Smart Water Networks — what to consider when implementing in an enterprise
By Simon Zander, National Segment Manager Water and Waste Water at Schneider Electric
Monday, 09 October, 2017
Every time water is passed through the assets of a water utility, either by being treated or distributed, data is being generated and gathered for analysis. This information can be harnessed every time a pump starts, a tank is filled or even a tap is opened.
‘Smart water’ is all about effectively integrating big data to support decision-making and, subsequently, utilising technology solutions to optimise all the aspects of water systems. The integration of a smart network into an already existing network or infrastructure can give new life to already existing investments.
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.
How to implement a Smart Water Network
A variety of factors should be considered when implementing a Smart Water Network, including the adoption of an enterprise-wide approach, a thorough solution evaluation and the integration of information management.
1. Take an enterprise-wide approach
A Smart Water Network builds on new water management technologies that integrate well with legacy systems. However, it is important that different departments do not work in silos with different technologies and the utility has guiding principles to implement different technologies into the existing ecosystem or system.
Taking an enterprise-wide approach ensures that information is available to support real-time operations decisions and business processes throughout the enterprise. As a result, all business functions benefit from economy-of-scale returns as well as improved efficiency and effectiveness.
2. Thorough solution evaluation
To understand how a specific Smart Water Network will work in an enterprise, it is necessary to conduct a thorough solution evaluation.
A smart-water approach provides the tools and information needed to determine the best way to provide the solutions and services for a utility. The universal aspects of water network functions are well defined and understood. Therefore any systems that are required to be integrated to create a Smart Water Network must be flexible and open in their architecture so as to adapt to specific technology already installed in the utility. It is important that the systems are designed to accommodate extensions and system enhancements to meet future needs.
Without a thorough situational examination of both the specific water network attributes and the capabilities of the systems to be integrated, the risk of poor performance in the future increases greatly. It can also lead to poor investments that may need to be replaced earlier than anticipated.
3. Integration of information management
A well-integrated Smart Water Network is accurate, secure and timely, and helps the utility make better decisions in less time. The integration of correct information across numerous processes allows the utility to take proactive measures in areas where it was previously difficult to achieve the integration of information.
Managing water leaks is a good example, because the occurrence of a leak usually impacts several departments and the water utilities customers. The utility operating with a Smart Water Network approach has reliable information that can help identify leaks and speed up the repair process when they are identified. This can potentially prevent catastrophic water main failure, save money and provide a better level of service to the utility’s customers.
Considering the numerous functions involved in this process, it wouldn’t be possible without a complete integration of information management systems and the associated hardware to monitor the parameters of the systems.
By automating processes and improving operation efficiency, the implementation of a Smart Water Network will provide a number of benefits for water utilities. Water utilities that adopt these networks can harness the massive amount of data gathered to improve processes, reduce inefficiencies, prevent future errors and, ultimately, cut down on costs and improve customer service levels. A great resource for water utilities who wish to do more research in this area is the Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN) (www.swan-forum.com).
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