Industrialization and infrastructure improvements, made water so accessible it turned into a cheap commodity. The sharp demographic pressure increased water dependence making prices soar, at an astonishing speed surpassing the cost increase of other resources. This situation has turned the water bill into one of the biggest bills for citizens. Any successful effort to cut water expenses will have a huge impact on the economy.

We are hearing more often how important it is to conserve water. This becomes even more important in countries, where droughts are seemingly perpetual. With nearly 70% of the world’s population living in cities, half of the population is expected to live in water-stressed areas by 2025.  And furthermore, water conservation is necessary for smart homes and intelligent cities to exist and function efficiently.

IoT allows for a precise control over water resources data, thus allowing an efficient and optimized management. The sector can no longer sustain itself in isolation from the technological shifts happening in other infrastructure industries and at the customer level.

Technology innovation is continuing to disrupt the water sector leading utilities to explore new ways of communicating and engaging with customers. In an environment of constrained resources, utility leaders are also evaluating new approaches to improve operational resilience. These same water utilities need to find new ways to effectively communicate with the consumer base to enhance good will, improve customer satisfaction, and gain the political support needed to make ongoing investments in critical infrastructure.

Everything from Advanced Metering Infrastructure, to distribution network sensors, to modern customer communication systems are driving a wave of acceptance and adoption of new digital technologies throughout the water sector.

As a result, smart water management is growing in popularity, as it gives consumers the ability to easily monitor their water consumption and provides useful information to the public.

These smart meters have become the most popular IoT device. Water sensors track water quality, temperature, pressure, consumption, and more. Smart meters typically communicate directly with a water utility company, which uses software to analyze the data and then returns it to the consumer in an easy-to-understand format. Users can then understand how their consumption compares to city averages, previous months, and more.

By leveraging Big Data, analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), key players in the water sector are proactively innovating to help solve issues of water scarcity and address aging water infrastructure. Smart technologies help water utilities be more proactive vs reactive. For example:

  • Using imaging to inspect corroding pipes, enabling predictive maintenance;
  • Analyzing data in real time to identify leaks that would otherwise go unnoticed; and
  • Leveraging software to help utilities and consumers track their home water usage.

The Digital Water Utility of the near future will require a host of modern data and technology solutions and should take advantage of hosted software platformswhich incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities. These important technologies, coupled with more elegant ways of integrating legacy systems to the current easier-to-use applications, will change the trajectory of the entire sector. The consumerization of information technologies (IT) has been evolving and proliferating for well over a decade. Consumers are thus part of the driver in advancing the digitization of water utilities.  Consider these benefits that the Smart Water digital engagement platform deliver:

  • Timely, targeted, and topical messages delivered to customers through a channel and time of their choosing
  • Drag-and-drop mapping tools for fast, easy notifications in neighborhoods requiring service outages
  • Improved leak outcomes by providing self-service, closed loop resolution flows within the platform
  • Integrated billing and payment interfaces for improving accounts receivables
  • Intuitive account management with personalized, user-friendly customer interfaces
  • Reducing “unproductive” conversations around high bills using the Bill Explainer data analysis solution
  • Digital forms to easily gather, process, and analyze data submissions for a variety of actions including start/stop service, rebate applications, home audits, or water waste
  • Digital water reports to promote effective resource management and conservation.

We see machine-learning techniques at the core of multiple firms’ offerings, which greatly advance utilities’ ability to operationalize data and monetize insights. Companies that are using AI to “smarten” water systems include Pluto AI, EMAGINFracta, and Fathom.

The prediction for profound impact comes from the many benefits, mostly geared toward improved efficiency, enabled by smart water technology. And while the transition to a proven, more-efficient water management system makes common sense, it is still far from commonplace among utilities. Smart water is here to stay, perhaps, but it nevertheless has a long way to go.

Water industry has a huge need to be more efficient. And there are higher expectations than ever from customers that information networks be more sophisticated. There will be more players entering the market and more investment in this space.

Pedro Mier

Pedro Mier holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineer ing from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, MBA from ESADE and PADE from IESE. He is currently President of AMETIC (Association of Electronics, Information Technology and Telecommunications Companies of Spain), Shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of TRYO Aerospace & Electronics, Board Member of the Premo Group and Committee of CTTC. member of Space Angels Network and Member of the Sc ientific Advisory