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🌐 "Is Water Smart in 2040?"

Water Foresight Podcast

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Matthew Klein
Guest: Shirley Ben-Dak | Vice-President of Strategy & Innovation | The Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN)
Category: 🌐 Digital

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[0:44] “SWAN is the leading global hub for the smart water and wastewater sector. […] We're a UK based nonprofit but definitely represented in the global landscape of water utilities, solution providers, regulators, academics, investors, young professionals, and really just industry experts all over the world that are dedicated to using and leveraging data that basically accelerates the smart water sector. So that means using data driven solutions, technologies and strategies to help essentially our water networks become more resilient.”

[1:32] “Smart water to me is absolutely at times overused or potentially misused. But to me smart water is really being proactive instead of reactive. So depending on who you are within the smart water landscape, obviously that priority level of smart differs. But for me, mostly it's really about being proactive, leveraging data solutions, and not just responding to an incident, being able to predict ahead of time in order to save costs, address relevant water and wastewater concerns and ultimately prepare for a better future.”

[2:36] “If you only are looking at one side of the discussion in terms of smart water implementation, whether it's on a strategy level, a tech implementation level, a roadmap, I think you're really only looking at kind of one side of the puzzle. We work with utilities really all around the world, small, medium, large in terms of number of water connections, and they're all at different levels of their smart water journey, whether it's different kinds of metering campaigns, whether it's introducing digital twins […]. But they also have already noticed progress, whether that's in billing collection, in customer engagement, in addressing pressure management issues, that that's kind of one outlook. But we also work with vendors, solution providers that really have very sector specific solutions, whether they're addressing leakage of energy optimization, and so […] it's kind of a complete a complete puzzle, together with all these thought leaders. And it also translates back to the customers as well, because at the end of the day, they're the ones that are also paying for the service. So kind of viewing really, water is not only just a product as a service that has a whole network of people that work day in and day out to make it possible. And I think it's absolutely something that's really not just utility focused.”

[5:28] “What we've done at SWAN […] is really try to provide a framework for understanding what is smart, because […] there's so much terminology out there. So we developed them over 10 years ago […] a smart water network architecture. So it's […] five layers from the physical layer all the way to fusion analysis. But when asked the question of what is smart water, I think it's often looked at based on what the specific utility and the case are […]. What does that utility challenge or pinpoint they're looking to address? And if it is a specific digital solution? Then that is referred to as a smart water solution.”

[6:46] “[In] my kind of future lens, I imagine a completely digitally enabled […] a water plant. […] Almost thinking of a very advanced digital twin, which has become very, very trending in the smart water sector. But in 2040, I'm really thinking […] for that individual operator really be empowered digitally for their day to day management and operations. And so what I mean by that is anything from a specific valve that needs to be shut down, or if there's again, a certain blockages that need blockage that needs to be addressed, for it to really, really digitally enabled, meaning, getting alerts well ahead of time, being able to interact, for example, with a customer that's facing a potential leakage issue well, well ahead of time. Really everything from beginning to end to be digitally enabled. I think today, in some cases, we're there. But in most cases, again, speaking specifically about the United States in such a highly fragmented market, […] I think we're so far from that, that we still have a long way to go 20 years from where we are today.”

[9:08] “I think today, our interactions with our utility [are] very much only when a major challenge is presented to us. So think about billing, if we get a wrong billing, or […] in unfortunate situations where there's a challenge to pay a bill right in a lot of areas and low income households. And I think today it's very much a reactive type of engagement. Something happens, you then go ahead and complain about it. And I think, thinking 20 years ahead, […] we will eliminate or at least reduce […] those types of interactions. […] Meaning I can very much engage either in a one to one or community level or in an engagement between myself and the water wastewater facility that's serving me as a customer, whether that's in the form of digitally friendly or user friendly reports that are providing me insights […] for me to understand, for example, the quality of the drinking water. […] I think there's an increasing demand for understanding that and being more transparent. And I think customers are demanding these types of insights, I think 20 years from now, […] it really needs to be very accessible.

[16:58] “When you're specifically talking about technology, and leveraging also smart water technologies, you are absolutely also thinking about IoT. And whether it's IoT on the […] extended value chain from consumers, IoT enabled devices that support consumption, billing, installation processes. Whether it's IoT within the utility, we at Swan focus a lot on the distribution side, […] managing essentially water quality issues […] and kind of customer engagement. So I think today, there's an influx of mobile devices, I think that will continue to happen […]. And I think streamlining of communications and how to actually report and essentially be able to connect between different devices, I think that will be further streamlined 20 years from now. I'm talking also in developing and emerging economies as well, where there are challenges associated with Internet, with bandwidth, with connectivity.”

[19:28] “When we talk about smart water, we talk about technologies, […] but ultimately, the issue and connectivity the connection between smart water and affordability will be key and continue to be key. Issues surrounding equity, issues surrounding […] access to water data and water transparency, I think will be fundamental. And I think for the smart water sector, both from the utilities and the extended supply chain and customers […] [will have to] think outside the box and think about, for instance, […] how [to] leverage unique business models to drive smart water affordability.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Google | Spotify
🕰️ 43 min | 🗓️ 09/29/2021
✅ Time saved: 41 min