Why Water is Getting Smart

Utilities are evolving from service providers to data collectors and system optimisers. More companies are partnering with or acquiring existing providers to tap into the smart water market space.

Tf Portrait Shot

Tf Portrait Shot

By Tom Freyberg, Chief editor

Utilities are evolving from service providers to data collectors and system optimisers. More companies are partnering with or acquiring existing providers to tap into the smart water market space.

As I write this I’m travelling to London to take part in the Utilities Forum - a panel debate at the annual Year in Infrastructure Event. I’ve been asked to speak for 10 minutes on the six biggest trends facing the global water industry. As most of you know, trying to condense nearly seven years covering the water sector into 10 mins is a challenging task, especially for people as verbose as me!

One of themes I’ve decided to talk on is the rise of the smart water solutions market. Once seen with scepticism as a marketeers phrase, along with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0, this is one topic that should be taken more seriously. Why? Because market activity suggests so. Companies formerly involved in supplying traditional water treatment technology, such as pumps, are now diversifying into the IT-based, high tech side of the business.

Take Xylem, after rebranding the former ITT pump business, it recently acquired US smart meter company Sensus for $1.7 billion cash. Xylem hopes the purchase will provide a return of investment of $50 million annually within three years.

The need to reduce non-revenue water is also driving the adoption of smart meters. Data from Bluefield Research predicts that smart water meter deployments across Europe will increase by 28% over the next 10 years, from a current installed base of 11 million meters. Recently, Kamstrup joined forces with Israeli tech firm TaKaDu to combine smart metering and cloud-based software technologies.

We’ve looked at the latter in detail in past editions of WWi. In theory - it’s on point to where water utilities are evolving: data gatherers. Information from the water network, from flow meters, GIS and SCADA systems is put together, mathematically cooked and then the resulting data spat out. Using this, utilities should be able to predict where and when a leak will take place, based on “anomalies” picked up by the software.

In theory, fantastic. In reality? It will come down to cost. Investments into relatively new technology will always be seen as risky from a utility point of view. They will need to see it proven elsewhere. Thankfully, as we’ve reported, more utilities are taking the steps and adopting such systems to give potential new users faith

After visiting different exhibitions this year, the IoT theme/smart water technology is definitely starting to take off. I admit, I was totally sceptical of such phrases when they started being used. Perhaps I still am.

Human evolution to the point where we are today took millions of years.Progressing to a smart water supply may not take that long, yet it’s still going to be a slow and worthwhile journey.

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