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2 February 2018

Water management in the era of Internet of Things

As natural water sources become more unpredictable our ability to conserve and best utilize this resource is becoming paramount. Mitigating this problem will require a combination of many different measures, but it is quickly becoming clear that the Internet of Things will be at the core of any successful strategy to combat water scarcity.

Blurring the real/digital boundaries

ANDRITZ IDEAS simulator acts as a so-called “digital twin”, predicting how industrial processes will evolve before they are initialized.

 

Urgent solutions needed

At Cape Town’s airport, tourists are currently greeted with signs urging them to save water with slogans such as “Slow the flow: Save H2O” and “Don’t waste a drop!”. Flying in from a place that isn’t undergoing a drought the scale of what Cape Town is currently facing might make you dismiss these as you enter the beautiful city, but their message is dead serious.

Most of Cape Town’s water comes from six major dams in the Cape Fold Mountain region to the east of the city. The area is currently undergoing ‘the worst drought in a century’ and as a result the dam water levels are approaching dangerously low levels. Even though the city has been praised in the past for its efforts to stabilize water demand through education programs and infrastructure renovation projects, it has failed to find suitable alternative water sources in the event of the dam supply running dry. All of this is leading to the dreaded Day Zero, a time in April when the dam water level is projected to fall below 13.5% and taps in homes and businesses around the city will be turned off.

Climate change, population growth and growing income in urban centers around the world are all increasing the strain on the water supply of cities. Cape Town, whose efforts to stave off the kind of water shortages currently facing the city cannot be understated, is a grave example of what other major urban centers will have to face in the near future. Luckily, as the natural sources of water we depend on become more fragile, the ways of efficiently using what we already have become more numerous. Among these, the Internet of Things has risen over the past decade to become an obvious solution that stands to provide the most benefit.

IoT and saving water

The terms “Internet of Things” (IoT) or “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) are omnipresent nowadays. The concept behind them is fundamentally changing the way modern industry functions to such a degree that the movement has been described as The Fourth Industrial Revolution by the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. Although it might sometimes be hard to see the true value behind these buzzwords, the increasing interconnectivity of industrial assets and the deployment of modern statistical techniques in guiding their oversight truly warrants the lofty ways the whole movement is described by.

Narrowband-IoT technology is already being employed by the Australian utility South East Water to provide real-time oversight using smart meters, and the city of San Francisco has almost all of its water accounts monitored by meters hooked into its Internet of Things. The growth of ‘digital utilities’ is not surprising given how much water can be saved by quickly detecting and patching medium and small leaks – which the Internet of Things makes possible through virtual modelling and real-time monitoring.

IoT expertise at ANDRITZ

The Internet of Things, just like the regular Internet, treats every connected asset as an object that can send and receive data. This simple architecture, coupled with an increasing standardization of the digital protocols these assets use to communicate, makes it possible for the expertise of IoT in one area to be easily transferred to any other. The Austrian technology group ANDRITZ has proven this by the success of its OPP (Optimization of Process Performance) service in various industrial contexts.

During more than ten years of providing digital solutions to industries all around the world, ANDRITZ has continued to research and develop its IoT offerings. One of the results of this introspection is Diomera, a recently developed piece of software that records and documents hydropower plant operations on a real-time basis over a long period of time. The information derived from its data analysis not only supports decision-making; but more importantly, it contributes towards pattern recognition and digital modelling, optimizing maintenance, and ensuring the long-term integrity of the plant equipment. Diomera has already been installed successfully in several hydropower plants worldwide including a major hydropower plant near the famous archeological site Machu Picchu.

Last year the company expanded its IoT solutions and launched the Metris brand – a three-pronged digital initiative that encompasses big data analytics, smart sensors and augmented reality. Metris includes state-of-the-art industrial IoT solutions as well as any kind of smart digital service that had previously been offered through the ANDRITZ OPP brand. Based on extensive and long-term experience as a supplier of technologies and systems for various industries, the level of expertise offered by ANDRITZ in the area of IoT is hard to rival.

 

IoT milestones at ANDRTIZ

1984

ANDRITZ starts with basic automation activities.

Mid-2000s

ANDRITZ develops OPP (Optimization of Process Performance), a system to optimize equipment and plants in the pulp and paper industry.

2014

Launch of ANDRITZ' proprietary simulation tool IDEAS to model the key process areas of Klabin’s Puma pulp mill project in Ortigueira, Paraná State, Brazil.

2015

Installation of Diomera software at a hydropower plant in Chile.

2017

Introduction of the technology brand “Metris – Industrial IoT Solutions”.

 

 

Eyes on the future

The biggest benefit that an industrial plant can reap from implementing IoT solutions is an overall optimization of resource consumption. Detecting bottlenecks, finding places where resources are wasted and recommending optimal operational variables is where the statistical methods unlocked through IoT shine best, and it is easy to see how the same solutions could be transferred to help ailing water infrastructure make sure no drop goes to waste.

As climate change ushers in a new age of volatile weather patterns that can leave densely populated areas of the world deprived of the most important resource for life for years, digital solutions such as IoT offer a glimpse into how we can meet this daunting future. Needless to say, companies with a history of implementing IoT solutions in industrial settings are slated to play a big part in the digitization of our water supply.

 

In 2017, the ANDRITZ GROUP had over 25,000 employees at 250 locations in over 40 countries. The international technology group is a world market leader for the supply of plants, equipment, and services for hydropower stations, the pulp and paper industry, the metalworking and steel industries, for solid/liquid separation in the municipal and industrial sectors, and for animal feed and biomass pelleting. In addition to turnkey hydropower plants, ANDRITZ develops and manufactures high-quality large and standard pumps for many different industries and applications worldwide. These include pumps for large infrastructure projects for irrigation, desalination, and drinking water supply, for drainage of mines, as well as for the pulp and paper and the food industry.