Challenges Utilities Face in Digital Transformation and How to Solve Them

Truly enabling better utility operational awareness

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March 18, 2021 | Allison Keir

Info360 is the water industry's first software-as-a-service platform that is truly enabling better utility operational awareness and improving decision making throughout the asset life cycle.

Aging Infrastructure is a challenge for the Water Industry

For years, water utilities or water infrastructure owners and asset managers, have been struggling to meet the expected, and legally required service levels for water distribution, sanitation, flood control and storm water management.

In the US, there are pipe systems that were laid over 100 years ago with the initial structure only having up to a 75-year life span. Water mains in those older systems are breaking every two minutes and leaky pipes are losing more than two trillion gallons of water each year.

Older systems are breaking every two minutes and leaky pipes are losing more than two trillion gallons of water a year.

Why is this happening?

First, there’s a knowledge gap. It's not just infrastructure that’s a problem, it's also about the generational knowledge that has built and developed the industry. Recently, there has been a wave of retirement circulating thru the water industry of a generation that occupies the majority, of leadership, operational and engineering positions. Meaning, very soon a large wealth of knowledge and experience will be going out the door, potentially leaving an information gap for the next generation of water experts coming in.

Here are some of the other factors:

POPULATION GROWTH

Another factor contributing to water utility issues is population growth. Globally, population growth is outpacing the capacity of water and wastewater systems, making it nearly impossible for water utilities to keep up with the infrastructure demands.

INADEQUATE BUDGET

Most water utilities are having to work with inadequate capital budgets or just inadequate budgets in general. The budgetary constraints faced by water utilities delay the build-out of new infrastructure and force utilities to stretch their current assets, operating staff and repair costs.

REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS

Lastly, the regulatory pressure and regulatory requirements in the water industry. Water is the most precious resource on our planet, simply put, water is life, and because of this it is consistently regulated. This can put a lot of pressure on utilities, forcing them to upgrade service at any cost because the regulatory fines and the non-compliance repercussions can be detrimental.

To address these issues, Innovyze, has been developing the use of technology to create water infrastructure digital twins. These are virtual representations of real-world systems that mimic behavior of the real world and allow water experts to predict the behavior of water systems. In addition, training new operators about the systems and to further manage the systems to support regulatory compliance, all while optimizing CAPEX and OPEX spending.

Now why isn’t everyone operating with these groundbreaking, money saving, innovative digital twins that are optimizing our real-world system barriers?

One of the major barriers is incomplete and siloed information in different departments with different data repositories. Data that becomes quickly outdated and not shared across the organization is a key barrier in adapting digital transformation.

Secondly, the modeling and analysis tools that exist are not tied to the data in real-time, nor are they necessarily tied to reports, dashboards or KPIs that are meaningful to the business.

Third, the generic analytics and business intelligence tools that require a lot of customization are too expensive and too complicated to figure out. Also, leading into the fourth major issue, there are excessive costs and insecurities about achieving an ROI with ‘generic tools’.

Finally, perhaps the most important item is unclear leadership when it comes to digital transformation. Who can bring departments and data together that have the experience to guide a digital twin transformation to solve problems?

Now there’s a real, solution!

Innovyze and AWS (Amazon Web Services) have recently partnered to create a new generation of dynamic digital twin tools for water infrastructure. This allows water experts to tackle the problems of water systems and overcome the barriers of digital transformation.

“I believe and our team at AWS believes that cloud technology and services can have a meaningful impact on these very visible challenges [within the water market] we're facing, like water affordability, climate change and aging infrastructure.” - Patrick Keaney, Worldwide Head of Water for Amazon Web Services

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on digital twins in the industry. The theory of digital twins is that these are virtual models of assets, systems and behaviors that are identical to the real world. But one of the biggest issues with the current model of the digital twin, is shortly after a twin is built, it stops looking and behaving like it’s a real-world asset. A result from the twin not getting updated properly with real-time data but it's also not designed to be adaptive so there's a lot of manual work that needs to go into it.

Here at Innovyze we’ve been working on improving and advancing the digital twin to get us to the place where it can be most useful and reliable. Our main goal is to develop more trust in the digital twin so water experts can manage, develop and operate water infrastructure in full confidence. To improve this trust, we developed model data, stream simulations and analytics that are updated, calibrated, and validated continuously so in turn, continuously realistic.

The convergence of cloud technology, IOT and synchronized modeling capabilities now means digital models or digital twins can be truly representative of many assets in your water system and these asset models can be created and run on high-performance, cloud computing platforms. We can couple and embed a model to include any combination of scientific modeling, numerical modeling, machine learning or statistical modeling to allow variable scale and adaptive computational approaches.

What Innoyvze has done with AWS, is created the dynamic digital twin approach using our new cloud platform built on AWS, Info360. Info360, is a platform is designed for water with the intention to make it very easy for any utility, small to large, to onboard the platform.

At the end of the day, Info360 is intended to empower and enable water industry experts to gather unified data, asset data, performance data and historical data and connect it to live data, accurately and efficiently, so that we can provide the best modeling simulations and analytical tools in the industry.

Empower your decision-making and operational tools today, visit: Info360.

Tags: Software as a service, SaaS, cloud computing, digital transformation, Digital twin, water utilities, wastewater treatments plants

About the Authors

Allison Keir

Allison Keir

Digital Content Producer

 

Originally from the seacoast of New Hampshire, Allison has accumulated over 10 years of experience working in film production and digital marketing for companies based out of New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and Boston. She joined the Innovyze team in 2020 as our Digital Content Producer, focusing on blogs, videos, podcasts and various other product related articles. Inspired by her childhood love for outdoors, Allison has a personal and professional passion for environmental causes and sustainable solutions.