Is a transition to a circular economy model in the use of water resources possible? We absolutely believe so, let's see how.
In the previous two articles on the subject of "water" we defined the assets to be measured and on which to act to ensure a future in which the water supply is sufficient for the world's population and we have come to discover how Sensoworks can revolutionize the management of plants from many points of view and, above all, in a sustainable way.
A sustainable turnaround in the management of the global water system is in fact not only possible but, on closer inspection, we believe it is mandatory.
Water scarcity, together with climate change, is already a serious problem for many countries around the world. A one-degree increase in the earth's temperature corresponds, in fact, to a 20% reduction in the availability of water resources. This means that, in the absence of decisive measures, global water availability could be 40% lower than it is today in less than 10 years.
There is an urgent need to develop appropriate measures to facilitate the transition from the currently prevailing linear economy model to a circular economy model that promotes the efficient use of resources, particularly water. Not just the irrigation re-use of water, but the sustainable recovery of the material and energy resources contained in waste water, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the energy consumption of purification plants.
Managing water resources in a circular way requires action at different stages of the cycle:
In order to reuse wastewater wisely, attention must be paid to two fundamental aspects:
Finally, the treatment processes and the disposal and reuse methods envisaged for sewage sludge are also of fundamental importance, and should be defined in relation to its characteristics and the territorial scope of reference. Phosphorus, for example, is a critical raw material for Europe because of its almost total dependence on imports from non-European countries and the very low rate of recycling from end-of-life products.
The water service has been undergoing a digital transformation in recent years. However, the adoption of digital technologies is still at an early stage and, in order to fully express the large potential benefits that can be derived, it should be supported with concrete actions on several fronts: regulatory, normative and financial. The union between digitalisation and the Integrated Water Service is destined to become increasingly stronger.
Digital technologies are transforming many aspects of the world in which we live, from industries to cities and everyday life. Digital transformation is one of the great forms of disruption, global evolutionary trends that are set to change the way we do things, revolutionise the way we do things.
To change the way things are done, to revolutionise industries, including integrated water services. The concept of 'Industry 4.0' as a 'strategic approach to the integration of advanced Internet-based control systems that enable people and machines to connect anytime, anywhere, with anyone and anything in a single complex system' was first introduced in Germany in 2011 and was referred to by the German Water Partnership (GWP) for the integrated water service as 'Water 4.0'.
ICT (innovation and communication technologies) are a key element to improve water management, allowing the development of intelligent monitoring, management and measurement systems, decision-supporting knowledge and also greater awareness of water consumption and value.
In the area of internal processes and infrastructures, the use of digital technologies revolves around the use of data to optimise decision-making processes, make service management more efficient and improve quality. This is made possible by so-called 'cyber infrastructures', i.e. systems for collecting data - sensors and instruments - and for storing, processing and visualising them (smart water networks, IoT, data-science techniques, augmented intelligence, blockchain) that allow more informed decisions to be made in real time.
There, we have just explained what the Sensoworks platform does.
Immediate knowledge of your network and plant system through detailed measurements, continuous monitoring of the processes and infrastructure involved, automation of processes and remote intervention.
Sensoworks offers a unique and innovative aid in the prevention of service interruptions and the detection of water losses. An effective knowledge of the physical conditions and functioning of networks and systems also makes it possible to direct investment expenditure towards real priorities, accurately plan interventions even in the medium to long term, and optimise maintenance based on knowledge of the state of the networks rather than on their useful life.
Given the monopoly nature of the water service, the relationship with the user becomes a fundamental strategic asset for the purpose of transmitting the role and effects of its work on the reference territory.
Digitisation of relations with the user offers a unique opportunity to create greater involvement, made up of transparent and immediate communication, simplifying end-to-end administrative procedures.
Notices of disruptions, interruptions and scheduled restoration, as well as information on open worksites and work in progress can be communicated in real time, as can the outcomes of unpredictable events. Online services and personal web user areas can facilitate supply management through user self-managed procedures, sending self-readings and complaints, activating practices and services such as the web bill or booking appointments, as well as making users more aware of their consumption and the quality of tap water (organoleptic properties and healthiness), reassuring them that they are consuming an environmentally preferable resource.
In one fell swoop this privileged relationship has beneficial effects on the internal organisation of the Water Company, simplifying administrative and user management processes, and on the other it allows a more conscious use of public water, saving the entire society with respect to the lesser use of bottled water with its lower impact on the environment.
If you are interested in a complete overview on the concept of WATER INFRASTRUCTURE 4.0 you can contact Eleonora, our Head of Sales!
When we talk of infrastructure monitoring, the main method this is carried out with is the active monitoring of the piece of infrastructure to control. We’ll see the fundamental elements and the benefits of constant monitoring on a given piece of infrastructure later, what technologies are disrupting the market and what it really means for you to implement a monitoring system in your daily management.
The recent global recession did not stop the growing trends of the infrastructure market (Deloitte 2020 Midyear Update), where developing states are increasingly challenging the status quo of an otherwise Western-controlled market, China being the foremost emergent player.
The One Belt One Road initiative, for one, is strong of a US$667 trillion infrastructure funding package China put forward to strengthen the status of infrastructure in and out the country, while the US also passed a bill to allocate US$1.5 trillion for their infrastructure.
If we put into perspective the fact that China, the US, and Europe make up over 42% of the infrastructure investment gap in 2020, 2030 and 2040 - with the US having the highest gap - we can also see the potential for the market to keep receiving the attention of governments and multinational companies alike to take part in a growing trend in the following years (Franklin Templeton).
However, although this gives us a brief overview of the global infrastructure’s situation, we should not forget that infrastructure is not only monumental bridges and skyscrapers. Infrastructure is also residential buildings, roads, smaller bridges, highways, and so on. Infrastructure is all the systems of connections, utilities, services, that people need on a daily basis. We all need our neighborhoods renovated, our rivers tamed, our waste managed.
The state of the art of today’s infrastructure gives us reason to be optimistic on the many future opportunities on the global market, but these will need to be under constant attention in terms of investments and continuous maintenance. Infrastructure cannot be ignored under any circumstances, especially if it deals with critical situations, such as the people’s daily lives and regional economic well being.
Maintenance, in particular, can be better managed using some of the newest technologies available.
Sensor technology, for instance, can help us collect the necessary data to constantly check the health status of a given piece of infrastructure in real-time (partially or entirely) during its entire life and operations.
Basically, sensors are the “spies” strategically placed on the infrastructure that tell us every single time what’s going on and what might happen if we don’t hastily intervene. The way they do this is through the collection of small data immediately sent on the cloud through their connectivity hardware. We can divide these sensors in:
After data is collected by sensors, it must be processed, translated and made easily understandable for the human mind. This is where IoT platforms come into play.
In brief, an IoT platform is a multilayer technology which “digitizes” (that is, brings into the online world) the physical objects, the “things” of the IoT, allowing for machine to machine communication with no need for human interjection.
There are several types of IoT platforms, although platforms are evolving to integrate all the different aspects of IoT into one solution, such as end-to-end platforms, cloud platforms or on-premise installations, AIoT (literally, the Artificial Intelligence of things), and so on.
However, besides all their different characteristics and capabilities, all IoT platforms have something in common: they all act as middleware or as data plumbers to connect devices and applications to an end. This by means of an ecosystem of sensors, controllers, gateway devices, data analyzing and translating software, end application services, and much more.
If we should try and sketch an elementary IoT architecture, we could divide it into four stages:
In the end, what humans are provided with, is the translation of fundamental data in the form of graphically enjoyable dashboards, understandable parameters, alerts and notifications to remind us what’s due and when, and much more. All these elements support human intervention when and where needed, almost as if they give us the power to read into the future!
This power has a name: predictive maintenance. Its meaning is in its name: to predict the moment a building, a bridge, a highway or whatnot is in need of maintenance.
Predictive maintenance is possibly one of the most important benefits of a good IoT monitoring system. With it, we can understand not only the moment a piece of infrastructure needs maintenance but also the exact spot, allowing for more specific and ad-hoc predictive interventions, rather than periodic inspections of the entire infrastructure.
And well, less periodic, mass inspections and more specific, aimed interventions mean one crucial thing: decreased maintenance costs weighing on the annual budget. Predicting potential harm or danger allows us to save money we otherwise would spend on replacement of material, in personnel deployment, in the actual size of the intervention, since the damage is stopped before it could grow into something bigger.
Not only, though: more precise interventions, together with a constant eye on the infrastructure's health status, can help in preventing destruction and damage due to decay or degradation or to keep track of the precise effects of the consequences of extraordinary events (such as earthquakes, floods, etc.). This way, increasing safety and strengthening the resilience of each monitored infrastructure.
Infrastructure is the basis of our lives, our connections, our economics. They connect distant families and allow us to travel, to live the city life, to improve our impact on the Earth.
A sounder monitoring system for our infrastructure would allow us to enjoy and to exploit more efficient and safer roads, bridges, dams, sewage grids, buildings, besides the possibility to reinvest the money saved in fewer periodic interventions.
The benefits of adopting this kind of solution encompass all the value chain from the construction to the management of every piece of infrastructure, whatever it is and for whatever purpose.
That is Sensoworks’s main goal. To move towards an all-round improvement and renovation of the infrastructure industry and market, to overhaul the very concept we have of infrastructure today.
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