The use of sensors to monitor water distribution networks in (near) real-time can strongly increase the ability to make informed decisions regarding the management and maintenance of all assets within the hydro environment. How can smart water networks contribute to the Smart Cities of the future?
The idea of the Smart City
Municipalities all over the world have to find practical answers to common challenges, from providing power, water, homes, roads and transport, to catering for the needs of a varying body of citizens. The municipalities whose solutions are resilient and scalable have the most opportunities to become Smart Cities.
A Smart City uses digital technologies to enhance performance and well-being, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens1. Smart Cities are those that have overcome the limited nature of their infrastructure.
Another key term is resilience. By harnessing smart technologies, Smart Cities can become resilient to population growth, climate change and man-made disasters, among other things.
How can smart water networks contribute to making cities smarter?
Water utilities create and maintain an ever-growing amount of data about their business operations and infrastructure. The vast quantities of data from which valuable operational information can be derived are only of real business value if such data is used to support analysis and decision-making.
A smart water network is an integrated set of products, solutions and systems that enables utilities to continuously and remotely monitor and diagnose problems, to prioritise and manage maintenance issues, and to use data to optimise all aspects of the water distribution network2.
Smartening-up through Sensor Technology
Smart water networks use sensors placed at various points along the network. The sensors provide (near) real-time information to operate and optimise the network. The use of sensors can strongly increase the ability of utilities to proactively detect anomalies and risks, and to make informed decisions regarding management and maintenance of all assets within their water distribution network, especially the quality of water.
SENSORS CAN MEASURE PHYSICAL PROPERTIES SUCH AS:
Data can be streamed from the individual sensors through an industry standard protocol to a time-series database where it is stored, extracted and analysed. Aggregated information can then be presented geospatially in order to derive value from it.
A key success factor for any smart network is to ensure that users (operators/analysts/management) can access information in an effective (meaningful/relevant) and efficient (easy-to-use/responsive) way.
Smart Water Solutions
In the case of IMQS’ Smart Water Solution, data streams in real time from sensors to a centralised data historian that is backed by a time-series database. On top is a web-based, GIS-oriented presentation layer, based on the IMQS platform, integrating real-time, network and customer data as well as data from other sources. This collected sensor and alarm data is shown by IMQS in real time. The time-series data is furthermore stored, aggregated and analysed by the data historian. Analytical data can then be retrieved and presented by IMQS in a graphical format.
The IMQS presentation layer presents network and sensor information in a geospatial context. The responsive and easy-to-use interface helps users, for example operators, to derive value from immediate access to current values and historic trends.
The geospatial presentation provides an intuitive way to access the information at various aggregation levels (e.g. zooming in from region, via city all the way to street level). It also offers the opportunity for novel information tools such as flow maps that can be used to go back in time. This is useful in a post-event analysis or for comparing night/day patterns.
Apart from showing raw measurement values (e.g. temperature value in degrees Celsius), the presentation also includes categorisation (e.g. too low, low, normal, high, too high) and warning levels (normal, warning. alarm). Warning and alarm events are pushed immediately from IMQS to the user’s browser.
By harnessing smart water solutions, municipalities can appreciate the value of their data. Data that is turned into valuable information can inform decision-making and facilitate preventative maintenance. With the right information in the hands of the right people at the right time, obstacles can be overcome at a greater speed.
Smart water solutions contribute to cities becoming more resilient and thus smarter over time. Ultimately, they enable utilities to increase their ability to engage with and service their clients. A goal that should be common to all utilities, no matter the context.