H3O - the Utility of the Future

Published on by in Market Info

H3O - the Utility of the Future

A recent survey of senior industry figures, carried out by Utility Week and global technology consultancy Wipro, reveals how underprepared many businesses are to utilise digital technology. More than 30 per cent of organisations in the sector lack a clear vision and strategy for the role technology will play.

Artificial Intelligence, digital twins and the Internet of Things have each been tipped to hugely impact the shape of utilities but businesses need specific plans of how these technologies are applied to be beneficial.

Variable factors of age of assets, geography and regional weather patterns mean companies have individual approaches to what, where and how technology is best used but with many shared sector goals perhaps there is a need for a framework to show which technologies will make the biggest impact on challenges such as leakage. Under the steering of Water UK the sector has committed to tripling the reduction of leak and has began a joined up approach to make this happen.

Data in the water sector can be combined with other technologies to combat problems. Stuart White, leakage services manager at Black & Veatch explains that companies can use data from their networks including mapping, pressure monitoring and sensors, to assess not only where leaks are but where they are likely to happen and respond in real time.

White says asset monitoring and better levels of data integration, which support enhanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, will be key to achieving the leakage targets.

Another way AI is at work is with United Utilities, which was the first water company to bring large-scale AI into its operational systems, through Canadian company called Emagin. The company looked at ways to predict demand and ensure there was always sufficient supplies to reduce the need for pumping water and thus save energy. Emagin’s system analyses data from sensors, customer information and even Twitter to anticipate a demand schedule. Pumping schedules produced by AI are accurate to 15-minute periods and replace previous daily schedules. These are reviewed by an overseer, but the next step will be to let the AI make and execute its own choices. UU is discussing the potential to roll the technology out across its region.

Elsewhere Southern Water is using AI to process data gathered about customers’ water usage to give a more comprehensive personalised report on how the household can save water.

A digital twin, while sounding like a synthpop band that play local pubs, is the name given to the reproduction of a network or area of a network that can be monitored in real time. The twin can provide information on an asset such as pipes or water treatment infrastructure and utilise AI and virtual intelligence to feed back information on the health of its physical counterpart. Anglian Water has given the green light to build the largest digital twin in the sector in Newmarket, the town where it pilots multiple innovative projects. The town is its testbed for achieving seven targets including zero leakage and reducing PCC to 80 litres per day.