Water 4.0: What it Means for the German Water Industry

Sept. 1, 2017
To help understand the digitisation of the water market, we take a look a findings from a GWP-led study on Water 4.0.
To help the market understand the digitisation of the water market, the German Water Partnership has published the findings from its research and discussions on WATER 4.0. This article also outlines successful examples of the first-generation Cyber-Physical Water Systems.

By Christian Ziemer and Volker Clausnitzer

The importance of digitization in our society has been increasing for some time; in the meantime, people have also begun to talk about a new basic trend that can change value creation chains and evolve into a new industrial revolution.

This has given rise to the discussion of terms such as “big data”, “Internet of Things” and “cyber-physical systems”, with the emergence of groups such as the Industrial Internet Consortium and Platform Industrie 4.0 revealing the dynamic energy present in this environment.

The water industry is constantly looking for possible ways of adapting itself to changed boundary conditions and to find effective and efficient solutions for global challenges. Climate change and urbanization - to name just two of the important driving forces around the globe - are constantly increasing the demand for scarce water resources.

Over the course of digitization, procedures, tools and other resources are increasingly becoming available and are ringing in a new era in water management. Comparable with other industries, the water industry is also in a position to further strengthen its future competitiveness through the use of automation in smart grids. Through the increased integration of IT, sensors and model applications, opportunities are created to better understand water management systems in terms of their complexity and degree of networking and to illustrate them in production, early warning and decision-making processes.

The integration of planning and operating processes with the aid of intelligent hardware and software and of the independent exchange of information - from the user to individual components all the way to the supplier/disposer - is becoming more and more of a must for resource productivity and efficiency.

For real-time-controlled processes, the Internet of Things and Services also plays an important role, because thus data for water-relevant processes and water qualities is becoming increasingly constant and available/usable, whenever and wherever required. In addition, it is also possible to perform additional networking with other data (e.g. weather) to create forecasts, which can be input into the operations management of water-relevant plants.

On the basis of a comparable advance in development in industrial production, namely Industrie 4.0 , the GWP has decided to call this change brought on by digital technology WATER 4.0 (see box).

An important feature of the current fourth development stage in both water and industry is the merging of real and virtual worlds into so-called Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). This stage describes the linking of sensors, computer models, and a real-time controller with real water systems, with heavy participation of intelligent networks up to the intranet/internet.

They combine processes, measures, and technologies into an IT unit and include classic, tried-and-tested methods as well as new, innovative approaches. Both central and distributed solutions are possible for this. The only prerequisites are ›› an exchange of data and information which is recorded online or entered and output offline (manually) and›› digital illustration of the system to be considered and the mutual influencing of a virtual and real system.

Cyber-Physical Water Systems (CPWS) are suitable for integrated and long-term consideration and interaction of virtual (Digital Twin) and real environmental systems, while taking changing and changed processes into consideration.

In this respect, WATER 4.0 is not a concrete technology. No strict definition exists in terms of natural science. Rather, WATER 4.0 is the interaction of innovative, current and future networked technologies with water as the natural resource, product or industrial resource with the goal of sustainable management, usage and risk reduction, while taking the interests of all of the direct and indirect users and stakeholders into consideration.

The networking of measurement and control systems with data analysis and modelling transforms data into information, which prepares, supports or makes decisions and implements measures and monitors their interventions in the water system (Assistance -Systems). Likewise, the information compiled over time can lead to new knowledge as to how water can be better utilised in the various application areas. Thus, WATER 4.0 is a holistic approach which lives on and evaluates digital data and inputs it into forecasts and which also falls back on data from other technical areas, thus allowing a holistic consideration and sustainable decisions. WATER 4.0 does not remain static “in the now”. Rather, it follows technical developments and uses the new capabilities that are provided. The approach lives on the effect of the entire system and the comparison between virtual and real water systems and less on innovative individual elements.

Aspects of digitization

There are many aspects of digitization, and their importance -depending on the industry and point of view (manufacturer vs. customer) - is perceived differently. Both the visualization of and increase in process transparency in addition to the resource optimization (time, staff, investments) expected from the use of digital solutions are of overriding importance. For customers of the water industry, assistance systems for process simulation and decision support have proven to be prominent aspects of digitization. The positive influence on the relationship with customers and suppliers expected from industry is generally confirmed by the water industry but is deemed less important.

Many market observers agree that digitization will only bring about essential innovations if appropriate efforts are not only made in uncoordinated field trials but also if a digital strategy is developed that is also included in the general business strategy.

According to the GWP members interviewed, more than 50 percent of the companies have at least partly developed an overall digital strategy in their organizations and those of their customers and consider this implementation a key driver for digitization.

Next we list specific examples document how GWP members are already implementing elements of WATER 4.0 and offering them in the market to show digitization in action.

Case study 1: Operational real-time control and warning system for Aarhus, Denmark

With its “Water Vision 2100,” the seaport city of Aarhus has aimed at clean drinking water and clean water in the natural environment, considering the urban water cycle together with the complete catchment area. Accordingly, to achieve recreational use of lake, river and harbour the city in 2005 decided to improve the quality of the receiving waters mainly by reducing the frequency of combined-sewer overflow.

The project covered the creation of sufficient real-time controllable storage capacity to avoid water pollution from combined waste-water overflow, integration into the urban environment, and development of the port area into a recreation area with high water quality. Infrastructure requirements were aligned to population growth and changing climate, taking also into account the limitations for any structural measures due to cost and space.

Resulting from a WATER 4.0 approach, a real-time integrated control-and-warning system was put into automated operation in 2013. It comprises three sewage treatment plants and nine underground wastewater storage tanks all networked to the combined sewer overflows and rainwater overflows, as well as a local weather radar.

The system handles data acquisition, processing, and validation, modelling and strategy optimization, issuing control instructions and controlling the infrastructure elements, triggering operational alarms, and alerting the public. The required system virtualization was implemented via MIKE Powered by DHI Software solutions that also ensure the complex control for the real-time operation.

Following an integrated approach from the beginning it saved the city €32 million compared to the estimated construction cost of €79 million for conventionally operated retention structures.

Case study 2: Controlled wastewater with totally integrated automation

Time savings of up to 20 percent can be made when engineering wastewater treatment plants. This requires integrated planning of the entire drive and control technology on the same system platform. This is the conclusion reached by a company that equipped a municipality in Bulgaria with a sewage plant. Nowadays, huge emphasis is placed on advanced automation in sewage plants. Not only in Germany but also abroad: Dresden-based technology company Biogest International has an export rate of 80 percent.

The company’s latest project was to provide the entire automation and drive technology equipment for a sewage plant in Provadia, Bulgaria. The project was the first time that Biogest International had used only a single integrated engineering platform for everything from planning and programming to commissioning and maintenance of the entire drive and control technology.

To do this, the technology company relies on Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) which is offered by Siemens. With Integrated Drive Systems (IDS), Siemens brings together all the power train components that form an efficient and integrated solution: inverters, motors, clutches and gearboxes. Thus, the whole automation system is perfectly coordinated - from the integrated drive portfolio and integration in the automation level, through to integration in life cycle IT and service. This helps increase productivity, reliability and economy and also results in a shorter time-to-market and a shorter time-to-profit.

The crucial advantage of this drive technology characterised by TIA is the accelerated engineering, from planning to commissioning, that now also includes the entire powertrain. Using the Engineering Framework TIA Portal or COMOS for larger application from Siemens, the company was able to program, parameterize, visualize and analyze everything on one platform, from controller to motor. The result was that this significantly reduced the programming and parameterization effort and time saving on engineering of the whole system by at least 20 percent.

WATER 4.0 - Outlook

WATER 4.0 offers what is presently a unique opportunity to define a progressive and promising approach to addressing the water problems of the future. Ideally, unique selling propositions will be created within existing business opportunities and completely new areas of activity will also emerge. The connection of cyberphysical water system (CPWS)to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) landscapes is conceivable on a medium to long-term basis, and this may fundamentally improve value creation in the water industry, especially for operators.

The connection of WATER 4.0 to Building Information Modelling (BIM) will also play a significant role The Federal Government is currently promoting the “upgrading” of Germany’s digital infrastructure. The software-based BIM work method for planning, building and operating buildings thrives on the active networking of all stakeholders; this will certainly be important for larger plants such as sewage plants and waterworks.

WATER 4.0 offers enormous potential for optimising the management of water infrastructure systems for even more efficient use of resources (e.g. energy, water, staff) with simultaneous improvement in the security of supply and disposal (e.g. minimizing water pollution).

Initial surveys have shown that the key point in networking and automation of the water infrastructure is deemed to be the massive impact on education and training and the skills of all the staff involved in value creation. In order to meet the new requirements, we need to ask questions: what skills are needed and how do we develop the knowledge of the parties involved?

In future, both experienced and new staff will need preparation to enable them to deal with the new situation, and education and training will need to focus on the new challenges ahead. New technical equipment and upgrading of the systems will need to be accompanied by education and training that is matched to the new requirements.

The existing training occupations in environmental engineering will need to be adapted; new job descriptions and job profiles will emerge. WATER 4.0 will require the establishment of a new job profile, namely “Aquatronics engineer”.

In Africa and Asia especially, it will be possible to jump from Water 2.0 or 2.1 straight to WATER 4.0; water bills in Uganda, for example, are already being paid via smartphone apps. Especially in rapidly developing countries, it may become possible to network all the water infrastructure entities using modern transmission technologies.

The route towards WATER 4.0 is an evolutionary process. Existing basic technologies and experience must be adapted to the special needs of the water industry - particularly in the international environment. At the same time, it is necessary to implement innovative solutions and to leverage market potential together at the same time. This will then enable Germany and other countries to use WATER 4.0 to improve international competitiveness and create new, innovative, social infrastructures for work.

Christian Ziemer is head of the GWP working group “water 4.0”, which also includes Volker Clausnitzer (DHI-WASY GmbH). For more information on GWP and it’s working group, visit: www.germanwaterpartnership.de.

What is Water 4.0?

WATER 4.0 puts digitization and automation at the center of a strategy for resource-efficient, flexible and competitive water management. In doing this, WATER 4.0 incorporates the same main features and terms of the industrial revolution Industrie 4.0, such as “networking of machines, processes, storage systems and resources”, “smart grids”, “Internet of Things and Services”, and brings them together in a systemic, water management context.

In the implementation of WATER 4.0, Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) are drivers of the optimal networking of virtual and real water systems, with planning, construction and operation being largely done by software.

This allows the intelligent networking of water users (agriculture, industry, and households) and components in a sustainable water infrastructure with the environment and the water circuit and follows a holistic approach along the value-added chain. Furthermore, WATER 4.0 allows a high degree of transparency for water users, thus covering current needs, and provides opportunities for sustainable, creative activity areas in water management.

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