A better way to manage water with the Internet of Things

By | 3 minute read | October 6, 2016

IoT and water supplies

The global water challenge is incredibly complex and one that becomes more pressing as the world’s population grows. Securing ample amounts of water, ensuring it’s is secure and that it’s supplies are resilient, is a major challenge for the U.S. and countries across the globe. One of the ways municipalities and businesses are tackling these challenges is through using the Internet of Things to increase availability and security. Managing the fragile balance between supply, demand and demographics is a critical infrastructure challenge and will continue to be in the years ahead. The good news is that this balance is achievable through capturing and putting to work the right information.

The water market is making a shift to a more technologically driven field as pressure from government and private bodies increases to better manage usage, treatment and security. Another major factor driving this transformation is a retiring workforce being replaced by millennials expecting to engage with robust technology solutions There are massive opportunities for IoT through gathering data from sensors to do things like better manage flow during peak demand, only run pumps and blowers when necessary, and ensure water and wastewater facilities are secure. The sector already has a leg up on many industries trying to leverage the IoT as the majority of water facilities are already sensored and connected, just not capturing, analyzing and responding to data as effectively as is possible.

Most facilities, private and public, have access to the data they need to improve operations. The shortfall lies in the fact that many operators aren’t gathering that data or don’t know how to make use of it once it’s collected.  Water security and resiliency is a goal that requires careful orchestration and monitoring to achieve, but it is something that can be instrumented, monitored and automated using IoT technologies.  In addition to managing real-time operating data and reacting to actionable intelligence, there is also the practical challenge of protecting the physical infrastructure that most take for granted. With tens of thousands of water and wastewater facilities across North America alone, preparing for potential security breaches and the threat of interruption in service is a growing requirement. Whether it’s the source, the massive conveyance infrastructure, treatment or storage, one of our most critical natural resources is at risk.

Digital Water and IBM

Digital Water is leveraging IBM technology to build a leading data collection and analytics platform to organize and react to vital information from millions of sensors embedded across the water and wastewater ecosystem. The Digital Water platform is hosted on the IBM Bluemix platform; a cloud-based infrastructure designed to integrate leading-edge tools for rapid deployment. With the help of IBM, a platform has been architected that leverages best in class software applications for remote asset monitoring, energy analytics and water security, and integrates these solutions through APIs. For Energy Analytics, the Suggestion EngineTM tool can inform operators which equipment can be turned down or off entirely, and which loads can be shifted to other time periods. By integrating all this data, critical decisions relative to assets and facilities can be made at the right time and place in order to optimize security and reliability.

A compelling use case for water facility security is using drones to respond to alerts. Facilities can be instrumented with motion sensors that detect unusual motion in critical areas and send an alert to a drone that can navigate an automated flight path to the spot, determined by GPS coordinates of the sensor, to ensure there is not a security issue. Eliminating the need for manned security will save time and money as enhanced security measures are not typically budgeted in the sector.  Leveraging a light-weight but high impact solution such as a drone supports the near-term need to immediately address the growing reality of potential threats.

By utilizing a secure-hosted solution with IBM, Digital Water will execute on its plan to offer water security, energy analytics and asset monitoring to a market that is growing in its adoption of cloud-based tools. This platform along with Digital Water’s deep expertise in the water and wastewater management is enabling a more efficient and effective way to manage water.