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The new reality of water management: Industry 4.0

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  • The new reality of water management: Industry 4.0
  • Industry 4.0 is the new reality of companies providing water services. It is a revolution that results from digitalisation and adopting new technologies in industrial processes.

  • Aqualia is aware of this new reality, and applies new technologies to transform the way it operates and ensure more efficient management.

About the entity

Aqualia
Aqualia is the water management company owned by the citizen services group FCC (51%) and by the Australian ethical fund IFM Investors (49%). Aqualia is Europe's fourth largest private water company in terms of population served.
Schneider Electric
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Themes

This revolution means a disruption with regard to traditional management, transforming how companies operate and leading to new challenges and opportunities. New technologies enable enhanced connectivity, and therefore, enhanced access to relevant data (IoT), turning information into knowledge much faster (big data and cloud computing); they also help with decision making, management and process monitoring (AI/ML). In essence, new technologies allow enhanced efficiency, a more sustainable management, and offering a better service to citizens. 

Connectivity: Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the first pillar of industry 4.0. The number of connected IoT devices in the world is constantly growing, exceeding expectations year after year. The integrated water cycle is experiencing a similar situation. Technologies enable device connectivity and data capture in real time; thus, the quality of the measurements is higher, and information management is more efficient.

Smart sensors, control technology and the capacity to interact in real time enable more efficient and effective operations with equipment and processes. The implementation of IoT solutions helps to improve qualitatively the entire management process.

Remote metering solutions (smart metering) are a clear example of the evolution of the sector into industry 4.0. The evolution of communication technologies means that management can be closer to the citizen. Thanks to more frequent and higher quality data capture, companies can offer new and enhanced services to citizens, such as communications about any issues, warnings about unusual consumption, and recommendations for responsible consumption. Aside from a qualitative improvement in direct citizen services, remote metering offers the possibility of enhanced smart network management, early detection of leaks, enhanced energy efficiency, and ultimately, the optimisation of processes and efficient integrated water cycle management.

LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) is one of the communication technologies relevant for remote metering.  Within the available technologies, LPWAN, Nb IoT and LoRaWAN have meant a qualitative and quantitative improvement in remote measurements from smart meters. These technologies are now part of the range of available remote metering technologies, providing new solutions for wireless data transmission with better results between devices separated by long distances; the penetration is higher in hard-to-access locations, and they have low battery consumption.

With the new technologies, we can move from individual entities working isolatedly, to globally connected systems

In addition to LPWAN technologies, 5G technologies will also result in a quantitative increase in transmission speed and band width, also with lower energy consumption and massive device connectivity. 5G will enable enhanced communication and processing of images and sounds; the use of sensors will also evolve in the coming years, and so will integrated water cycle management.

Computing capacity: big data and cloud computing

Traditionally, business knowledge used to originate in independent and isolated information silos (ERPs, CRMs, SCADAs…). With the new technologies, we can move from individual entities working isolatedly, to globally connected systems, to achieve a better global understanding, and thus, more efficient management.

On the other hand, with IoT an increasingly larger number of devices can be connected, therefore the volume of data captured increases. Those data have to be processed, first to turn them into information, then into knowledge, and finally into business intelligence.

In this scenario, the computing capacity is essential. Real time connectivity to information silos and IoT devices is useless unless you can process the data and transform them quickly enough to enable more efficient management.

To address these issues, the second pillar of industry 4.0, big data and cloud computing, emerged. These technologies have boosted the traditional computing capacity, enabling processing large volumes of information in a shorter time. Furthermore, with cloud-based processing, solutions can be better scaled, to increase capacities in a flexible way when demand increases.

Thanks to big data and cloud computing we can integrate and process information from traditional information silos, and integrate the IoT world, thereby obtaining a global perspective of the integrated water cycle, with implications for overall efficiency.

Smart management: Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML)

Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are the third pillar of industry 4.0. Essentially, they entail techniques and mathematical algorithms to solve complex problems. Although they are not new concepts, they have become more important in the industry 4.0 ecosystem.

Industry 4.0 means a revolution, mainly because it affects the production model and generates important benefits

The reason for this is, firstly, the need within those ecosystems 4.0, and secondly, the technological capacity. The current computing capacity allows processing a huge volume of data, turning them into business insight, but the transformation of that insight into action within industrial processes is more and more complex, because more decisions are needed, given the hyper connectivity and hyper integration of our systems. It is here where, thanks to AI and ML techniques, management and decision making can evolve, shifting from traditional analytics, based on descriptive reporting and assessment analytics, to prescriptive and cognitive analytics to automate processes.

Cybersecurity

Industry 4.0 means a revolution, mainly because it affects the production model and generates important benefits for the end client. As such, the end client is one of the keys to the relevance of the 4.0 concept, and the security of the clients’ information must be one of the pillars underpinning the concept of industry 4.0.

The privacy of citizens must be key in the service provided, and, therefore, a basic element of the corporate strategy. Aqualia is concerned about the security of clients' information, and has introduced a security approach based on intelligence to prevent, detect, analyse, and respond to threats in an ever-changing technological environment.

In industry 4.0, it is not just the client's security which is important; it is also essential to prevent cyberattacks on network information provided by devices.

Aqualia considers cybersecurity — and the mechanisms to ensure it — to be extremely important, such as the ISO/IEC 27001 standard certification, on requirements for an information security management system (ISMS).

The analytical needs linking IT and OT require the adoption of security measures based on safe segmentation. Nevertheless, corporate awareness is more important than any technological solution.

Aqualia Water Analytics (AWA): Water measurements for smart management

Aqualia Water Analytics is an analytics platform for smart water cycle management. The platform captures information from IoT water network devices to turn it into knowledge and business intelligence, using technologies such as big data, cloud computing, machine learning and AI.

The platform encompasses the whole data cycle, from capture by IoT devices, to real time processing, enrichment and transformation, to the generation of business intelligence, allowing process automation and integration with the remaining technological solutions by Aqualia.

With AWA Aqualia has greater capacity to adapt and flexibility to prescribe IoT solutions based on need

The AWA technological environment has been designed to build solutions adapted to existing needs: 'Any solution does not have to be the best solution'. The platform has been designed taking into account a plural ecosystem of connected devices, multiple communication technologies and multiple technological field solutions. This way, with AWA Aqualia has greater capacity to adapt and flexibility to prescribe IoT solutions based on the specific needs at each site.

AWA is the analytical tool that offers Aqualia a cross-cutting analysis of the integrated water cycle, enabling cross-analytics of OT and IT information, as well as external information sources. All of that within a safe framework, following strict cybersecurity policies.

Applying AI/ML techniques, the AWA platform offers Aqualia users smart management tools in an analytical environment designed to provide the best user experience.

The platform is designed to encompass three types of analytics:

  • Geospatial analytics: the user can perform analysis through geolocation in maps that include navigation features and interactive data view.
  • Comparative analytics: the user can generate custom queries and perform analyses using interactive graphs.
  • Advanced analytics: through the use of AI/ML, prediction, clustering and prescription tools are provided.

The platform includes the following functionalities: demand prediction, early detection of leaks and fraud, automatic generation of communications and work orders, etc. In sum, the tools needed for smart and efficient management.