Nexus Integra is a technology platform to control infrastructure associated with water resource management. It enables standard control of all water monitoring equipment, and connection to external systems such as databases, SCADA or ERP systems, allowing comprehensive management of production and appropriate distribution. We hear about it in further detail from Salvador Herrando Hervás, Director of Operations at Nexus Integra.
Question: ¿What is the Nexus Integra Platform and what are its applications in the water sector?
Answer: Nexus Integra is an industrial IoT (IIoT) and Big Data platform for massive integration of information from industrial processes. It fits the current definition of 'Digital Twins'.
The idea is that, the same as we have ERP systems in the area of management, there should be a reference point in the organisation where integrated data from production processes are kept.
The applications of a product such as Nexus Integra in the water business are very interesting, since it enables, on one hand, bringing together everything related to production management and, on the other hand, sharing process data with the whole organisation, or even with third parties such as clients or collaborators.
The goal is to improve and streamline processes, standardising infrastructure management. This infrastructure is usually heterogeneous and scattered, and having been developed over the years, they are very different in terms of their supervision and control systems.
We seek to move away from the traditional concept of the SCADA system, a local system used only by operations staff. When you put together all of this information in a user-friendly system, you introduce production data into the business data circuit, bringing it to life and allowing advanced analyses, such as those of applications based on artificial intelligence.
The objective is to provide a set of advanced integrated management tools, and at the same time a basis to develop applications that use process data as an input.
Based on our experience with past projects, companies can save up to 70% of the cost of new projects and industrial applications by addressing information access with a standard approach across the organisation.
The key advantages it contributes to water management could be summed up into three:
- It allows integrating the operation of all assets, being an excellent control centre solution. This way, in Global Omnium they have optimised the costs associated with maintenance, by approximately 15%.
- It reduces the cost and the time invested in developing new industrial applications.
- It allows streamlined implementation, at a scale, of the pilots of the new applications developed.
Q: Please tell us about its main features.
A: Given that it is an industrial integration platform, one of its strengths is the capacity to intake data and integrate existing systems and industrial elements by different manufacturers.
It can work with practically any open data source and it is simple to implement intake mechanisms for data from private or proprietary sources.
Moreover, the Big Data engine of the tool is also noteworthy, able to effectively mine information from the sea of data collected by the system.
But a feature of Nexus Integra that really stands out is the ease of use. The platform is designed to be used by the entire organisation, not only by the area of production or operations.
Given that the objective is opening that information to the entire company, the focus is on providing different user profiles the capacity to look up data, prepare reports, balance scorecards or production flowcharts in real time.
It is a powerful tool for the profile that requires it, and extremely simple for someone who only needs specific information.
The function to share information elements is also very useful, enabling any part of the organisation to standardise its procedures or information analyses quickly and easily.
Furthermore, the system includes open APIs (application programming interface) so that third parties can connect themselves to develop applications at a higher level based on the capacity to interconnect data.
In the water sector, the capacity to connect to other systems is noteworthy; it is possible to integrate any information added to the system into the interfaces designed, and access other corporate systems such as inventory or maintenance management in a transparent way.
In terms of accessibility, it is of course a web-based application, accessible from any platform.
Q: What problems related to water cycle management does it address?
A: The reality of operational management in the water sector entails dealing with a large number of technologies and manufacturers. In addition, because the assets managed are geographically dispersed, it is particularly critical to have a comprehensive view of the status of facilities and their operation.
To this we should add that over the years, as different remote controls are gradually installed, the solutions and designs have not been standardised. As a result, initially it is very costly to implement unified control centres to manage all infrastructure and, if done, it is done with custom-made developments (although they may use commercial SCADA tools).
Nexus Integra enables this integration and opening the operation in a very simple way that, after a brief initial training, allows users to design and manage their own operations. Implementation time decreases, and so do the associated costs.
Platform control can be permanently in the hands of the staff that know the process and can be truthful to the reality of production.
Q: How does it differ from other technological solutions in the market?
A: This is an interesting question, since sometimes process management tools are perceived as 'commodities'.
In this case, Nexus Integra offers 100% flexibility in the configuration of any information element (such as process flowcharts equivalent to SCADA systems, balance scorecards or reports, for example). This way, it is not necessary to have engineers with expertise in automation or programmers to do it.
Another important feature is simple access and sharing of all the information elements generated. It is a tool conceived to be the technological infrastructure of the organisation, not a simple local control system.
Nexus Integra is an industrial IoT (IIoT) and Big Data platform for massive integration of information from industrial processes
Q: What did the launch of this product mean for the water sector?
A: There is an important disruptive component in the nature of the product. It breaks the barriers that limit process data to the context of production, thereby becoming part of business data.
The consequences of this are that you can obtain, for example, performance comparisons between facilities or comparisons between management in different network stretches very easily and instantly, in real time.
In the case of the implementation in Global Omnium, where deployment started in 2012 and currently it handles 100% of the drinking water data, it enabled implementing a team of expert staff that operates the control centre. With this change, the company has achieved an estimated 15% improvement in maintenance costs, thanks to technological and organisational improvements.
Q: What are the business and development expectations for this type of technologies in the water sector?
A: In our experience in the sector, and, once again, with the implementation in Global Omnium and other public and private companies, it is a useful tool to structure a digital transformation of the production process, standard and scalable.
As a result, there is an increasing demand for this type of solutions, at the national and international level.
We already have several clients in major companies, where the solution is being implemented, at the national and international level; we also perceive considerable interest in a significant number of utility companies.
Honestly, we are convinced that this is a clear market trend.
Q: Of all the projects where this technology solution has been used, which ones would you highlight due to their impact on the water sector?
A: Our main success story, especially given the magnitude of the deployment, is Global Omnium. In this case, as I said before, we have integrated 100% of the drinking water management system and a good portion of the waste water management system. We hope to complete the integration in the coming months.
The transformation it meant for the company led to using Nexus Integra as the basis for the GO:aigua water software suite. Nexus Integra is part of GO:aigua, where it is complemented by specific functional systems that allow advanced analyses dealing with user meters or algorithms to automate improvements in hydraulic performance.
An important project that applies artificial intelligence to save energy costs has also been developed based on Nexus Integra, using process information in real time, as well as external information to automate pump operation. In this case the savings are estimated at thousands of euros per month.
Q: Finally, how has technology changed in the water sector? And what are the main challenges ahead?
A: In the last five years we have witnessed a technology boom in the water sector. From mere remote control systems based on electrical panels, automatons and local SCADA systems we have moved to implementing a large number of applications that look to optimise the different aspects of operations.
In my opinion, an important challenge is to ensure that all of those applications do not work on isolation; they should be integrated to make the most out of them. In addition, it is essential to guarantee the feasibility of maintaining the system in the long term.
This becomes a lot more complicated without a common base that implements that 'Digital Twin' and standardises access to the production process. Otherwise you run the risk of reinventing the wheel again and again, wasting time, resources, and building a set of solutions which are not connected or coordinated, and may not be feasible to maintain in the long term.