Smart Water Summit: Digitalization, the lever for the necessary change in the water sector
iAgua, the leading news media for water professionals in Latin America and Spain decided to devote, for the third year in a row, the September issue of iAgua Magazine — issue no. 24 — to the incursion of new technologies in the water sector, making this issue one of its information priorities. Moreover, iAgua held the Smart Water Summit in the Madrid premises of the Botín Foundation, following up on the success of the 2017 and 2018 events.
More than 150 attendees witnessed this key discussion on the opportunities and challenges of new technologies, as well as the main success stories in the water sector.
Javier García Cañete, Director of the Observatory of Trends at the Botín Foundation, opened the event, thanking iAgua for choosing them once more as the venue to hold the Smart Water Summit. David Escobar, iAgua partner, also addressed the audience, with a blunt message: 'The fourth industrial revolution is here to stay and those who do not adapt risk lagging behind', and he continued: 'The water sector has to do more with less, and use technology to achieve maximum efficiency'.
Águeda García de Durango, Chief Editor of iAgua and Smart Water Magazine, presented the most important content that readers can find in the more than 160 pages of the 24th issue of iAgua Magazine, such as the iAgua Magazine Forum, where Aqualia, ACCIONA, Indra, GoAigua and Schneider Electric discuss the water industry's one-way journey to the digital future.
In order to learn more about the company on the cover page of iAgua Magazine's 24th issue, iAgua's founder and director Alejandro Maceira had an easy-going discussion with Enrique Castiblanques, Senior VP Concessions at Miya. We heard about Miya's mission since the company was born in 2008, ensuring water abundance through efficient management: 'The acquisition of Miya by Bridgepoint shows the trust in our company'. This association means a promising future for the company: 'We think we can bring to Spain the performance based contract. We think we can do a good job, and it can be very positive.' This idea stems from their current view of the water market: 'There is a high degree of innovation in terms of contract models. In the past few years there has been significant technological development and also new contract models are being developed'. In fact, according to Castiblanques, 'technology is a means to reach the objectives established in the contracts'.
But this was not the only iAgua Dialogue at the Smart Water Summit. David Escobar, iAgua partner, discussed with Jokin Larrauri, Vice-President of Sales and Business Development at Schneider Electric, the reasons why the company is one of the best adapted to the digital transformation the sector is experiencing. 'The commitment of Schneider Electric to smart water started in 2008 with the need to integrate all the information held by water companies', a decision that started with connectivity, and led to the Ecoextructure platform.
After the lunch break, the third iAgua Dialogue took place between Francisco Pascual, Technology Director at GoAigua, and Águeda García de Durango, Chief Editor at iAgua, discussing the company's trajectory since its launch in September of 2018: 'This past year was an intense one: we are happy with the launch and consolidation of GoAigua'; a year that Pascual summarised into three cornerstones: consolidation, learning, and growth. However, the difference of GoAigua is based on a dual vision that encompasses technology and water management, thanks to the 130 years of experience of Global Omnium.
The use of sensors and the collection of data in all processes linked to water management entail an unprecedented paradigm shift. The arrival of 5G and the development of new connected devices open a new scenario only known to technology leaders, something we ascertained during the first panel of presentations, on the role of the Internet of Things and metering in the digital transformation of the water sector. Maurizio de Stefano, Director of Energy & Utilities and in charge of the Water Practice at INDRA, gave the first presentation, talking about the role of technology in the water sector. De Stefano highlighted the need to invest in water: 'We have to convince water utilities to commit to innovation. It is not an expenditure, it is an urgent need'.
Javier Figueras, Local Business Line General Manager, Measurement & Analytics, Industrial Automation at ABB in Spain, talked about an ABB solution for remote calibration and verification of equipment, and emphasised the importance of technology integrated into our day-to-day, stating that 'it is obvious that technology, as we understand it, is part of our society'.
Next, Víctor Pinedo, Director General of Sensus España, talked about role of IoT and the digital transformation in the water sector. During his presentation, Pinedo mentioned iPERL, the first water meter to use solid state technology, pointing out that: 'Metering is important for water companies. If you do not measure, you do not know where to optimise'.
Afterwards, Patricia Cortés, in charge of Business Development at Kamstrup, showed the audience how acoustic sensors such as their new product flowIQ2200 can be used to detect leaks. The product can be very useful to detect leaks that cannot be seen, since, as Cortés indicated, 'reducing non revenue water (NRW) is as complex as looking for a needle in a haystack'.
Rafael Ramos, in charge of Business Development at Danfoss, presented on desalination 4.0, its opportunities and challenges, noting that 'we have to be multidisciplinary, therein lies the added value'.
Next, Alex Bryszkowski, Country Manager Director at Redexia, talked about the opportunities that the first LoRaWAN national network in Spain, operated by his company, offers: 'LoRaWAN provides flexibility that no other technology can provide, such as the possibility to share public and private networks'.
The first round of presentations concluded with Ignacio Morcillo, in charge of commercial business for eastern Spain at Mejoras Group, who talked about the need to monitor water quality. To do this, the company has akwaMETRIC, a multi-parameter station for autonomous monitoring of water quality, pressure and flow in drinking water distribution networks.
The entities responsible for water management in cutting-edge cities have been working for years on leveraging the digital transformation to improve process efficiency at all levels, as shown by the leading urban water management and technology entities in the second panel of presentations. First, Gonzalo Zamacois, Marketing Manager at Miya, continued where Castiblanques left his talk: 'In 2016 Miya purchased Indaqua, the largest private operator in Portugal; that allowed us to apply a number of efficiency concepts in the country'; they understand 'the concept of water and water resources as a sustainable concept'.
Raúl Pérez de la Ossa, Head of Analytics & IoT at Aqualia, spoke about the new reality in integrated water cycle management, a situation where Aqualia was able 'to be more transparent and able to manage a scarce resource, such as water, efficiently', thanks to the basis for the company's improvement: IoT, big data and AI, all of them within a framework of cybersecurity.
Next, Adrián Campos, Automation and Control Engineer at ACCIONA, talked about how water smart cities are here to stay, and how ACCIONA contributes to that: 'It is not so much which technology is better, but which technology is best suited, based on the network or the meters'.
Afterwards, Carlos de Juan, Product Manager at Filtralite España, sidestepped a bit the digitalisation path to talk about Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), where using Filtralite, the company's filtration media, contributes to addressing current challenges.
Alfonso Andrés, CEO of INCLAM Group, presented in Smart Water Summit the best way to adopt Smart Water Tools through the Agile philosophy. He said that our society’s current global environment is controlled by continuous changes and how quickly they take place.
Pedro Pina, Regional Director Europe, Advanced Infrastructure Analytics at Xylem Water Solutions, described his company's work in urban water management. Their objective is to 'seek companies already established in the market to help them transform their large amounts of data into useful information'. As such, one of the areas where they have a strong presence is related to asset management: the ageing of the pipeline network.
Finally, María del Prado Torrecilla, in charge of the Technical Department at Lacroix Sofrel, brought to a close the second panel with a presentation on cybersecurity in remote integrated water cycle management. 'At Lacroix Sofrel cybersecurity is becoming a priority in all the systems we develop'; she also stressed the key elements involved: data availability, confidentiality, integrity and traceability.
The water and digital sectors have a common challenge: communication and dissemination as tools to inform and train people. Next, Isabel Durán, journalist and author of the book: 'Todo comienza ahora. Buen viaje por el siglo XXI' (Everything starts now. Good journey through the 21st century), gave a presentation on the implications of the digital transformation for our lives, and how we will relate to water. 'The fourth industrial revolution is the most important challenge nations face', she noted.
Alejandro Maceira, founder and director of iAgua, started the closing of this third edition of the Smart Water Summit with a clear idea: 'Thanks to the digital revolution, we will waste less water and we will be able to put it towards more productive uses and environmental conservation'. With new technologies we will have a huge amount of data available, and we must be able to manage them correctly. That means we must 'exercise caution in terms of cybersecurity. All paths take us to a well-known concept: increasing efficiency'.
Maceira added that the digital transformation must help the water sector continue to be at the forefront of the circular economy: 'this new paradigm that seeks to improve economic results while at the same time resource use is reduced', but also to 'be an active part of efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the great challenge our generation faces'.
The founder of iAgua concluded stressing that 'in the new capitalism, the main objective of a company is not to maximise in the long term the value it generates for its shareholders, but the value it generates for its stakeholders. The digital revolution is transforming business, but it also must help us transform our society'.
Lastly, Miguel Ángel García Martín, Deputy Head of the Department of Presidency and Digital Transformation, Regional Government of Madrid, was in charge of closing the Smart Water Summit. 'The digital transformation is no longer an option; companies will be digital, or they will cease to exist. And this will not only affect the water sector, but all domains.'