Going digital is more than novelty today, it’s necessity. Various fields have made immense progress by adopting and adapting to newer technologies. Look at the healthcare sector. Electronic health records (EHRs) improve patient care and data management, telemedicine enables remote consultations, and wearable devices monitor health in real time. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. More and more sectors are warming up to technology. Say agriculture. Precision agriculture uses sensors, GPS, and data analytics to optimize crop management, leading to increased yields and resource conservation. The water industry too is no stranger to digitization.
The water industry, serving us one of the most crucial elements of our daily lives, has been growing with times, maybe at a pace slower than other sectors, but progressing none the less.
The industry is increasingly adopting digital water platforms — technology-driven solutions that help us manage and optimize water-related processes, infrastructure, and data. AI and ML applications are proving to be a promising avenue for companies as they ensure safety of vast water supply networks.
Companies are employing data-driven applications, AI and Industrial IoT to treat wastewater and streamline operations. AI, ML, and digital twin technologies are used to detect water leakages. AI-based flood predictions systems are being used to reduce damages.
Trinnex is very much on the same path, as we bring our customers newer state-of-the-art digital water platforms that leverage technology to solve challenges that utilities face on a daily basis.
Technologies such as machine learning and AI serve a much larger purpose today. AI in itself has many facets — responsible and explainable are just two of the many.
Responsible AI ensures that AI systems are designed, developed, and deployed with ethical considerations, transparency, fairness, and accountability at their core. With Explainable AI, you get clarity into what's happening behind the scenes to better understand why the model made its predictions.
Here’re a few most frequently asked questions about digital water platforms — what they are, how they benefit utilities, and how they will shape the future of the water industry.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a digital water platform?
- What are the main components of a digital water platform?
- Why should one choose digital water platforms?
- What are the benefits of using a digital water platform?
- Are digital water platforms compatible with existing water infrastructure?
- What types of data do digital water platforms collect and analyze?
- How do digital water platforms ensure data security and privacy?
- What are the digital technologies in water?
- Are digital water platforms scalable for different sizes of water utilities?
- How can I get started with implementing a digital water platform?
- What is the typical return on investment (ROI) for implementing a digital water platform?
- How can digital water platforms help in emergency response situations, such as water contamination events?
- Can digital water platforms help in asset management and maintenance?
- What is the role of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and digital twins in digital water platforms?
- Are there any case studies or examples of successful digital water platform implementations?
1. What is a digital water platform?
A digital water platform is a technology-driven solution that integrates data, sensors, and software to monitor, manage, and optimize various aspects — such as water quality, distribution, and treatment — of water resources.
Purpose-built for water and wastewater utilities, these AI-enabled platforms have flexible data models with pre-built connections to common water utility data and sensor sources, along with features that enable data capture, time-series data management, and compliance reporting. One such platform is waterCAST, which, along with providing the above features, helps utilities with data analytics, anomaly detection, failure prediction, and related modeling.
2. What are the main components of a digital water platform?
Digital water platforms typically include data sources, data analytics, cloud computing, and software applications for data visualization and decision support.
From the technological perspective, AI, machine learning, and digital twins are the up-and-coming technologies that are enabling utilities to manage their data and gain more insights into their processes, thus helping them be proactive and make informed decisions.
3. Why should one choose digital water platforms?
Digital water platforms can be helpful for water and wastewater utilities in many ways. As water experts, Trinnex understands how challenging it is to manage an infrastructure system that goes out-of-sight, out-of-mind, until something goes wrong. What we’ve seen is that reactivity is at the core of many system challenges. Digital water platforms can address this reactivity and the associated underlying issues such as:
- Data that is separated, fragmented, siloed with little to no consistency and organization
- Lack of resources, and limited visibility of actionable information
- Risks such as: costly fines (out-of-compliance, consent decrees), negative social/environmental impact (contamination, sewer overflows), negative public perception
- The right people not being notified on when to take action
- Lack of communication and collaboration due to functioning of compliance and operations in silos
- Operational decision-making being based on judgement rather than driven by data
Regulations make an impact as well. As an example, the EPA’s LCRR now mandates utilities to build a service line inventory.
All these present a compelling reason to choose digital water platforms over legacy solutions to build and manage your inventory, perform water sampling, gain insights, better your decision making, streamline reporting, communicate with your stakeholders, and so on.
4. What are the benefits of using a digital water platform?
Digital water platforms can improve water infrastructure management, enhance water quality monitoring, reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, automate processes, and enable better decision-making for water utilities and organizations.
Consider upcoming challenges concerning PFAS. Contaminants such as PFAS are hazardous to health and even though PFAS is not currently regulated in wastewater, there are emerging concerns with PFAS in biosolids and safe disposal of biosolids. Source tracking and fingerprinting are key to mitigate PFAS. Stringent regulations for nutrients (Nitrogen and Phosphorus) require water quality tracking to ensure compliance.
waterCAST WQ’s end-to-end service for water quality sampling can help here. It can instantly validate and understand lab results.
Platforms such as waterCAST can acquire utility data via APIs and consolidate it to break down data siloes and increase visibility, making customers proactive, instead of reactive, to mitigate adverse events.
5. Are digital water platforms compatible with existing water infrastructure?
Yes, many digital water platforms are designed to be compatible with existing water infrastructure and can be integrated into legacy systems to improve their functionality. For example, waterCAST as a platform can connect to existing utility data infrastructure including SCADA systems, GIS, sensors, legacy Excel files, PowerBI, and more. The platform unifies these typically separate software to deliver actionable insights.
6. What types of data do digital water platforms collect and analyze?
Digital water platforms collect data from SCADA, GIS, AMI/AMR, water quality labs, and more. They also analyze historical data to identify trends and anomalies.
7. How do digital water platforms ensure data security and privacy?
Digital water platforms employ encryption, authentication, and access control measures to protect data. They also adhere to data privacy regulations to ensure the confidentiality of user and operational data.
Certain assessments such as SOC 2 can also help utilities ensure that a service provider, who has completed that assessment, and their software will take due diligence when handling utilities’ customer data.
8. What are the digital technologies in water?
New and emerging digital technologies including AI, IoT sensors, data analytics, and smart water management solutions are being used to build more efficient water management infrastructure, wastewater treatment plants, and irrigation systems. Trinnex’s waterCAST — a digital water platform — manages data, uses AI to deliver insights, and are built to:
- Maximize existing resources, which will drive proactive decision making
- Reduce dollars, resources, and time
- Help comply and meet regulatory requirements
- Improve public perception about utilities
9. Are digital water platforms scalable for different sizes of water utilities?
Yes, digital water platforms can be scaled to meet the needs of both small and large water utilities, making them adaptable to various operational contexts. No matter how much data a utility has, or where it comes from, a digital water platform can meet a utility where they are in their digital transformation journey.
10. How can I get started with implementing a digital water platform?
The first step is to assess your specific water management needs and goals. Then, you can consult with technology providers and experts in the field to identify the right platform and develop an implementation plan.
11. What is the typical return on investment (ROI) for implementing a digital water platform?
ROI can vary depending on factors such as the size of the utility, the extent of implementation, and local conditions. Generally, organizations can expect to see ROI through cost savings, improved efficiency, and better resource management.
Another major ROI is compliance. Utilities have regulations to comply with; these could be from EPA, CDC, or anyone else. Utilities or agencies may have CDC requirements to document certain pathogens (i.e., Covid, SARS, Monkeypox, or Opioids). These utilities could face challenges in managing their data. They may need technology-driven solutions to ease their work, such as:
- An automated QA/QC
- Streamlined regulatory reporting (i.e., by CDC)
- Sharing sampling data with stakeholders
All these can be implemented using a digital water platform, for example, waterCAST Surveillance — a cloud-based data analytics platform providing wastewater surveillance and predictive insights for public health initiatives.
12. How can digital water platforms help in emergency response situations, such as water contamination events?
Digital water platforms can provide real-time data on water quality, enabling rapid response to contamination events. They can also aid in the identification of affected areas and the deployment of necessary resources.
PFAS is a significant concern for both water and wastewater utilities. Analytics, processes, and regulations are new and complex. Compliance sampling is becoming more complex with PFAS, lead compliance, etc. Public perception of non-compliance is becoming more important, which necessitates getting ahead of compliance issues.
Platforms such as waterCAST WQ, soon to be available in the market, can provide end-to-end service for water quality sampling, data management and visualization, compliance, and operations.
13. Can digital water platforms help in asset management and maintenance?
Yes, digital water platforms can assist in asset management by monitoring the condition of infrastructure components and predicting maintenance needs to prolong the life of assets and reduce downtime.
14. What is the role of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and digital twins in digital water platforms?
AI and machine learning are often used in digital water platforms to analyze data, predict system behavior, and optimize operations, thus helping water utilities make data-driven decisions.
Digital twins, the comparatively newer technology, too is making a difference in the water industry. waterCAST Sewer is an example of a platform that leverages this technology to identify anomalies and send email notifications to alert your team.
A digital water platform leveraging digital twin can identify sewer collapse before catastrophic conditions can occur. It can improve sewer system operations and management and adapt to changing times using remote monitoring features and predictive modeling.
15. Are there any case studies or examples of successful digital water platform implementations?
Many water utilities and organizations worldwide have implemented digital water platforms with successful outcomes.
The City of New Bedford, MA recently sought a digital twin solution that could help them gain insights into the performance of their collection systems and thus proactively prepare and respond to the next extreme weather event while also their optimizing operations & maintenance (O&M) activities. The solution also helped them set up automated overflow notifications to comply with the Massachusetts public sewage notification regulation. Read more about the solution here.
Specific features and capabilities of digital water platforms may vary between providers, so it's essential to research and evaluate different options to find the one that best suits your needs.