Consulting. “Now, we are seeing a shift to language which is more about water as a product supplied to customers, what water can do for us, liveability, liveable cities and water to enhance life.”

“This shift represents opportunities and challenges for the water industry, including the increasing complexity of big data and ageing infrastructure.”

Simon Zander, water segment leader at Schneider Electric, says he is “working with a lot of customers in Australia and around the world in regard to big data.”

Schneider Electric has an offering called Wonderware Historian software, which is now available through its acquisition of Invensys. “The software allows companies to collect massive amounts of data in a central spot and analyse that data to make better decisions for the future,” says Zander.

“By implementing technology solutions like Wonderware Historian you can potentially extend the life of your assets by 10-15 years, which represents billions of dollars’ worth of saving in deferred capital,” Zander continues. “Smart water is about using all that information to get the best out of your physical assets and even the water within the assets.”

Once you have data collection, sensing and control in place, you can start looking at opportunities to optimise and make better decisions about asset management.  The opportunities with smart water depend on how cleverly we can operate these assets, and this is growing with the speed of big data and how quickly it can now be analysed.

One opportunity is in the real-time space; improving our immediate real-time operation to predict how our systems are going to work, how they are going to respond and how we need to react. For example, smart-water solutions can automatically detect a water leak and valves can be automatically shut off.

The recent trend in the decreased demand for water in Australia has meant that some assets now have an extended lifetime, says Contos. This can also put pressure on the pumps because they are not operating for the demand for which they were designed. This has created opportunities for installing variable speed drives (VSDs).

While VSDs have been around for a long time, the opportunity lies in how cleverly they can be operated. Zander says VSDs can now be bought as off-the-shelf products and Schneider Electric has a range of VSD solutions: “from small drives for process pumps so that you can optimise the chemicals used in a treatment plant, right through to medium-voltage drives that can drive medium-voltage motors and pumps in large sewer pump stations”.

“These [solutions] are becoming cost effective and really good options for water companies to use to optimise systems,” says Zander

For more information about Schneider Electric’s range of SMART Water offerings contact 1300 369 233 or click here.