GHD Digital, a leading global digital transformation business, today released a new report titled Beyond AI: Generative AI and the next wave of disruption. The report explores the immense potential of generative AI across multiple sectors, emphasising the need for organisations to act swiftly and decisively to harness its exponential growth.
“Artificial intelligence is already revolutionising the way we live, work, and interact. I believe the recent advancements in generative AI are a turning point for humankind. Still in its infancy, the progress being made every week is exponential,” said GHD Digital President Kumar Parakala. "True visionary leaders understand that focusing on AI goes beyond acknowledging its current state of maturity; it is about recognising its immense potential to shape the future. The question remaining is ‘how can we maximise this potential while managing the various issues and risks in an ambiguous and complex ecosystem?”
The report highlights generative AI’s transformative capabilities and provides guidance on how organisations could embrace this rapidly evolving technology. The potential for innovation and progress across sectors is immense, ranging from environment and water, to energy and transportation.
Beyond AI sounds a note of caution, underscoring the significant risks accompanying the rapid advancement of generative AI. Hallucinations, ethical dilemmas, and bias are among the pressing challenges that must be addressed. Furthermore, regulatory frameworks have yet to catch up with the pace of technological development.
The report calls on governments, industry leaders, and policymakers to collaborate in developing comprehensive regulatory frameworks that strike the delicate balance between innovation and safeguarding the public interest. It advocates for an inclusive and participatory approach that considers diverse perspectives and anticipates potential societal impacts.
“The rise of generative AI signals a pivotal moment in human history. It’s an opportunity to reimagine how we solve societal and organisational challenges, deliver value and drive growth. The exponential nature of AI evolution today will impact our entire society in the next five years. The future is generative and it’s ours to create,” said Parakala.
GHD Digital recently announced the launch of its AI Centre of Excellence (CoE) designed to empower clients to harness the full potential of AI and related technologies, building on extensive research, testing, and trialling in this space. The CoE team combines GHD’s deep industry expertise with state-of-the-art AI technology and data science.
Looking at the water industry specifically, some key findings are:
- “In the water sector, generative AI can be used to simulate various water usage scenarios under different conditions, such as climate change, population growth and policy changes. This is becoming increasingly crucial to ensure adequate supply, manage peak demand and establish equitable water distribution strategies,” says Kumar Parakala, President, GHD Digital.
- Predictive maintenance is one key use case of generative AI in the water industry. By analysing large amounts of data collected from sensors and monitoring systems, generative AI algorithms have the potential to detect patterns or anomalies that indicate potential equipment failure or maintenance needs, and their timeframes. This proactive approach could enable water companies to prioritise spend to address issues before they escalate without unnecessary intervention, minimising downtime and reducing operational costs.
- In the area of water quality monitoring and control, generative AI could create data that can be used to simulate various scenarios of pollutant dispersion, impacts of industrial activity or climate change on water quality. This can facilitate the development of proactive strategies to maintain water quality standards and respond to potential threats swiftly. This technology also has the potential to fill in data gaps by generating synthetic data where real-world data collection is difficult or expensive, ensuring that models are robust and reliable.
- Water infrastructure design and optimisation is another domain where generative AI can transform. By rapidly iterating a vast number of ideas, it can help in the design of water infrastructure – from large-scale irrigation systems to urban water distribution networks – that optimises water use, minimises energy consumption and reduces environmental impact.
- In wastewater treatment, generative AI has the potential to generate innovative strategies for resource recovery and waste minimisation. It has the potential to provide data to help simulate various treatment process configurations and generate optimal designs that maximise resource recovery – such as water for reuse, energy from sludge and nutrient recovery – and minimise waste. By providing data on treatment process performance under different operational conditions, generative AI could help facilitate predictive maintenance and efficient operation of wastewater treatment plants.
- Water management processes often involve complex stakeholder networks, institutional structures, and legacy technologies. Introducing Generative AI requires not only technical expertise but also organisational readiness and willingness to adapt to new approaches. Since AI models rely on large amounts of data, water utilities may need to invest in improved data collection, sharing and standardisation systems, while at the same time addressing privacy and security issues.