I've recently re-joined the Innovyze family after a three-year hiatus. I spent the time away working within the Architectural, Environmental and Construction (AEC) sector, particularly around collaborative thinking and integrated modelling.
I've been reflecting on how things have changed in the water industry.
When I left Innovyze in 2016, the water industry had only just started to grasp the concept of fully integrated models or the ‘digital twin’ concept. But in the AEC sector I found myself in the realms of CAD software where BIM (Building Information Modelling) had been embraced. I could see how far the AEC sector as a whole had come, but also gained insight into the challenges facing a sector that traditionally places technology spend at the bottom of its priorities when it comes to operating a business. Deloitte's 2016-2017 Global CIO survey shows construction spending just 1.5% of revenue on IT, compared to 3.3% average across all industries.
In the AEC sector, I was involved with organisations that were quickly adopting the BIM methodology and the advancement that this technology brought. Digital twins brought them improved efficiencies, reduced waste, and improved delivery schedules in projects such as Heathrow Terminal 5 and Crossrail. Digital twins were being used from the ground up.
I had not seen a significant amount of uptake of this within the water sector prior to this.
Significant change in our industry
But fast-forward three years to my re-introduction to Innovyze a couple of months ago. The product portfolio is now updated with sustainable drainage, traditional design, modelling, and water distribution software, and it's clear that things have moved at pace. I was pleased to hear phrases like ‘digital twin’ and ‘integrated model’ being used in conjunction not only with design but also in terms of modelling the real world. We're even talking about BIM compliance. It's increasingly important to tackle challenges around water supply and flood risks, and optimise existing, already strained, infrastructure – as well as mitigating them, whilst making the most of live monitoring of weather patterns and network issues or low flow rate. The fact that we can now incorporate asset management into a drainage network, all using the same model, provides much more collaboration and accuracy – not to mention significant savings of time.
It's clear to me that, in England and Wales, the industry is catching up quickly. There are plenty of motivating factors. There's the start of the new AMP cycle approaching, and a change of approach from water companies that are now seeking to understand the entire network with AI, helping with network deficiencies or identification of leaks, and investing in and integrating fully scalable software models. This approach could be seen as disruptive; however the opportunity to plan for the future brings the potential for a considerable saving in both time and money in having to rectify poor planning decisions.
As a company Innovyze has grown. It offers best-in-class software that models not only the existing 1D networks but also the 2D elements with overland flow routing being an essential tool. The software provides more accurate and more detailed overviews of flood risks and what effects changes or additional developments will have on our world. In the BIM world, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) was the next big push for technological improvements - and Innovyze has just announced the acquisition of Emagin, to provide more robust and more accurate models that can help our prediction of events in future.
Making a difference to lives
The recent flooding in Darlington, Doncaster and Sheffield has highlighted the issue again. With the advancements in technology and ICMLive we can now provide our clients with the ability to monitor flooding events live.
The movement towards fully utilising models, more than ever before, provides us with greater understanding of our existing networks as well as providing a more accurate way to predict flooding and its risks. When you combine this with the ability to start planning emergency evacuations ahead of time and providing earlier warnings to residents at risk, in turn reducing property damage and reducing anxiety, then surely now is the time to invest in the technology so that we can better plan for the coming tide.