Xylem urges water industry to consider bigger picture with sensory systems

Posted: Wednesday 5th June 2019

Following comments from Ofwat Associate Director Alison Fergusson about sensors becoming integral to the digitisation of the UK water industry and AMP7, Xylem is urging key stakeholders prioritise total cost of ownership when deciding whether to invest in the technology.

Commenting before the fifth Sensing in Water conference, Fergusson stated that due to the reduced cost of monitoring, analysing and mining real-time data tracking, the water industry will be able make use of assets and metrics that have up until recently been invisible. Consequently, thanks to these more readily-available sensory systems, water and wastewater infrastructure can be managed more efficiently than ever before.

However, while the hardware’s price is lower than ever before, the expenses around installation, maintenance, data communication and analysis can limit the uptake of large-scale installations. Though a reluctance to commit to this level of ongoing investment is understandable, utility professionals should instead consider them as part of the system and network’s whole life costs.

By taking this long-term view, it is clear that the information derived from data supplied by the system can provide utility plant owners and operators with new insights that would have otherwise been unavailable. In turn, this insight can lead to better-informed site operations, and the realisation of logistical, efficiency and financial benefits that will offset the system’s up-front and continued running costs.

With this in mind, Xylem recommends water and wastewater treatment plant owners and operators make as much use of this system-provided data as possible. When combining data sets relating to metrics such as water quality, pressure and flow from multiple sensor devices, including highly-accurate smart meters, analytics can be significantly improved.

The cross correlation from these multiple data sets will ensure false positives are eliminated and enhance prediction and event detection. By taking this holistic approach to metrics supplied by the sensory system, operational savings made by the system will soon outweigh its ongoing costs, removing further barriers to investment.

For example, issues arising from pipeline leakage can be minimised by combining asset condition information with transient data within a water network. Using information gleaned from these separate data streams, utilities teams can anticipate where pipe bursts may occur and take appropriate steps to reduce or avoid expensive, unplanned disruption.

“Many utilities do have a lot of data that is simply not being used,” says Jason Howlett, Xylem Managing Director. “But to make use of this data the first questions that need to be asked are ‘What are the main problems that need to be addressed?’ and ‘What data do we currently have, and what additional data may be required, to provide the answers that will help us deliver the levels of service expected by our customers?’

“There are many tools available to help utilities find the answers that may not be easily seen from the data when looking at isolated data streams. Predictions made from utilising this information to the full can be used to intelligently operate controlled assets in the network, leading to efficiency gains that simply would not have been possible without a sensory system. Consequently, it is clear that asking the right questions about a combination of data streams can be a game changer.”

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