Smart Water: The future of water lies in automation and Artificial Intelligence at the Edge

Although much of the water infrastructures in place are dozens of years old, in recent times their processes have changed radically thanks to a large extent, to digital technology. Edge computing is one of those technologies that will change the shape of the water industry due to the speed and reliability it provides when modernizing this type of infrastructure.

Water management

The water sector is undergoing an important digital transformation through automated monitoring and the generation and collection of real-time data through IoT technology. Sensorization of the water network (from pipes to households) is  key to smart water management.

Thanks to different types of sensors and other technologies such as geographic information systems or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) solutions, the network operator can now gather large amount of information in order to manage the network much more efficiently.

One of the use cases is the detection and prevention of water leaks. Using the information provided by all sensors and systems, it is already possible to apply predictive maintenance procedures and thus, minimize disruption.

Another practice being implemented include advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meters, that allows water companies to record consumption from the central office at any time and to calculate the expected flow both on a large scale and in detail and thus, offering a greater transparency to the user.

Water quality can also be improved thanks to technologies such as artificial intelligence. The measurement of water quality is a key point for distributors and until now, complicated to optimize, since it requires physical and, in some cases, manual sampling. However, with the evolution of Machine Learning and technologies such as cloud and Edge Computing, these processes have evolved to become fully automated.

The application of AI to the process makes it possible to measure, analyze, and rapidly calculate the different indicators (pH, presence of minerals, waste, foreign bodies...) and, for example, to block the distribution of water that does not meet the requirements.

Success Story: Acciona

The monitoring and operation processes of a water network have traditionally been supported by sensor support and SCADAs, but with a strong operator-dependent component.

Many infrastructure managers are choosing to run AI algorithms on Edge Computing infrastructures to access to data in real time. The added advantage of this approach is that thousands of pieces of sensor and data of the field can be processed with real-time, scalable responses, without putting the network at risk.

Acciona is a benchmark in the water treatment and management with over 40.000 employees in 5 continents. Its Water Control Center (CECOA) located in Madrid, is leading the way in terms of improving efficiency in desalination, drinking water treatment and water purification processes. All framed under  Industry 4.0 paradigm.

Barbara has helped to the creation of virtual meters that optimizes the dosing of agents in water plants. Acciona now can predict the levels of chemicals in the water plants almost in real time from centrally and remotely, at the Edge, independently of the cloud and cybersecurely, that has resulted in important cost savings in the usage of chemicals and energy consumption.

For Acciona, the measurement of water quality is already an automated process thanks to its own Machine Learning algorithm, capable of predicting the value of chemical elements in water that, until now, were only detectable through laboratory analysis, with entailed operating costs.

The great challenge from the technological perspective was based on the connectivity of a protocol as specific as OPC-UA. It was essential to be able to perform a secure and guaranteed authentication to allow it to connect to the server and, in this way, to be able to read parameters simply and in isolation from the operation so that it would not affect the normal operation of the plant.

Considering the different types of hardware available, both connectivity and sensors, there was a need for a flexible and cybersecure technology that would allow connectivity with multiple devices and ensure the security of the devices and the extracted data.

Barbara Industrial Edge Platform not only enables such connectivity, but also facilitates a cybsersecure data information from the physical to the digital world. Now CECOA can manage the entire project remotely, and can make configuration changes from the platform when necessary. Since data is stored and transmitted in encrypted form and access is controlled by unique authentication, the security of equipment and data is never compromised.

"Barbara has provided us with a reliable, robust and easy-to-use platform on which to deploy our solution, as well as helping us with the development of specific software to support our vision" Alejandro Beivide, Chief Digital Transformation at Acciona.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you in your digital transformation in the water sector.