Utilities – Water
Transformation, especially in a mature industry such as Water, is never easy. The vast infrastructure that supports the distribution of water and the management of waste has grown over generations and cannot simply be replaced overnight. Modernisation programmes are expensive and disruptive and funding is being squeezed.
The need to transform and exploit innovation in the Water industry is already well understood. “Sweating” assets more efficiently to minimise operational costs and being better informed about where to focus tactical investment to limit water stress are both objectives that could be met with the application of new technology.
Today StreamCentral is well positioned to support the Water Industry in these challenges by providing new levels of Operational Intelligence and Business Insight to enhance operational and strategic decision making. It also provides a technology cornerstone for transformation and the means to exploit innovation to the full.
Knowing that an asset is about to fail before it fails, or being able to predict when in the future it is likely to fail, is central to not only “sweating” key water infrastructure assets but to maintaining service continuity to the consumer, cutting operational costs and assisting with tactical and strategic investment decisions.
Today’s sensor technology can provide a wealth of information (vibration, pressure, flow, temperature, power level, etc) about key assets such as water pumps. This information can be delivered as a constant stream of data in near real time – “in-flight” data.
However real value is delivered by bringing together discrete readings from different sensors connected to individual assets (or to a section of a water network, or a plant, etc) to identify real time changes in performance and trends that could lead to problems and to make more reliable predictions of future performance and failure.
Correlating this “in-flight” data (data that is being streamed in from different sources in real/near real time) with external and/or internal databases such as Met Office weather, internal asset data sheets, etc, provides yet greater insight into the dynamics of a water network and why various events have, or are likely to take place.
StreamCentral provides the Water Industry with an advanced “in-flight” data collection, monitoring and analytics platform that can deliver the value described above.
As StreamCentral is sensor/data source agnostic, data from existing monitoring solutions/networks such as SCADA can be correlated and analysed together with discrete new sensor sources that are not connected to those solutions/networks. This means that new technologies can be attached to the water network and monitored with more flexibility and speed – StreamCentral creates a “plug and play” data source capability around existing infrastructure. This provides a base for technical transformation – migrating from older monitoring capability to more advanced capability around a single platform with continuity of information flow.
A report from the Council for Science and Technology in the UK, entitled “Improving innovation in the water industry:21st centry challenges and opportunities”, states:
“Basic telemetry (flow and pressure measurements) in the water network is currently very dependent on the water company itself and in some cases is either limited or non-existent. Many telemetry networks are out of date and unable to measure adequately key operational parameters. The scope for automated or computer-based controls that can optimise system performance is therefore severely limited.”
StreamCentral can address this. Data from an existing telemetry network, however limited, can be analysed by StreamCentral as described. However, the relatively simple external attachement of say a vibration sensor to key pumps, valves and other relevant assets will provide StreamCentral with a complementary stream of real time data that can highlight abnormal events as well as negative performance trends which indicate that a future failure is possible/imminent. Plugging such a source directly into StreamCentral is easy.
StreamCentral also has a powerful user driven rules engine which can be made to drive control systems based on the values of “in-flight” data.
The report goes on to say:
“We are very conscious that regulatory requirements to improve water quality will have consequential increased energy costs unless smart technology intervenes.”
Unless it can be measured it cannot be controlled. StreamCentral can monitor multiple streams of “in-flight” data, and react when user defined thresholds are reached by sending out control instructions to external systems that regulate/direct flows and minimise unnecessary energy consumption.
StreamCentral is also able to determine the most efficient energy source in a given situation where there is a choice – for example energy harvesting in a given water reclamation plant may provide enough energy for a certain time to power some aspects of the plant.
Perhaps because of the lack of appropriate monitored data, “measurement” in the water industry is sometimes undertaken by a decreasing number of highly experienced engineers who know what to do when a situation “looks” as though it needs attention, for example which pump to switch on.
Recruiting the next generation high calibre engineers into the water industry is proving to be an issue today. Hence being able to understand and capture the tacit knowledge that leads to certain actions being taken in certain situations by experienced individuals is vital for future of the industry – not just to preserve knowledge as people retire but also to drive the knowledge based systems that can control the water networks of tomorrow. StreamCentral supports the capture of tacit knowlede concerning water industry operations through the following process (described here at a high level):
- capturing detailed data about a situation at the point when an expert decided to take an action
- capturing the trends in that data, as these may have been a contributory factor in the decision
- working with the expert and the data to identify what in data terms contributed to the decision
- repeating the above every time the same type of action is taken, to see if the reason for the action is really understood or perhaps needs refinement
- facilitating effective collaboration across all the company’s experts in a given subject (possibly involving external experts and other water companies)
- predicting when the same type of action is going to be taken based on data feeds and then checking to see if the prediction was correct.
StreamCentral generates new Operational and Business insights. For an orgainisation such as a water company to fully exploit these insights, in needs to make them readily available to all its employees and partners as appropriate and then to be able to leverage the their views and suggestions. In otherwords effective collaboration around new insights is vital for success.
Virtus and our partners have considerable experience in developing collaboration solutions that enable an organisation to leverage the tacit knowledge that exists across its workforce by applying it to new insights. Our solutions are often utilise an advance enterprise collaboration platform called Fuzed.
Embracing innovation, more R&D and the adoption of new technologies are essential aspects of a future Water Industry that has successfully addressed water stress and delivered a sustainable water service.
Technical innovation that has the potential to transform parts of the water industry is already underway in a number of areas. Today’s technology solutions come with an inherent ability to send data about how they are functioning. This fact defines one role for StreamCentral – to provide the most comprehensive insight possible into the operation of new technologies so that they may be utilised in a manner that maximises the potential value that they can deliver.
A great example of where StreamCentral could lend itself to Water Industry innovation is the Smart Pipe. The Smart Pipe project is led by Dr David Chapman (School of Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham) and is an industry funded project investigating Real Time Network Instrumentation for water pipes (Smart Pipes).
The purpose of the Smart Pipe project is to prove the concept of a remotely-intterrogated “smart” water pipe, where large numbers of small sensors are incorporated into (or near to) the pipe. A number of different types of sensor were assembled into the test pipe in order to:
- test the practicality of gathering and transmitting large sets of complex data
- see what information can be obtained from the test pipe when it is in different situations.
These sensors included:
- piezoelectric transducers
- force sensors
- light detection circuits
- two-axis accelerometers
- passively powered pressure sensors
- randomly distributed temperature sensors.
StreamCentral is a highly relevant monitoring solution to a future live implementation of a smart pipe network for the following reasons:
- It is designed to correlate a diversity of data from different types of sensor while the data in “in-flight”
- It is designed as a massively scaleable system that is able to process in near real time the potentially vast number of sensors that could be associated with an implemented smart pipe based network
- It can correlate, make sense of, analyse and apply user defined rules to large amounts of in-flight data coming from real-time data sources to understand if an undesierable event has happened or is likely to happen
- It provides advanced real-time data visualisation which allows paterns, trends and single events to be easily identified
- It generates an appropriate user defined alert and could also send an appropriate control command to a given system or systems that are in place to respond to that type of alert