Water Technology Innovation Q&A

Aug. 23, 2017
A Look Forward with Bentley's Robert Mankowski

Robert Mankowski leads the development team responsible for Bentley’s AssetWise capabilities and services. With over 20 years of experience in software development and seven patented technologies under his belt, he offers his insights into the future of water utility data management.

WATERWORLD: Being mostly buried and therefore out of sight, water/wastewater network assets are subject to being out of mind, making it difficult to know what you own, where it is located, what condition it is in, and how well it is performing. What is coming to make it easier for utilities to ensure a safe and reliable operation?

ROBERT MANKOWSKI: In recent years, there have been significant strides in GIS-based workflows between the field and office. The industry is doing a much better job of accurately capturing as-builts and keeping the GIS up to date with what is in the field. There is also some compelling research and several innovations driven by the academic world through projects such as Mapping the Underworld that focus on understanding where our underground assets are. Applications like Bentley’s Subsurface Utility Engineering help mitigate the risk of building in a utility-congested underground environment.

Utilities need to manage and maintain a geospatial asset register of all water and wastewater network assets to which they may associate a wide variety of inspections and surveys. This provides a detailed and data-rich view of the “as-maintained/as-operated” condition status of the network, as well as preserving historic records of condition assessment that can contribute to a better understanding of asset failure modes and causes.

All associated inspection metadata, data files, databases, photographs, time series (e.g., flow or pressure monitors), and video (such as CCTV) should be managed and associated with the relevant asset. Capabilities, such as those available with Bentley’s AssetWise, can work in concert with a geospatial information system to provide these capabilities and allow utilities to plan and implement proactive asset performance and reliability strategies.

Hydraulic modeling applications, such as Bentley’s WaterGEMS, also play a role in ensuring safe and reliable operations by forecasting system conditions and performance, managing pumps and storage, planning for scheduled maintenance, and helping operators react to unplanned outages and emergencies. Advanced analytics can help you fill in the gaps between the locations and times that SCADA systems and other data collectors use to gather information. This allows operators to detect and troubleshoot problems as soon as they arise, leveraging knowledge in the control room to help guide field crews to the right areas to investigate and act.

WW: What does the future hold for the water industry in terms of how Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and other trends will impact the sector?

RM: Asset information management systems that enable the convergence of IT, OT, and ET data will make infrastructure assets more powerful, efficient, and reliable by exploiting the Big Data potential. Using cloud services platforms, digital engineering capabilities will go beyond observing and monitoring the asset’s performance to modeling its desired behavior to produce better outcomes.

IIoT and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems have had a harmonic convergence of their own in enriching the oversight value of data analytics for treatment, distribution, and collection facilities. Engineering departments and operational control rooms have more reason to interact than ever before, as the common goal of ensuring reliable service, reducing cost and optimizing their networks can be realized - in real time. Hydraulic modeling generally has been used for long-term planning, while data from the SCADA systems are used heavily in daily operational decisions. Linking these two technologies has ensured barriers are removed, collaboration improved, and data shared for mutually beneficial reasons.

Read WaterWorld’s full interview with Bentley’s Robert Mankowski.