Technology and IoT improve water network efficiency

Technology and IoT improve water network efficiency

It’s never been more critical to conserve water. According to the UN, 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries and nearly half the global population are already living in potential water scarce areas at least one month per year. This concerning number could even increase to some 4.8–5.7 billion in 2050
In Italy alone, recent ISTAT reports found that between 2019 and 2021, 0,9 billion cubic meters of water a year went wasted. This is equivalent to almost a third of the total water fed into the public water system  So how can water be managed more efficiently?

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Out of sight out of mind: what happens to water once in leaves the plants?

While water is carefully monitored inside treatment plants and during the whole purification process, once it leaves the plants and is fed into the water distribution network, it’s harder to know what’s going on. Monitoring the piped water journey from reservoirs or purification centres to water mains to indoor plumbing has historically been difficult and costly.

Traditionally, to solve the water leaks problem, a so-called passive approach, that consist in using pre-localization to check the whole infrastructure and then focusing research on a single segment, has been adopted. Although effective, this approach fails to detect and properly address leaks’ causes so these remain unresolved. In addition, once the detected leaks are fixed, and the problem is solved, the Geographic Information System (GIS) Database is rarely updated, jeopardising the effectiveness and validity of the connected water infrastructure.

Technology to the rescue: improving water network monitoring systems

One of the primary causes of water loss are leaking pipes due to bursts or breaks. Locating even a single leak in a huge distribution network is not an easy task, and it can take days, weeks or even years before a leak is even noticed. Intervening after the damage is done is not enough, and preventive activities and efficient leakage management is essential.

To this end, technologies such as Recording Telemeter Unit (RTU), Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud-based analysis software platforms can be implemented to proactively monitor the whole water pipe network, 24/7. Relevant data, gathered and appropriately analysed, is instrumental in keeping track of the infrastructure: thanks to specifically designed sensors that automatically gather data on water flow, pressure, quality and so on, it is possible to map out a complete overview of the system, so that when any variation in the expected data is detected, it’s possible to identify where and why any leaks or problems are happening.

Innovation and expertise for a better water monitoring 

Trimble, an IoT company focused on water utilities, offers a complete and effective monitoring solutions for companies operating in the energy and utilities sector: Trimble Unity.

Trimble Unity is an integrated GIS centric platform, which enables the collection of all relevant information, its detailed analysis and creates a centralised control room that can alert the operator about any and all service anomalies. Thanks to this solution, if a potential leak is detected, it can be easily located remotely through the data collected and, once the cause of the problem has been identified, benefiting from the direct interoperability with the company GIS database, the operator can proceed to plan maintenance or replacement, assigning a different budget and priority to each problems encountered: data thus really drives optimal decision making.

GIS data for powerful decision making and detection

The integration between the GIS system and the monitoring system also provides more accurate real-time monitoring of resource performance and the optimization of drinking and waste water processes, improving service levels provided to customers. Finally, sensor data managed via protected APIs allows water companies to set off alarms proactively in case of anomalies, helping them avoid environmental damage and the subsequent reputational and regulatory impact.

This innovative solution enables the digitization and automation of many processes, enabling data-driven decisions and allowing work orders to be sent directly to maintenance team’s devices as the work on the field. Trimble’s solution, supported by both sensor components and the software platform, makes advanced and vertical workflows available, optimising complete water network management by digitizing different tasks.

Fincons and Trimble: integration every step of the way

Fincons’ experience as system integrator in the energy and utilities sector played a key role in making sure Trimble Unity, powered by Spektra – a Trimble Company, can be interfaced with the most important asset management platforms (IBM Maximo, SAP, etc.), making it especially suitable for implementation in long-term projects where it allows a significant reduction in leaks, helps optimize maintenance and cut costs. Fincons thus enables water companies to integrate Trimble Unity across their entire IT architecture regardless of the multitude of legacy systems that may be in use, while providing full flexibility to accommodate future requirements.

In addition to having a critical role in the implementation and integration of Trimble’s solution with the existing application portfolio, Fincons’ experience is paramount to simplify the configuration process and to ensure clients can fully leverage their new solution in the years to come, by providing an excellent maintenance service and a tailored evolution support.  

Simone Villa
Fincons Group
General Manager Global Energy&Utilities Business Unit