Smart Water Networks in the U.S. – A Dream or Near-Future Reality? An Interview with Psomas President, Jacob Lipa
In June 2013, Psomas, a top-ranked consulting engineering firm formed a partnership with TaKaDu, a global leader in smart water network monitoring. Psomas now plans to serve the U.S. market by offering TaKaDu’s cloud based solution to monitor water distribution networks. In an interview with TaKaDu, Psomas President, Jacob Lipa offers his insights into the future of the U.S. water market and the important role of TaKaDu.
No more question marks – There is a growing global trend towards adopting cloud solutions. Last year, more than 80% of 4,000 business and IT managers surveyed worldwide by the Ponemon Institute indicated that they were transferring, or plan to transfer sensitive or confidential data into the cloud. Nearly half of the respondents’ organizations already did so, and another one-third of respondents’ organizations were very likely to transfer sensitive or confidential data to the cloud within the next two years.
Data security is a primary concern for the U.S. In May 2013, the U.S. Government awarded Amazon a security clearance to allow federal agencies to easily use its cloud computing services as part of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). FedRAMP is a mandatory government-wide program that standardizes security assessment, authorization, and monitoring for cloud products and services. The Program’s Cloud First policy mandates that agencies take full advantage of cloud computing benefits to maximize capacity utilization, improve IT flexibility and responsiveness, and minimize cost.
What is the “magic tool” to reduce water loss? I always like to say that it’s a problem which takes a toolbox, not just one tool, and just recently I ran into this fantastic chart presented by Yarra Valley Water which demonstrates this very neatly. It shows YVW’s total Non-Revenue Water and estimated leakage per connection per day over 16 years, with an overlay of the water loss control measures put into use during those years. In percentage terms, that last bar is somewhere under 12% NRW.
This is the fifth post in the “CTO Smart Water Insights” by Haggai Scolnicov, TaKaDu’s CTO.
I didn’t get to beautiful Utrecht to give this talk on SWANonomics at SWAN 2012, as I had intended, although I did get a great substitute to stand in for me.
Rather than talk about TaKaDu, network monitoring, or any of our technology, I wanted to use our few years’ experience in this dynamic part of the water industry to shine a light on some of the more surprising economic aspects of the Smart Water Networks revolution. Data revolutions are funny that way. It’s not just the tired truism that adoption of any technology is an economic process; new data has a way of changing what you know about the real world and your existing processes, and creates real new opportunities to take action differently.
Here are some of the unexpected headlines:
- Good news: smart monitoring drives spending increase on field crews
- Accepting new values discovered to entrenched KPIs goes through the exact 5 stages of grief
- Better leakage reduction means less Ml/day repaired
- The cost of water not lost is just a small part of the value of water loss reduction
By Amir Peleg
Last week, Some of TaKaDu’s employees and I had the pleasure of meeting Israel’s President, Mr. Shimon Peres. We met the president just as he was returning from the World Economic Forum at Davos, where I happened to meet him for the first time, two years ago, when TaKaDu was recognized as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for 2011.
This meeting was at his request: he wanted to learn more about how innovation can solve some of the world’s water problems and the looming water security crisis, recently ranked high by the Global Risk Survey 2013 of the World Economic Forum.
President Peres commented that the water crisis is one of the more imminent global crises facing humanity. We spoke about the fact that over 25% of potable water in the world is lost in the water distribution system as a result of leaks, bursts and other network issues (the professional term is “non-revenue water”). I was impressed by Mr. Peres’s interest in water efficiency and its wide implications, and his excitement about the opportunity to impact global problems through the use of new water technologies.
We presented TaKaDu’s vision of water network monitoring, to reduce water loss and improve operational efficiency by identifying and alerting upon network issues as they occur, through data analytics. I made the point that the issue is not as simple as it seems. The scarcity of water as a resource is not the only issue at hand. The bigger scarcity in the water sector is scarcity of technology innovation. This innovation has the potential of resolving many water sector issues. Israel’s high tech industry can serve as an optimal breeding ground for water technology innovation, since it has the three major requirements needed to foster technology innovation: (1) an entrepreneurial spirit and seasoned entrepreneurs, (2) a high degree of awareness of water issues, and (3) a well-developed venture capital community and government support of R&D efforts. Water innovation can take today’s water networks into the 21st century, solving water scarcity issues by better management of water distribution networks.
Mr. Peres expressed his support and hope that more people, in both industry and academia, will see water innovation as the core theme of the companies they found and the technologies they seek to develop.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report is developed from an annual survey of over 1,000 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society who were asked to review a landscape of 50 global risks.
The global risk that respondents rated most likely to manifest over the next 10 years is severe income disparity, while the risk rated as having the highest impact if it were to manifest is major systemic financial failure. There are also two risks appearing in the top five of both impact and likelihood – chronic fiscal imbalances and water supply crisis. Here is the report’s figure 4 ranking risks by likelihood and impact.
This is the fourth post in the “CTO Smart Water Insights” by Haggai Scolnicov, TaKaDu’s CTO.
I went to Water Loss 2012 in Manila to tell water utilities one simple thing: data already collected under accepted “best practices” is all they need for a dramatic improvement to water loss control. Of course, that’s part of what you get when you deploy TaKaDu, but I wanted to focus on something else.
There are various tools and methodologies out there to use network monitoring data, and they are far from having been created equal. Whilst the data from sensors and other sources does hold the key to water loss control, and the principles as sketched on a conference slide are simple enough, real-world conditions make data analysis the trickiest link in the active leakage control chain. Three murky clouds – typically glossed over in water loss presentations – help to muddy the waters:
- Data quality (the meter values could be wrong)
- Other network events (the event you found may not be a leak)
- Complex utility process (you think there may be a small leak somewhere – what to do now?)
In this presentation (and the more detailed paper), I revisited the “traditional” Active Leakage Control process, highlighting the role of data analysis (manual and automated), revolving around leakage analyst’s work on the 3 “S”es of data analysis Supermen: Sifting, Statistical estimation, and Special knowledge. By boosting this difficult stage, utilities report they achieved significant quantifiable savings throughout the ALC process.
To do this, I listed some guidelines for coping with the 3 big uncertainties of data, network events, and the utility process, starting with detailed knowledge and understanding of these factors, to be addressed by suitable processing. As with many data analytic challenges, these real-world data “technicalities” are, in fact, the main challenge for data-driven ALC.
If you’re a pessimist, my slides are mostly a long list of impediments to active leakage control. If you’re an optimist, they are a collection of opportunities to do it better. If you work at TaKaDu, these slides are just what we have been doing for the past few years, what we’re good at doing, and what we need to keep doing. Have a look also at some of the other great talks and papers from the conference, too.