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More than 32,000 attendees and 1,600 exhibitors from across the Water and Wastewater industry came together in Chicago for WEFTEC – the largest annual water quality event in the world. This meeting came at a time when the water industry is facing some of its most difficult challenges. Today we are experiencing more stringent water quality standards, an ever-aging infrastructure, lower capital available to invest in that infrastructure and rising operating costs, among other issues. In the future our population is estimated to increase by over 2 billion people in the next 35 years which will increase water consumption, water scarcity and the need for sustainable infrastructure.

Cutting-edge technologies on display at WEFTEC address key issues facing the industry and new innovations offer new ways to address industry challenges. 

 

Emergence of Smart Water

The Smart Water trend that started a few years ago has gained momentum, thanks to new innovations to help address some of the largest challenges facing the industry, making operations more efficient. New Smart Water technologies are delivering greater process insights allowing operators to understand their systems better and make more informed decisions. The data now available through these Smart Water systems allow them to make machine adjustments, schedule maintenance and other activities flexibly to optimise their systems. New tools are allowing operators to implement real-time changes that can to drive efficiency and profitability.

 

The Aging Workforce

A large percentage of the workforce is older employees with a great deal of experience that are preparing to retire. When they do, they will be taking that knowledge and experience with them. New employees will be challenged to fill these roles. Fortunately, new technologies are available that will help the Millennial employees be successful. Tools that leverage augmented reality will allow them to better diagnose and repair system issues. Connected SCADA technologies will allow them to manage those systems from anywhere through their mobile devices.

 

Innovation Empowering Operators and Managers

New approaches are delivering on the potential of IIoT in water with strategies focused on different key personas in a water utility: empowered operators, proactive maintenance teams, and agile management for C-levels.

  • “Empowered operators” — Getting the right information to the operator – on the field or at a control center – in a way they can easily interact with it and make better decisions.
  • “Proactive maintenance teams” – Optimising the management of different types of assets in the water infrastructure, leveraging sensors and analytics to give the ability for true predictive, or condition-based maintenance. In this domain, digital services leverage key data from plants or networks and translating them into actionable insights.
  • “Agile management for C-level” – Combining the OT with IT to allow smarter business decisions. This involves improvements in productivity, in key processes performance, regulation compliance, reduction of investment and business optimisation.

 

 The Power of the Cloud

New technologies leveraging cloud connectivity are here offering greater mobility, analytics and edge control – all adding the huge capability of getting additional data at lower costs. Further, the analytics capabilities are helping to extract value from this big data, enabling optimisations and more informed decisions. People, operations and energy are all impacted by these new technologies, which bring:

  • Capabilities of empowering workers with augmented and virtual reality, automating water installations, and enhancing safety at water facilities.
  • Hardware agnostic data management apps and analytics for optimising operations, reducing leakage, optimising flow and pressure, reducing energy consumption and turning treatment plants into carbon neutral facilities
  • Ability to predict failures in critical assets, alongside the ability to allow real-time decision making by aligning IT and OT.

 

The Importance of Cybersecurity

In Smart Water systems digital solutions promise greater business value, but greater connectivity can increase vulnerabilities if not managed. Cybersecurity is a critical issue in the age of IIoT. When adopting connected technologies and building a smart system, managers need to take cybersecurity into account. They need to choose products with embedded cybersecurity, then work with their vendors installing the solutions to ensure they enhance their operation’s overall cybersecurity.

Learn more about EcoStruxure for Water Wastewater, Smart Water technology leader, enhancing key processes and applications across the water cycle.

 

By Vincent Puisor, Schneider Electric Business Development Manager, Water & Wastewater – Americas Region

 

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