Today, however, it is no longer a question of saving water for a few weeks or months from now, but of quantifying all losses, all needs and being able to make every drop count as much as two, or at least more than it did before. We are at a point in technological development where many physical processes have been optimised to almost their theoretical maximum. Nor are water supply cuts compatible with the development of economic activity, and society is very sensitive to these possible measures.
So how can the performance of the water cycle be improved? The digitisation of the water cycle is the only way forward:
- The first step is measurement: A process that is not measured cannot be quantified and cannot be improved.
And precisely, we are in the era of the data access and analysis revolution, as the last two decades have democratised access to sensors, making it possible to read them and connect them in real time to huge data reservoirs.
- The next step is the analysis of this data: There is no point in filling up terabytes of information if it is not grouped and linked together. You have to go from millions of irrelevant data to trends, averages and progressions.
This task has also become possible, because since the year 2000, the processing capacity has increased 1000-fold, and solutions are available on the market that are able to digest, review, clean, assemble, monitor, parameterise, associate, correlate, analyse, graphically represent and, of course, use artificial intelligence to aggregate individual data. With the analysis we will know where we are and the possible margin for improvement (up to the theoretical performance or maximum effectiveness of the 100%).
- Finally, intelligence, whether human or artificial, is incorporated into continuous improvement, feeding back into the system in real time as changes are incorporated.
This is the real differentiation compared to the traditional way of making investments, which were based on a fixed snapshot of reality, at a given time and provide a single solution, which is not able to adapt over time. But if we have a continuous data flow of reality, managed on a sufficiently powerful platform, and connected to digital twins of the processes to be operated and optimised, we have a tool with a practically unlimited capacity for learning and continuous improvement of the system.
Solutions available for a reality
Digitalisation platforms, which are successfully used in many other sectors, such as energy, marketing, business development, financial management, etc., are a very powerful tool that will help us both to quantify and identify all consumption and trends in water use, and to plan, correlate and better understand the processes we need to review in order to establish automatic corrections and improvements by applying their artificial intelligence tools, making continuous optimisation possible.
These platforms are capable of carrying out the following operations:
- Incorporate all available sources. Be technology agnostic.
- Connecting in real time all systems, being able to check, discard and clear erroneous data, subsequently filling in the data sets at the moment the signal is re-established with the sensor.
- Collect and translate external information in the data repository, such as temperature, precipitation, tweets, news, dates or relevant events.
- Integrate powerful visualisation tools, customised for each user and easily configurable for non-IT profiles.
- Analyse variables individually and jointly to find relationships between variables and present lines powerful enough to handle large volumes of data.
- Apply artificial intelligence, discovering relationships between variables and proposing changes to improve system performance, or making predictions of future behaviour and comparing with a possible improvement, indicating where to act.
- Incorporate the economic variable to quantify the possible improvement in both CAPEX and OPEX.
- Connect with the network operation to be extremely fast in its application, feeding new data back into the data lake.
- Be independent of third-party solutions to ensure its stability over time.
Digital twins, with their computer representation of concrete processes that occur in real life, by applying the laws of physics and defining all the elements that make up a system, such as the pipes of a supply network, or the geometry of a watercourse running through a city, are able to provide identical results as the real system, when receiving the same inputs.
It should only be noted that, as deterministic models, they require a stable data source to obtain consistent results, and therefore must first pass through the filter of data management platforms, constituting an additional input for the analysis and optimisation process of water management.
This makes them of almost infinite value as a free, or almost no cost, testing ground compared to what a real system test would entail, so combined with data digitisation platforms, they are a tool that cannot be ignored.
The possibilities offered by the union of both technologies, digital twins plus data digitisation platforms, when making prognoses of the effects that certain conditions or changes are going to have on the system, without having to carry them out directly, with the consequent saving of time and money.
And this is not science fiction, even if it sounds like it, as joint solutions for analysis, visualisation, inference, simulation, optimisation and even decision support in operation have already been implemented in many entities. water management and supply companiesThe benefits are immediate and quantifiable. Those organisations that incorporate it into their daily operations will see how overall expenditure is reduced, progressively achieving further improvements in their performance and operation, both on a regular basis and in the event of emergencies.
Digitisation of the water cycle: components, processes and expected improvement KPIs
The time is right to solve the water problem once and for all, because we have technology, highly specialised roles and knowledge, in a context of active collaboration of governmental bodies.