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Luis Vergara (Arcadis): “The future of smart water technology is brilliant"

  • Luis Vergara (Arcadis): “The future of smart water technology is brilliant"

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Applying our deep market sector insights and collective design, consultancy, engineering, project and management services, we work in partnership with our clients to create exceptional and sustainable outcomes throughout the lifecycle.

Whether it be protecting people and the environment, providing safe drinking water or managing wastewater safely and effectively, Arcadis claims it has what it takes, and this in part, is because Arcadis has embraced the digital journey. We speak with Luis Vergara, Technical Director within the Water & Energy market at Arcadis to discover how this worldwide company is helping water utilities in their digital transformation process. 

Q: Firstly, could you tell us briefly about your career path.

A: I have always been trying to match my career path within my ‘dynamic’ background and my multi-sectoral practices in the technology, water and energy sectors. A reasonable approach to my career path would include Technology Manager, Team Lead, Principal Engineer, Chief Engineer, PMO, and different Technical Director roles (Engineering, Design, Consulting and Innovation/Digital). The frame where this trajectory has been deployed includes professional experiences over 15 countries worldwide.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the water sector today?

A: This is indeed a wide question. Under a holistic approach I might differentiate 3 areas. The first one encompasses new regulations. It is a concern for water companies, contractors, consultants and suppliers the regulatory changes to face under the current economic and environmental situation to protect water as a vulnerable resource, integrate water in the circular economy and evaluate risks. A good example of this may be -to name a few general ones- water scarcity, climate change, decarbonisation, and -particularly-disinfection by-products (DBP), microplastics, PFAS and other micro-pollutants.

The second area considers infrastructures investment and assets management/operations which should change from a CAPEX and/or OPEX insight towards a TOTEX approach. In addition, subjects like resiliency and sustainability should be seriously taken into account too.

The third one is linked to the technological disruption which is imminent and unstoppable. Digital Transformation, AI, IIoT, Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, etc. are growing exponentially whilst companies and organisations are growing logarithmically (Martec’s Law). The gap between both is the so-called organisations reset. To address all of the mentioned, innovation is a must.

Innovations in the water supply sector are leading to a better customer engagement and consumers satisfaction

Q: How do you think smart water can contribute to facing these challenges?

A: Smart water is definitely part of the solution. Smart water may be very useful to provide an optimum efficiency when operating water networks due to the continuous monitoring and data generation. More processes efficiency leads to an obvious saving scenario which is critical for the times to come. It is also helpful to detect infiltrations and leaks which is a major problem for many companies worldwide, mostly in the water supply sector. Innovations in the water supply sector are leading to a better customer engagement and consumers satisfaction.

Q: Arcadis works in over 70 countries. What countries would you say are leading the digital journey?

A: From the UK we are strongly pushing the digital metamorphosis of our circa 4,500 Arcadians through our programme “Dare to be Digital”. Our HQ in Holland is certainly a key reference and a world leader by adopting digitalisation from an early stage. Our colleagues in the U.S. are quite powerful with the digital transformation. Other regions within the EU, America, Middle East and Australasia are also rapidly progressing due to Arcadis’ journey to embed digital in our business, particularly with the announcement that one of the world’s leading global start-up networks, ‘Techstars’, has partnered with us bringing a truly new ‘Outside-In’ approach to help us deliver on our vision for the future.

Q: How should the water industry prepare for a disruptive future?

A: The answer is quite simple: Embrace innovation, but innovation in its wide meaning, this is, as a process to be embedded within the organisational behaviour of companies. We are currently implementing programmes of innovation through strategically designed Innovation Catalysts across all the business as our creative thinkers who support colleagues in creating new ideas and shaping them in to innovation through our innovation engine. In the end, companies don’t innovate, people do!

In the end, companies don’t innovate, people do

Q: How does Arcadis help water utilities in their digital transformation process?

A: We were pioneers by embracing the digital transformation and are constantly promoting digital innovation hubs and accelerators to reinforce our digitalisation which led to recognition from independent research firms as a leader in providing digital services (e.g. EHS). These insights led us to engage with various initiatives to help strengthen our digital transformation and expand our digital and data expertise, for example, through the acquisition of the software and analytics firm SEAMS and RedEye, powerful tools to digitise customers. Our solutions also include advanced approaches to BIM (level 2 by now), Digital Twin and other technologies grouped in four bodies, namely, Customer Experience, Data & Analytics, Ecosystems and Platforms.

Q: What do you think is the future of smart water technology?

A: The future of smart water technology is brilliant. There cannot be a different way since it may provide answers to many of the challenges being faced by water utilities. For instance, real-time water monitoring through smart water technology is of great importance to counteract the effect of high population and scarcity of resources. Innovative solutions like IoT, VR, AI, 5G, Blockchain and others are called to head the technological revolution that will twist the 21st century towards the Industry 4.0. If something is sure to happen, is that the future will be fully technological and innovative.

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