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Smart Water Management – Need of the hour for utility sector

With the urban areas witnessing a population rise and industries becoming technologically advanced, the need for an insightful approach to leverage and utilize water resources has been burgeoning. Water quality management has gained utmost importance due to increasing pollution levels caused by industrial growth. Hence, it is essential to address smart utilization of water resources, both from the quantity and quality perspectives. Smart water management is a field that makes it happen by leveraging the advances in industrial IoT, AI/ML, and other newer technologies.

It has become far more necessary to focus on two aspects –

  1. Purification of water for its optimum usage.
  2. Wastewater management.

Growing digital transformation in the water management sector has enabled us to address the above two challenges. According to MarketsandMarkets, the Smart Water Management market is set to grow at 12.9% CAGR, doubling to USD 21.4 Billion by 2024.

Water quality management includes detecting multiple factors in water such as the pH value, hardness, and dissolved impurities (sodium, silica, nitrates, phosphorous).

The companies offering water quality management services leverage various products for this process such as lab instruments, analyzers, sensors, and controllers.

The next step, of course, is the purification of water. It is done in large facilities in a step-wise process involving filtering, multiple levels of clarifying using effluents, separating sludge, and aerating. It is followed by disinfecting the water and then discharging it either to surface water or feeding it back to the input for reusing the recycled water. All these stages utilize digital transformation for sensing the quality parameters, amounts, and flows of various chemicals/effluents, mapping remote functioning of the systems, and generation of all relevant data for process control.

The aim is to provide the required quantities of water at the expected quality levels based on the usage by the residential and industrial sectors continuously. The other target is to monitor and treat the wastewater from these sectors and bring down the impurities to acceptable levels before releasing the wastewater into the environment.

The key solution aspects of smart water management include:

  • RDM (Remote Device Management): The water management ecosystem consists of plenty of assets such as water meters, quality/volume/pressure sensors, pipelines, and dispensers/outlets. RDM helps throughout the system:
    • At an overall level, it helps in ensuring safety (from any accidents/mishaps as well as preventing thefts) and security from cyber-attacks.
    • Having remote monitoring and control over various sensors at the source helps control the input parameter of water in any system.
    • On the outlet side, managing a connected ecosystem of dispensers or outlets helps understand the usage patterns, demand, and ensures supply.
    • Leakage minimization through AI/ML reduces losses.
  • Predictive Maintenance: This spans across the following:
    • Enterprise asset management – Analyzing asset status (on/off/and other operating parameters) and health (condition monitoring parameters) for preplanning the maintenance schedule. This aids enhanced instrumentation and accurate calibration.
    • Pressure/flow management and other parameters: Detecting aberrations help fix the issues before they occur for the system to continue functioning and minimize downtime.
    • Other miscellaneous areas such as workforce/network/billing management help having better control over commercial aspects of the water management system.

The primary beneficiary sectors of this revolution are residential, commercial, and industrial. Sector-wise products/applications of the Smart Water Management are summarized below:

1. Industrial Sector ̶ the key consideration here is process control

  • Water Controllers – Monitors the motor functions and reduces electricity consumption simultaneously. The water controller helps in reducing power fluctuations and fills the overhead tanks when they reach below the required level.
  • Flow Controllers ̶ Controls the speed of the water flow according to the need, either through a mechanical valve mechanism or electric signal calibrated against the flow. It helps save water.
  • Pressure and temperature controllers: Maintaining the right amount and temperature of the water throughout the process and its real-time reporting is of utmost importance in the industrial sector.
  • Having remote monitoring and control on the equipment, not just its parameters, is also crucial and RDM/predictive maintenance of devices for water parameter management is also considered.

These solutions enable efficiency and process control for the desired output by having a higher control on parameters related to water throughout the process. This results in process accuracy and hence, better business output.

2. Public Utilities/Residential Sector

  • Smart Metering  – Transferring the consumption data directly to the cloud or via IoT gateways helps in edge analytics for real-time alerts. This ecosystem also remotely monitors, controls, and diagnoses any issues to optimize water usage.
  • Water Quality Monitoring – Water quality monitoring is another key area that tracks various impurities (lead/heavy metals) through sensors along with other parameters such as dissolved oxygen, water temperature for temperature-controlled processes, and derives great insights.
  • Water Distribution Modelling – Various software applications are used to model water distribution systems. It is a tool to understand the movement and fate of drinking water constituents within the distribution systems and helps in the analysis of different types of applications.

Waste-water management

This is a separate domain in water management that deals with a three-step treatment of wastewater to ensure the safe quality of water to be recycled or released into the environment. The wastewater management industry works on two principles – ‘Processing and Cleaning the water’ and ‘Protecting the water and environment’.

Wastewater management solutions primarily involve ensuring the quality of recycled water when it is supplied to households and industries or when it is released into the environment. It also calls for compliance adherence and hence, is extremely critical. Digital technologies go a long way in achieving these objectives.

Technology implementation in water management relies a lot on the use of different sensors. Ultrasonic sensors are used for detecting the presence and distance of liquid from its reference point, while pressure and temperature sensors are used to monitor key process parameters as well as bubblers or floats to ensure maintenance of the desired water levels. As far as quality monitoring goes, specialized sensors monitor multiple key impurities or values. These include salinity, conductivity, temperature, pH, nutrients (Nitrogen/ Phosphorous), and dissolved insecticides and pesticides. These factors play a key role in ensuring that no/minimal toxic waste is thrown back into the reservoirs and water sources.

Some of the benefits that digitization brings are:

  • Real-time alerts for emergencies.
  • Leakage reduction, hence, optimized usage.
  • Reduction in harmful chemicals and protection of the environment.
  • Remote device management and minimized downtime.
  • Process efficiency and energy savings.
  • Network optimization.
  • Reduced overall cost of ownership.
  • Calamity damage prevention.

The lockdowns caused by the pandemic have severely affected the water industry due to the unavailability of the workforce throughout the globe. This condition has majorly taught everyone the importance of handling things remotely. Advances in Information Technology, edge intelligence, hence, IT-OT convergence plays a key role in bringing up the transformation by acquiring technologies like smart devices (IoT), Sensors, AI/ML, augmented reality, virtual reality, and blockchain. All this together helps in measuring and maintaining the quality and quantity of water. These also help effectively managing and maintaining the assets through timely updates about services, repairs, and life expectancy of the assets given by all these sensors/devices. The devices raise an alarm as well in case of wastage.

Technology leaders such as eInfochips have helped multiple customers through technology solutions ranging from planned/predictive maintenance, Over-the-Air upgrades, and connected solutions for real-time resolutions in tough times. The solutions include water level controllers/Non-destructive pipe testing/smart utilities in home automation among a few others. These solutions go from device engineering at HW/FW level to complete digital transformation of the existing solutions including connectivity, cloud enablement, and a true IoT implementation. To know more about services, connect with our experts today.

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