The Middle East and North Africa is the most water-scarce region in the world, with 17 nations below the water poverty line set by the UN. To tackle the critical challenge to narrow the gap between water supply and demand, countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are leading in the realm of digitalization, with an important focus on water resources.
We speak with François Frigaux, Regional Sales Director of Sensus, to learn about the latest trends in digitalization emerging in MENA’s water sector, and to learn about the company’s work in this region.
Question: Firstly, could you tell us briefly about your career path.
Answer: My career began in 1995 and I spent the next twelve years working in the logistics and supply chain industry across France and Africa. Twelve years ago, I moved into the utilities sector with Sensus, a Xylem brand. Based out of Rabat, Morocco I played an integral role in the restructuring and diversification of the Moroccan entity, as well as that of other operations in the region. In 2013, I took on an even broader remit incorporating more than 15 countries across MENA. My focus is very much on driving revenue and sales in these key markets for our smart metering technologies for water and thermal energy in municipality, building, industry, and irrigation markets. It is here that I am able to bring my widespread expertise and combine it with my passion for delivering innovative solutions within my role as Regional Director for Sensus.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the water sector today?
A: Across the world – the production of water is very resource-intensive and as a result of climatic conditions, leakages within a network have a higher net impact on the overall ability of utilities to run a network efficiently. Outdated infrastructure, inefficient utilisation and resource management are some of the main factors that cause issues. In the Middle East with sustainability being a key pillar of the UAE’s National Agenda 2021, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and a key priority for other utilities and governments across the world, we are witnessing an increased emphasis being placed on the integration of smart solutions, to guarantee optimal asset utilisation.
As the market-leading experts in metrology, our smart water meters enable utility networks to do just this. The provision of accurate intelligence collected using next generation analytics allows utilities to achieve improved water consumption measurement, leakage detection, real-time data analytics and better water distribution management, all of which is key in protecting against potential issues or intervening ahead of time, to ensure our most precious resource – water – is not wasted.
Q: What can companies like Sensus do to help the MENA region mitigate growing water scarcity issues?
A: We have been deeply embedded in the MENA region for a number of years, partnering with public and private enterprises alike to deploy the most cutting-edge solutions to a region where water is at its scarcest. Most recently, just last October, we launched our latest product, Cordonel, into the Middle East. An extremely versatile smart meter for C&I applications, Cordonel helps users manage distribution networks more efficiently, thereby contributing to better water resource management, through accurate and reliable data. Cordonel is an intelligent response to two of the major challenges that utility network managers face including lack of hyper-accurate metrology to detect the smallest leaks, and the lack of a connected meter that communicates critical network data in real-time. By addressing these, it will not only help reduce leakage and save costs, but also enable utility managers to optimise daily maintenance to increase the uptime of the network.
We launched our latest product, Cordonel, into the Middle East
Q: What are the latest trends in digitalization emerging in MENA’s water sector?
A: Utility companies across the smart water landscape are looking for ways to achieve cost savings, improve operational efficiencies and reach important sustainability goals. Across the Middle East, in particular, water is an incredibly precious resource, and unnecessary water wastage is not just extremely costly for utilities, but also damaging to the wider environment. What we’re seeing on the ground is a major shift towards the fight against Non-Revenue Water (NRW) loss and adopting the technology that can help manage this - thereby helping cut costs and deliver more sustainable solutions overall.
What we’re seeing on the ground is a major shift towards the fight against Non-Revenue Water (NRW) loss
As the region embarks on its various Smart City missions, we are also seeing utilities becoming even more customer-centric and adopting a broader role as a connected service provider – bringing technologically advanced solutions that offer real-time intel on issues ahead of time, as well as solutions to identify and quickly address problems when they do arise.
Q: How is data and technology disrupting the water sector in the MENA region?
A: There are a number of smart water solutions already on the market that have shaken up long-held beliefs about how a network should operate. Everything from physical equipment and treatment, wireless networks cloud analytics, mobile computing, powerful data modelling, and the internet of things offer new ways of addressing both the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. And these are not just prototypes being tested in a laboratory, they’re proven solutions that are currently delivering improvements in water productivity, quality and resilience. These intelligent solutions bring myriad benefits, including reducing energy consumption and costs, contributing to lower emissions, and improving operational efficiencies, all of which can help water managers better afford investments in clean water and wastewater infrastructure.
Q: How does a company like Sensus ensure water sector efficiency for its customers?
A: Here in the Middle East, we are seeing a renewed drive for localisation, with governments focused on achieving their national visions and the region very much shining a spotlight on forward-thinking smart city initiatives. Having been present in the Middle East for a number of decades, Sensus has had the opportunity to work with a number of utilities and governments across the GCC and wider region. With visionary leadership comes great ambition and we are seeing a number of big projects driving smart initiatives across the region that we are honoured to be able to support. It’s important to remember that the production of water in this part of the world requires significant outputs of energy, which equates to increased financial costs. By implementing a holistic, smart approach to water management, utilities can gain greater operational efficiency and profitability in the long-term, whilst helping to reduce unnecessary water leakage and energy expenditure across their networks.
Q: Sensus has recently released a white paper ‘Next Generation Smart Water: Your Solution to Global Water Challenges.’ Could you tell us a bit more?
A: With the world’s population increasing at an unprecedented rate, the societies we live in are being affected by the state of the distribution networks underpinning the very core of daily life - water. Mission 2020, the global directive to reduce CO2 emissions by 2020, and it is a clear call to all industries, including those in the energy and water industries, to play their role in achieving this progress. For us in the water industry, the introduction of a smart water network system is a positive step in the right direction. It serves as a long-term solution encapsulating the needs of the distribution system and the environment, while simultaneously helping to deliver financial savings whilst streamlining operations.
Safe-guarding our precious water resources, whilst making intelligent business decisions, can be achieved by forming a partnership between people and technology.
At Sensus, we are committed to playing our part in driving innovative and smart solutions that help make this possible. Our latest whitepaper outlines the Top 10 benefits that a complete smart water solution can bring to a business and the environment, as well as highlighting a number of insightful case studies. In fact, we have developed an extensive library of content with whitepapers on a wide range of relevant topics that can be viewed and downloaded via our website.
Safe-guarding our precious water resources, whilst making intelligent business decisions, can be achieved by forming a partnership between people and technology
Q: What do you think is the future of smart water technology?
A: Here in the Middle East, we are witnessing incredible transformational growth, particularly in the area of digitalisation. Governments are leading the way in realising the direct correlation between digital upgrades to utilities and economic security, as well as understanding that smart utilities are one of most important links in enabling smart cities. We’re seeing that smart meters in particular play a significant role in delivering seamless automation, given their capacity to accurately track and quantify water usage, as well as offer other vital features such as real-time leak detection. By facilitating improved digital water capabilities, we can reap the rewards in terms of operational excellence, improved revenue potential and more sustainable resource management. Here in the UAE, sustainability is a key pillar of the UAE’s Vision 2021 initiative, and this, coupled with the Dubai Smart City Initiative, makes it a very exciting and decisive time for the water industry here.