Digitalization of the water industry: Water industry 4.0
It is estimated that close to 1/3 of the world’s population will live in water scarcity areas by 2025 – and this number includes both developing and developed countries. To fight this adverse development, there should be a global consensus to arrive at a smarter and data-driven approach towards understanding the challenges and addressing the solutions.
Water scarcity has been a major challenge for decades. However, the magnitude of the challenge is now growing, making water scarcity a serious threat for countries all over the world. It is estimated that close to 1/3 of the world’s population will live in water scarcity areas by 2025 – and this number includes both developing and developed countries. To fight this adverse development, there should be a global consensus to arrive at a smarter and data-driven approach towards understanding the challenges and addressing the solutions. The true testament to engineering a better future will emerge from pushing the boundaries of climate and energy technologies, that will aid in a green transition to meet the world’s climate targets.
Gartner defines digitalization as “the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.”
The focus on the fact that digitalization, new ways of solving challenges, and business opportunities go hand in hand reflects exactly the transformation that is happening in the water industry, where digitalization has opened doors to brand-new areas of industrial applications and opportunities for expansion. This has allowed us to link energy optimization, monitoring, advanced system protection and pump control to process the performance of the surrounding equipment.
During recent decades, digitalization has also played an increasingly important role in the water industry due to the growing possibilities in computer and information technology, with IoT as its major driver. Embedded with electronics, internet connectivity, and other forms of hardware such as sensors, these devices allow us to communicate and interact with others over the internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled. Most importantly, they can share data that help understand gaps and enable us to take pre-emptive action.
Computer power, communication, and data storage have developed exponentially while becoming less and less expensive, and nothing indicates that IoT will slow down. However, over the past decade, we have seen new standards and platforms come and go – and this has, to some degree, hampered digitalization and fostered a need for a standardized framework for managing digitalization on a global scale.
The true power of Industry 4.0 is the acknowledgment that individual initiatives and propriety standards are outdated. Real value occurs when data and information is shared. The more connected and interlinked things are, the more we gain; and with more access, we gain more viability. With the advent of IoT, it has now become possible for the players in the water industry to innovate on technologies that not only conserve water but also elongate its life cycle. Some of the more game-changing solutions in recent years include – building energy-efficient irrigation systems, optimizing energy production from the wastewater treatment plant, ensuring sustainability of zero liquid discharge (ZLD) processes in industrial setups, smart solutions to monitor water leakages, sensor technology-enabled fixtures to limit water wastages, etc.
In order to harvest full value of digitalization, companies in the water industry have to follow present global standards for connectivity, data storage, availability, and legislation – and provide easy integration with other systems. Thus, new water technology systems need to be developed – based on new data sources, more intelligent products, and robust planning tools. There is also a need for more service-based business models, collaborative systems based on intelligent water technology components, and multiutility systems that combine water treatment, energy, and resource recovery in a cyber-safe framework.
Hence, having the right products together with an understanding of customer needs and applications, combined with intelligent connectivity, are key factors for success in the water industry for the years to come.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house