What’s Next for Digital Twins? Why 2021 Will Require Water Intelligence.

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November 10, 2020 | Jay Nelson

Digital Twins have changed the way water professionals (engineers, plant operators, asset managers, utility executives) approach infrastructure management. Those involved in digital transformation initiatives are no strangers to the benefits the Digital Twins can provide. In fact, Innovyze has been in the business of facilitating utility adoption of water Digital Twins for nearly 40 years.

The reason for Digital Twin use is certainly validated. Having live virtual representations of physical infrastructure assets provides an indispensable benefit for engineers, operators, and managers. Hydraulic models, reporting dashboards, and near-real-time data access has tightened the seams between the planning, engineering, and operation of water-intensive infrastructure networks and plants.

However, the time is coming where digital water practitioners will need to build on these digital replicas of system performance. The reality is that there are steps that exist beyond creating an operational Digital Twin to ensure that maximum value is secured in industries that are both cost- and compliance- conscious. Those steps involve building intelligence into the Digital Twin.

Will 2021 be the year that Digital Twins with embedded water intelligence becomes an accepted baseline for water systems management? We think so, and here’s why.

What is Water Intelligence?

Water intelligence goes beyond modeling and simulation of historical or theoretical scenarios to analyzing real-world, real-time data and proactively prescribing optimal actions. It propels the Digital Twin concept beyond using a model for decision support to using a live model with utility data streams for prescriptive recommendation and intelligent system control.

Water intelligence also goes beyond individual component modeling (network modeling or pump modeling or plant modeling, for example) to holistic system modeling to create a larger view of infrastructure performance. It provides a digitally connected ecosystem of infrastructure that has the potential to improve high-impact decisions. This is especially important for organizations with goals related to operational efficiency, cost control, and meeting compliance standards.

Consider a sewer network. A hydraulic model is incredibly useful for understanding capacity, flow, demand, risks, and levels of service, and if the model can connect to IoT / field sensor data – even better!

This type of model provides a sound framework for risk-based project prioritization so that capital dollars are spent wisely to improve service levels. Operational inefficiencies also become easier to solve at plants that need to find savings within existing budgets.

With both network and plant Digital Twins, any utility can operate knowing that they have a firm understanding of their infrastructure and the opportunities for better management.

Water intelligence builds on this by tapping into data streams and, where applicable, using cognitive analytics driven by AI and Machine Learning. This ultimately takes the level of understanding one step further by providing answers to questions such as “what conditions lead to the highest risk of overflows?” or “how can we responsibly reduce the cost of energy or chemical use at our wastewater water treatment plants knowing system loads?”

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These complex scenarios no longer need to be answered based on gut feelings, past operations, or disparate data. Operators and engineers can now use AI-powered Digital Twins to predict performance, generate alarms, and optimize operational performance.

Why 2021 could be the year it takes hold

According to data from Global Water Intelligence (GWI), utility investment in digital solutions is forecasted to hit nearly $37 Billion in 2021. The largest slices of the pie? Data collection, Control systems and SCADA, and Data management systems.

Even further, “Data management” - solutions turn data into information that can be used to monitor or model a network for leaks and predictive maintenance – is expected to grow the fastest at a 13% CAGR until 2025. It’s clear, utilities are hungry for more intelligent information, not just raw data. But why? They need intelligent decision support that will help them maintain high levels of service, reduce risks, and keep costs manageable.

By the year 2025, GWI forecasts $51 billion in utility investment in digital solutions. Both utilities and water-intensive industries are encouraged by the promise of Digital Twin and intelligent data-management and in need of effective remote-access cloud software.

For these reasons, we think 2021 will be The Year of Water Intelligence, with an impact on the industry for years to come.

Interested in learning more? Contact Innovyze today.

Tags: digital twins, digital transformation, ai and machine learning

About the Authors

Jay Nelson

Jay Nelson

Marketing Content Manager


Digital technologies have the chance to change the way the world uses water. Jay is a Content Manager at Innovyze and writes about how the top challenges faced by water management professionals can be overcome using smart analytics.