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Smart Water Summit 2022: digitalization becomes consolidated as a pillar of water management

Smart Water Summit was conceived in 2017 as it became clear that the adoption of digital technology and data processing was one of the most important trends in the water industry. In the context of Spain, this is already a reality; the Ministry for the Ecological Transition is implementing a Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE) to advance the digitalization of water cycle management. The water sector has high expectations of the PERTE which has been, without a doubt, a major theme of Smart Water Summit 2022.

iAgua held the 6th edition of the Smart Water Summit from September 19 to 23 in a context of unquestionable consolidation of digitalization as a pillar of water management. During five days – the last one in-person – participants discussed the opportunities and challenges arising from the digital transformation, and heard about cutting-edge tools and success stories from sector leaders.

iAgua held SWS2022 in a context of unquestionable consolidation of digitalization as a pillar of water management

Proof of the industry’s interest in digitalization are the sponsors of the event: Innovyze and Terranova, as Gold Sponsors; Saint Gobain-PAM, Redexia, Aqualia, Cibernos, Xylem and Schneider Electric, as Silver Sponsors; and GS Inima, Miya, Kamstrup, Minsait, Baseform, ACCIONA, Hidroconta, Gestagua, Aganova, Lacroix, Kurita-Fracta, Elliot Cloud and Idrica, as Bronze Sponsors.

Monday 19. The digitization of the water sector: where we are now

Smart Water Summit 2022 began with the presence of major players involved in planning and managing projects related to the digitization of the water sector. From Spain, Europe and Latin America, a wide range of experts showed that the digital transformation is already a reality and that its prospects are exciting.

Digitalization plays a key role in the path towards achieving a good status in European water bodies, boosted by the acceleration of planned investments in the short and medium term. Trudy Higgins, Policy Officer at the European Commission, shared the vision of this institution, as well as how the Next Generation Funds and the recovery plan for Europe, which will have a big impact on the water industry, are being structured and implemented. During her presentation, she emphasized the need to modernize the administration and for the water sector to use the opportunities offered by digitalization.

In Spain, investments in digitalization have skyrocketed, while players are positioning themselves in a very competitive market, thanks to the PERTE to advance the digitalization of water cycle management, which will mobilize more than 3 billion euros in the coming years. Representatives from regional entities in charge of water management, including Emasesa, the Catalan Water Agency, the Regional Government of Aragon, the Regional Government of Andalusia and Augas de Galicia, presented their action plans for the coming years, in which the digitalization of information flows is key.

On the other hand, Bluefield Research, Isle Utilities and Xylem Water Solutions Spain, shared some global trends in the digital transformation of the water sector, which is increasing the responsiveness of water management systems, especially in a context of climate change, and has become the segment with the greatest potential for growth and investment in the next decade.

Tuesday 26. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)

The second day focused on analyzing AMI and its three key components (IoT & Connectivity, Remote reading and Monitoring), which provide a wide range of benefits.

In the case of IoT and connectivity, the water sector has not been oblivious to the boom of Industry 4.0 and countless players are already applying sensor-based technologies to manage their operations intelligently. Redexia, Hidroconta and GS Inima Environment pointed out their importance for data-centric water management in the future; this could also be seen in a real case of connectivity in smart water management in the Spanish province of Jaén, presented by LACROIX and the government of the province.

The PERTE to advance the digitalization of water management in Spain has been, without doubt, a major theme of Smart Water Summit 2022

In this context, Terranova is positively influencing the future path of the utility sector by meeting the challenges of customers with innovative projects, and is positioned as a leading player in smart metering of water consumption, where a new world of possibilities will open up based on the use of data collected in real time.

In addition, Beach & Golf Resort and Aguas del Bullent narrated how the implementation of the latest water metering technologies from Kamstrup helped them to thoroughly monitor the resource and to increase efficiency to levels difficult to beat.

Wednesday 27. The data revolution

The third day focused on data analysis. Measuring, analyzing and making decisions are the stages of a process that has already become one of the pillars of efficient water management.

In this regard, water utilities have no shortage of data, both real-time and historical. However, obtaining value from this data requires using analytics as a basis for optimization, as explained by representatives from Xylem Water Solutions España, Consorci d'Aigües de Tarragona, Schneider Electric and Gestagua.

Likewise, to achieve greater data accuracy and improve water resource management, artificial intelligence and machine learning have become undisputed trends. Schneider Electric, ACCIONA, Idrica and Kurita - Fracta shared the most helpful applications and cutting-edge projects in this field.

Measuring, analyzing and making decisions are the stages of a process that has already become one of the pillars of efficient water management

On the other hand, the digitalization of water management is already a reality, through the massive implementation of metering infrastructure and the analysis of huge amounts of data. As a consequence of this process, centralizing the information obtained in a platform that allows better decision making and customer service has become a priority and a key element in the business strategies of integrated water cycle operators, as Cibernos, Aganova, Minsait and Elliot Cloud explained.

To close the third day, José Gabriel Lumbreras, Director of Digital Transformation and Operations at Aqualia, held a dialogue with David Escobar, partner of iAgua, on the digital transformation process in which Aqualia is immersed, as well as Aqualia Live, the modular and integrated platform that encompasses the company's digital services.

Thursday 28. Asset management

The fourth day focused on BIM methodology and digital twin technology, which have revolutionized the field of infrastructure construction and maintenance in recent years. While the use of BIM has increased significantly in the water sector, this trend is expected to intensify in the coming year. This was confirmed by Saint-Gobain PAM, Schneider Electric and Tedagua with several examples of BIM application in the water sector, key to the construction and maintenance of the sector's assets.

The digitization of water management is a reality through the implementation of metering and data analysis infrastructure

Next, a session dealt with Non-Revenue Water (NRW), where digitalization plays a key role, particularly in the current context of water scarcity. In this regard, Miya Water, Bentley Systems and Baseform unveiled the latest trends to address a key process to support maximum efficiency in water management.

On the other hand, digital twins have become the most important emerging trend for asset management in the water sector. These digital replicas of physical assets, with their associated processes and systems, allow understanding and modelling their performance and have completely changed the paradigm of asset management in the water sector, according to Innovyze and Aigües de Vic.

To close, Nozomi Networks addressed cybersecurity issues, a protective layer for the digitalization of critical infrastructure.

  • Emilio Herrera, director of Smart Projects Excellence Center at Cibernos
  • Federico Benedini, Spain Area Manager at Terranova
  • Alex Bryszkowski, founder of Redexia network
    Alex Bryszkowski, founder of Redexia network

Friday 29. A glimpse of the future

The fifth and final day was held in-person at the Madrid premises of the Botín Foundation, where Francisco Javier Sánchez Martínez, Deputy Director General for Water Protection and Risk Management at the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO), shared the status of implementation of the PERTE to advance the digitalization of water cycle management.

Next, a first session was held with Terranova, Kamstrup and Redexia as participants. They addressed the journey from resource to data, concluding that greater availability of data will be key to making better decisions in the water sector. In the second session, Innovyze, an Autodesk company, and Cibernos talked about the transition from data to management, highlighting that data management will transform the water governance model.

Finally, Smart Water Summit came to an end with a round table with the participation of digitalization leaders: Jokin Larrauri, Vice President Smart Water Business at Schneider Electric, María Ángeles Vicente, Director of Systems and IT (CIO) at Aqualia, Marcelo Martino, Director in Energy and Water Market at Minsait and Pedro Pina, Regional Director Europe, Advanced Infrastructure Analytics at Xylem Water Solutions Spain. They discussed how the sector is addressing digitalization and the future that lies ahead, in which the PERTE provides a unique opportunity to export the knowledge of the water sector in Spain beyond its borders.

What is your assessment of the role of the PERTE to advance the digitalization of water cycle management in Spain?

  • Marcelo Martino, Director of Energy and Water Markets at Minsait: "The PERTE offers an opportunity to promote the industry and the talent that we are going to generate beyond our borders"
  • Pedro Pina, Regional Director Europe, Advanced Infrastructure Analytics at Xylem Water Solutions Spain: "We have to handle large amounts of data and we can start to create the concept of a visual sensor"
  • María Ángeles Vicente, Director of Systems and IT (CIO) at Aqualia: "The PERTE will help to alleviate the investment deficit of the past few years"
  • Jokin Larrauri, Vice President Smart Water Business at Schneider Electric: "I miss having a regulator for the PERTE that manages the transparency of information"