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"In the water sector there has been a change in the way of thinking necessary for digitalization"

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  • "In the water sector there has been change in the way of thinking necessary for digitalization"

About the entity

Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries.
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Throughout his 25-year career, Ferran Mas has always been involved with IoT. He started his career at a company working on artificial vision, control and instrumentation solutions, and later created his own startup focused on artificial vision and data acquisition and processing systems.

He worked as an IIot Solution Architect for the second half of his career, and recently he has joined Schneider Electric to contribute his accumulated experience to the Water and Waste Water Segment, helping clients achieve their own digital transformation.

Question: Given your experience in other industry areas, what do you think about the digital evolution in the water sector?

Answer: In the water sector there has been a gradual change in the way of thinking necessary to move towards digitalisation.

Water is becoming more and more a scarce and valuable resource, so the sector is looking into improving and optimising processes such as drinking water treatment, pumping, chemical treatment, waste water treatment, etc. That improvement requires early detection of leaks, better control of the service life of assets, optimisation of energy and reagents required, quality, traceability, and so on and so forth. On the other hand, we find consumers ever more used to receiving services and demanding more information.

Other industrial sectors such as the energy generation sectors started earlier because they have critical assets and because of the cost of energy. In those sectors, a 1% improvement means significant savings. Hence, they started this transformation earlier, and now they are at the Digital Twin stage in this IIoT journey.

In the water industry this starts to be a reality. We already have solutions to improve the service life and maintenance of assets, optimise and reduce energy consumption, and reduce water consumption and losses, taking into account data that are external to the asset and can be added for further context. EcoStruxure Pumping Perfomance Advisor is an example of this: an end-to-end service which allows reducing the consumption of pumps and their maintenance costs, thereby increasing operational efficiency.

With the IIoT EcoStruxure platform we can deploy faster devices which can safely be connected from areas which used to be difficult to connect, and this can be scaled. There are now Schneider Electric solutions such as the Cloud Connected Sensor XIOT to monitor areas which used to be inaccessible or required heavy investments in communications infrastructure and its maintenance.

Schneider Electric is strongly committed to all aspects of cybersecurity, at all levels of the IIoT architecture​

Q: How is integration with the client done?

A: We work jointly with the client to adapt the different EcoStruxure Advisors and provide a solution that is adapted to their specific needs.

A very important point in this regard is cybersecurity. As a founding member of the Global Cybersecurity Alliance, Schneider Electric is strongly committed to all aspects of cybersecurity, at all levels of the IIoT architecture. This means that the analysis includes from the available field devices to the current infrastructure in terms of automation software or IT. This is to enable integration at all levels: from the layer of connected products to the Analytics and Services layer, without forgetting about the EDGE control layer.

This way, we add value to the current infrastructure, or we provide sensors/actuators in the EDGE layer as necessary, or an IIOT Box to connect safely the current field devices to the Cloud services of the EcoStruxure platform.

Q: What are your success cases in this regard?

A: The implementation of our digital offerings is experiencing great growth, with very diverse clients and geographical locations:

  • The city of Ashland in Oregon, United States, is using the AVEVA Insight Solution so field technicians can monitor the water treatment and distribution infrastructure, reducing manpower in operations, and providing access to information from anywhere.
  • We are implementing our augmented reality solution, EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor, in Saudi Arabia, in a desalination plant and a water treatment plant, as well as a drinking water treatment plant in Chile. The objective is to reduce production downtime and allow quicker and efficient maintenance.
  • We provide our predictive maintenance service for critical power distribution equipment, EcoStruxure Asset Advisor, to the Santa Rosa de Sapal waste water treatment plant in Mexico; to the San Jacinto River Authority drinking water treatment plant in the United States, and to the Salitre II waste water treatment plant in Colombia.
  • We have two recent cases where our pumping station management solution, EcoStruxure Pumping Performance Advisor, is in use in Spain and New Zealand.
  • We are also going to implement our digital service to manage energy quality and connected equipment, EcoStruxure Power Advisor, in the Salitre II waste water treatment plant in Colombia.

Finally, I would like to mention a recent project in the ‘data-as-a-service’ area in Denmark, where in collaboration with Aquaglobe we have installed new XIOT sensors, devices connected to the cloud through a Sigfox communications network, and we have connected that field information with a SCADA system to monitor water levels in retention tanks and avoid overflows.

Thanks to the cloud we can concentrate and aggregate a lot more information to have a complete vision of our processes and optimise them

Q: What would you say to demystify the cloud within the water sector?

A: The cloud is part of the solution, though that does not imply completely replacing the current OT layer. It is about obtaining new knowledge from the data which are probably already available in silos, as our EcoStruxure architecture shows.

Thanks to the cloud we can concentrate and aggregate a lot more information to have a complete vision of our processes and optimise them, including data which are not operations data, but can provide great value for the analysis and optimisation of a process (climate, client behaviour, infrastructure condition, financial data, maintenance systems, GIS).

On the other hand, it allows flexibility in terms of computing resources and adapting to needs without having to have your own infrastructure, which often is oversized in order to cover peaks. It allows reducing the TCO (total cost of ownership), and, more importantly, focusing on the business solution and not the IT infrastructure needed.

It enables therefore, to start small and grow according to need, in a very flexible manner, reducing CAPEX to move towards OPEX.

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