Skip to content

🚰 "Start Up to Publicly Traded & the State of Water Technology"

The Water Values Podcast

Photo by Petter Lagson / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Dave McGimpsey
Guest: Dr. Christine Boyle | Vice President of Business Incubation | Xylem
Category: 🚰 Utility

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[10:38] “I founded Valor Water in 2015 and in 2018 we sold [it] to Xylem, Inc. So, 2018 through 2020 I was leading [the] transition and integration of our product line at Xylem, which is part of a portfolio of analytical technologies. And then more recently I transitioned to a new role at Xylem, where I am leading the Xylem business incubator. So still very excited and motivated to bring early stage water technologies to market.”

[20:47] “Digital water […] is still evolving. […] AMI has been around for decades and I see that as really fundamental to digital water. […] It’s that hourly read of customer consumption that utilities can do tons of different things with […]. So, digital water is not new, but […] what you do with the data, whether it’s new sensor technology, AMI data, remote sensing - there are lots of different ways […]. And that’s the question that I think we are answering now that we weren’t answering maybe five years ago. It’s like digital water just seemed like a giant data repository that was sitting somewhere […], but [with] the advances of cloud and data science [it] allowed us to actually solve problems.”

[23:31] “The use of digital technologies is becoming more cost effective for small utilities, such as applications around taking pictures of their assets on the phone and then having these different applications that capture asset management [and] performance. […] I think that digital water just in a sense of […] cloud technology and being able to record videos and sensor readings and treatment in lab results all on the cloud, it just made data and all these things much more accessible for small utilities, too.”

[24:53] “Small utilities struggle, because they are usually behind on their various plans - their capital improvement plan, their technology plan. And they are reacting to either maintenance issues or degrading infrastructure or just compliance issues around water quality, state regulations, [etc.]. So when you are asking a small utility to make a leap digitally it’s usually because something is falling apart that they need to address really critically. […] An example could be a small AMI system. Their operator retired, they haven’t been around to collect reads on systems for a while, their revenue is at risk, so they might […] make an investment in AMI technology at that time with the most advanced applications […] and kind of leapfrog 15 years overnight. […] It’s usually made in response to some kind of critical event.”

[27:58] “[In] the pandemic we saw […] skeleton work crews […] in the field [where] you could only have one person in a truck and a limited amount of people that could go out and monitor assets or do maintenance. So, we saw […] that there was a total restructuring of work around how you could keep taps of assets. […] We saw that utilities were thinking of remotely monitoring assets, putting all kinds of radios and video devices […] on assets.”

[28:45] “[In the pandemic] we also saw a lot of fear from the public over our water supply. […] So we had to increase trust in water systems. So we saw more water quality sampling, methods beyond sampling. […] So there are some neat technologies coming out around water quality monitoring that we haven’t seen before. And [we are also seeing a trend] towards automation.”

[30:52] “Cybersecurity needs to be […] fundamental [to water utilities]. […] I think that we are not at a place where anything should be done without human eyes […] - having some checks and balances at our controls. […] Even if we have the ability to automatically control some pieces of critical infrastructure, […] instead of an automation, [we] have an alert or a timed program for an operator or engineer […] to tell them [when] to take that action. So there is some element of human oversight and control.”

[33:04] “The overall water innovation ecosystem has never been as exciting as it is right now, […] both within big [companies] and startups. […] On the big companies side, at Xylem in April 2021, we are going to launch Xylem Vue, which is sort of our consultative digital offering […]. What that is doing is bringing together seven startup technology companies that were all acquired over the last few years and kind of packaging those as a service to offer to utility clients […]. The neat thing there, that a startup can never do, is just the scale at which we can deploy. […] I would also argue that the startup ecosystem […] is really where […] the most cutting edge technology is happening. Let’s think about COVID detection in wastewater, PFOAs removal, remote sensing, new membrane technologies - those remain mostly being done by startups. So there is this great symbiotic relationship between the startups and the big [companies]. Because we all […] need to collaborate to achieve the goals of […] water conservation and water quality.

[36:30] “[For 2021] I’m thinking a lot about climate resilience, […] what we’ve seen with hurricanes, flooding, algae blooms, network redundancy. So any technologies that are helping work on […] creating these redundant systems within utilities. […] And I really like the whole world of reuse, [meaning] what we can do to have […] closed loop systems that are easier to maintain […]. And I just love predictive asset performance - when is a pump gonna fail, […] a meter, […] a pipe. […] And the other big thing is […] anything we can do to really radically drive down costs [of utilities].”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 44 min | 🗓️ 04/06/2021
✅ Time saved: 42 min

Additional Links:
Xylem Wave Maker: Dr. Christine Boyle
YouTube: Xylem’s One Minute in Water with Christine Boyle