We spoke to Microsoft’s Senior Program Manager – Azure IoT, Miriam Berhane Russom, to learn more about the company’s approach to innovation and integrating new technologies across the water sector.
How is Microsoft approaching innovation and leveraging new technologies for the water technology market worldwide?
We are in the era of digitization across every industry. Innovations in cloud, IoT, AI and Digital Twins are enabling new opportunities to harness real time signals from sensors, devices, and connected “things”. With these new data streams we can apply breakthrough intelligence in the cloud and on the edge to simulate and predict outcomes, build new experiences, and improve the lives of people around the world. Microsoft and its ecosystem of services and hardware providers are deeply engaged with cities and communities around the world, addressing the most pressing issues that government leaders face. As the water industry is undergoing digital transformation and investing in its digital infrastructure to improve water management, water utilities and solution providers are taking advantage of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, Azure IoT and AI to digitise and optimise water and build resilient water systems for a sustainable future. At Microsoft, building a future where we can all thrive is at the centre of everything we do and our goal, together with our partners who are leaders in the industry, is to empower cities, utilities and citizens with the tools they need to modernise operations and enhance their services.
There is a lot of buzz around digitization and optimising water: what are the innovations you are seeing in the water industry?
With the rise of urbanisation globally, water is expected to be an increasingly challenging issue for many cities and regions dealing with the challenges of growing demand and the impacts of climate change. Investment in IoT based solutions for water operations are accelerating to address these concerns and realising benefits from savings on water consumption through smart water infrastructure, to reducing costs and minimise health risks to citizens. From established leading research organisations to enterprises to public utilities, we are seeing solution builders transform water operations leveraging Microsoft Azure. To highlight some examples:
- Smart water infrastructure: Dutch-based company, Oasen, supplies 48 billion litres of high-quality drinking water every year to 750,000 residents across municipalities in the South Holland region. Oasen turned to Microsoft and OrangeNXT to digitally transform its water structure. Using Azure IoT Central, the company is introducing scalability, flexibility, and greater innovation to its operations through remote management of its water distribution network. Leveraging Azure Digital Twins and Azure IoT Central, Oasen connects multiple sources of data (including data extracted from smart water meters and smart valves in pipelines), to create a true digital twin of the water grid.
- Water quality monitoring: Imec, a leading international research and development firm specialising in nanoelectronics and digital technology, has developed water sensor devices from inexpensive ion sensors on silicone substrates for monitoring water quality in real-time. The sensors detect salinity in the water in real-time, allowing officials to track water quality fluctuations over time. Imec’s water quality monitoring solution was built on Azure IoT Central, which provides the flexible foundation required to design, test, and scale the solution across the city.
- Improving servicing and municipal costs: With 6,000 miles of pipes, the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department (WASD) faces the challenge of maintaining the system to protect residents and the environment from leaks and spills. With IoT and thousands of sensors gathering data such as water pressure, flow rates, and rainfall, Miami-Dade’s WASD is developing a smarter way to manage and supply this precious resource and manage the wastewater serving over 400,000 households across the County.
- Transforming field-equipment data into valuable insights: Evoqua Water Technologies is a 100-plus-year-old company that has reinvented itself for the digital age. A provider of water purification solutions to 90 percent of the Fortune 500, Evoqua is using Microsoft Azure advanced analytics to transform field-equipment data into valuable insights for customers. This is helping Evoqua evolve from a supplier of water purification gear to a premium provider of water intelligence. Evoqua utilises this same data intelligence throughout its organisation; in particular, its field service team uses data-driven insights in combination with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to recommend new services while onsite with customers.
- Enabling equitable distribution of water in large cities: the team at EqWater is using IoT, machine learning, predictive analytics and big data to make water distribution fair and efficient. To address Bengaluru’s limited water supply and challenges in the distribution of water across different elevation areas, EqWater partnered with the Bangalore Water Supply Sewerage Board (BWSSB) to get data from the sensors in the water distribution network to work out a geospatial map of water flow through southern Bengaluru. Combining this data with monthly water bills from customers, demographic data from the census, and water level readings from reservoirs at the outskirts of the city, the team created a mode to predict peak demand at different times and consequent gaps in the supply chain.