In this exclusive article, find out how Stantec is working with clients to adopt smart network solutions across the seven layers of smart architecture, from designing the physical asset through to developing advanced data analytics to deliver automation.

Damian CrawfordHead of Smart Networks & LeakageSTANTEC

Across the developed world, pipes lose tens of billions of litres of water per day through leakage – roughly enough to supply 300 million people.

The continued loss of such a precious commodity is, without doubt, an environmental catastrophe. Unfortunately, this issue is compounded by the challenges of increasing populations, global
warming, and ageing infrastructure.

In the UK, our water industry has a common goal, aiming to reduce leakage by 15% by 2025, with a longer-term ambition of halving leakage by 2040.

One of the most exciting ways the industry can innovate and make progress in this area is by harnessing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

This means embracing more digital-led approaches, leveraging smart sensor technology, and using big data and systems thinking to identify cutting-edge solutions to our biggest challenges.

The common challenge of managing and reducing leakage is not new for water utility companies. However, the approaches and tools available for detecting, quantifying, and resolving leakages have significantly progressed, especially over the past few years.

This is largely due to the advancements in both operational and information technology in the market. Deploying digital solutions can help our industry move more effectively towards achieving the
ambitious targets for leakage reduction.

For example, some of today’s smart water network solutions can integrate the rich data from multiple sources and then present it on a single visualisation platform which informs asset, operational and behavioural decision making through AI machine learning.

In addition, by combining acoustic and transient loggers with advanced metering infrastructure and district meter flow data, analysts can identify leaks much more easily than using traditional means. This helps them further understand the potential customer impact and prioritise repairs instantly.

Improved Network Visualisation

Across the water sector, we have seen the introduction and success of self-learning artificial neural networks to identify and even predict pipeline failures. Data analytics and advanced algorithms are being applied to many smart software solution architectures.

In Yorkshire, for example, there are some fantastic benefits being gained from combining multiple Narrowband Internet of Things sensors across a wide and complex pipe-network.

The meshing of data such as pressure, flow, water quality, customer metering or advanced metering infrastructure supports the digital twinning of entire networks, helping move us towards a ‘fix before fail’ strategy.

However, the adoption of fully integrated smart networks in the UK is still in its infancy and we need to keep striving for more.

At Stantec, we are working with clients to adopt smart network solutions across the seven layers of smart architecture, ranging from designing the physical asset through to developing advanced data analytics to deliver automation.

Seven layers of a smart network

The rewards of implementing a fully smart network are not without their challenges. Data quality and assurance, system limitations and usability are the main concerns currently faced by our clients across a wide range of smart network projects.

We work with our clients to ensure the integration from existing platforms to new platforms is a seamless transition, while bringing the end user on the journey with us.

We believe that developing a smart water network that incorporates the correct IIOT sensors is the only way water companies are going to deliver a sustainable future and improve customer serviceability.

The external pressures on the water industry, together with the availability of affordable, easy-to-use data technologies, means water networks will see a much greater use of intelligent sensors and for the data systems going forward.

If we can truly embrace digital technology from across all utility selectors and align it with ever-growing expertise through industry collaboration and open data, we can create smart water network solutions that improve the efficiency, longevity and reliability of the underlying physical water networks. This use of digital technology will not only enhance serviceability and affordability for customers but help reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.

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