Water 4.0 — following the digitisation trend

Friday, 02 February, 2018

Water 4.0 — following the digitisation trend

The provision of affordable quality drinking water is one of the most important tasks of the water sector. To be able to do that, the industry needs continuous innovations in order to maintain the high standards for the future. The latest developments in the field of drinking water preparation and distribution will be on show at the upcoming trade fair IFAT in Munich.

For some years now, more and more of the innovations presented at IFAT have been related to the key topics of digitalisation, automation and Water 4.0, says Silvia Fritscher, exhibition director of IFAT. This is a trend that is set to further strengthen in 2018.

Analysis sensors as part of the network

“The greatest progress in digitalisation in the drinking water sector is seen currently in the areas of pump controls, measurement technology and drinking water analysis,” said Julia Braune, managing director of the German Water Partnership (GWP), an industry and research network. She continued: “While digital integration of pump controls is already well advanced, there is still much potential in the connecting up of system components using sensors; for example, for analysis. Ever better communication between the various parts of the water production process — for example, springs, waterworks and the drinking water network — can both enhance the security of the supply and also optimise energy and resource efficiency.”

Opportunities from a ‘digital twin’

Even more extensive scope for digitalisation lies in setting up a ‘digital twin’. This is a data model which depicts a machine, a system or even a complex infrastructure with all its information and interdependencies. Christian Ziemer, Siemens AG and head of the GWP Working Group Water 4.0, sets out one possible application in drinking water and wastewater: “With a digital twin we can do real-life simulations, completely without risk, to test various approaches and optimise them.”

Better identification of customer needs

The importance of digital change has been recognised in the field of municipal water supplies — that was a clear finding in a survey of its members conducted by the Verband Kommunaler Unternehmen (VKU — the German association of public utility companies). More than two-thirds of the companies rated digitalisation as of high or very high relevance. And already one in two companies is either planning or implementing a digitalisation strategy.

“Digitalisation underlines the benefit to customers and citizens as a central impetus for change,” pointed out Michael Beckereit, president of the VKU. He added: “Analysis of large volumes of data means we can recognise more easily what the customers need and better understand the processes. This in turn forms a good basis for developing new and even more suitable products and strategies.”

‘Maturity Model Water Supply 4.0’ in development

In order to give digitalisation support to companies in the water supply sector, the Deutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches (DVGW — the German Association for Gas and Water) commissioned in autumn the development of a ‘Maturity Model Water Supply 4.0’.

“We hope that this model will give us a valid overview of the current practices in digitalisation in the water sector. Ideally we will be able to derive improvement measures from this and then introduce them in a sensible sequence,” explained Dr Dirk Waider, vice president water at the DVGW.

The IFAT Trade Fair for Water, Sewage, Waste and Raw Materials Management takes place at the Messe München exhibition centre in Munich from 14–18 May 2018.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/MAXFX

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