How smart technology is revolutionising the management of water and wastewater across Asia
Smart technology is transforming the water and wastewater management industry across the globe. IIOT and other intelligent technologies such as Edge Computing and real-time data are changing the game and the sector is on course for further disruption. This will mean big business opportunities for leaders in smart technology. Asia especially has always been an early adopter of innovation and now, its movements in this space could redefine its global position, potentially securing it as a top player.
The shift towards embracing smart technology has allowed more insightful data, high interconnectivity between systems and greater intelligence for decision-making. But it has also presented challenges for leaders. How can I adopt and deploy new technologies successfully? How do I collaborate with others in the industry to ensure my business is fully optimised for a higher digital performance? In our SmartWater series, we address this and much more. We start by taking a deeper dive to examine the current state of play of smart technology in water across Asia and what could that mean for the future?
When you think of a smart nation, it is hard to go past Singapore, and this extends to water and waste water management. With a history of innovation in water management, Singapore has been at the forefront of change for several years. The country’s limited space, 5.8 million people, challenges associated with storing rainwater and its vulnerability to flooding as a low-lying island have encouraged Singapore to be creative. This started back in 2000 with the NEWater project which was introduced commercially in 2003. In 2006 Singapore launched the Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters program. The program is a strategic initiative which uses green infrastructure to improve the water quality and harness the full potential of waterbodies.
Singapore continues to showcase a forward-thinking mindset and more recently, has encouraged the used of smart technology into its water management plan. For example, an increasing number of water treatment plants have smart sensors installed at various points in the water system to collect data such as water quality, temperature changes, pressure changes and other kinds of information in places engineers otherwise could not reach. These real-time insights are invaluable, allowing greater productivity and efficiency.
With Singapore continuing to pave the way for the change in the region and set a precedent on multiple fronts, other nations are also showing a great amount of proactivity, especially in recent years.
Another leader in the area of water and wastewater management is South Korea. Through the government owned corporation K-Water, smart solutions for managing limited water resources have been employed to meet increasing demand in cities. K-Water’s technology monitors water levels and acts as a support system for utilities to better match supply to demand. It also uses statistical methods to predict water leakage and prevent water network damage, increasing the accuracy of the overall system.
South Korea has also developed a Hydro Intelligent Toolkit (known as K-HIT) to minimise the negative consequences of the regular water-related disasters it faces, such as extreme flooding and droughts. This ICT-led integrated water management system minimises flood damages by storing more water during the flood season and can prevent droughts by supplying stored water during the dry season.
In Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay, IOT has reduced the amount of water lost due to leaks by using a predictive maintenance system, eliminating the need for time consuming manual checking. Smart technology allows Mandalay’s water engineers to address these and other issues quickly, find a solution, and move on to the next task.
Other countries in Asia have a bit more catching up to do. However, the pace is picking up, with most governments committing at some level to investing in technology.
Smaller organisations are also doing their part in some of these countries, especially where basic clean water is less accessible.
In India, a smart technology start-up, Swajal, is producing clean systems to allow citizens access to affordable drinking water. Swajal created solar-powered, IOT based water purifiers for parts of rural India and urban slums where clean water and reliable electricity supplies aren’t available. In a country where access to clean drinking water is still a challenge for many, using smart technologies to solve such a significant problem is a huge step forward. Since beginning their work in 2014, they have won several awards recognising their innovation and leadership in the space.
Looking ahead to a smart water management future
Governments across Asia have been committing to smart technology over the last few years with high levels of success, working towards becoming true smart cities. And the water and wastewater management industry is no different.
One recent estimate from a global consultancy has predicted that we will see over 80 smart cities globally in the next five years, with APAC nations accounting for almost half of those. As the world looks to smart technology and innovation to tackle the issues of urbanisation, Asia will have a key role in ensuring a better future. Leaders from across the world will be looking to make investments in supporting the region and there will be great opportunities for leaders to drive collaboration and partnerships in Asia, especially in the water management sector that is beginning to see increased commitment and backing.
If leaders in the Asian region want to become top players in the digital transformation space while also solving one of the biggest threats to humanity, making use of smart technology in water management is surely the answer the world is waiting for. Don’ risk getting left behind.
Stratus is participating in the digital transformation dialogue on smart technologies at the up and coming Aveva World Summit in Singapore between the 16-18 Sep 2019, and then in October at the Malaysian International Water Convention with our partner Schneider. We look forward to sharing insights from both of these international events in the next few articles in our SmartWater Series.
SmartWater: 4 ways leaders are using smart technology to address the world’s water challenges
Wherever there is human life, there are water challenges. Asia is a diverse region, in terms of economic development, population size and density, and infrastructure capabilities, yet leaders in this region face the same fundamental challenge: the most efficient management of Earth’s most precious natural resource in an era with increasing human and environmental demands.
In the second of our three-part #SmartWater series, we look at challenges and opportunities in the water and wastewater management sector and how leaders can meet these using smart technology.
Singapore and South Korea lead the way
In our last blog, we looked at some of the water challenges faced by Asia, and how leveraging smart technologies presents leaders with an opportunity to become global pioneers in the field of water management. Singapore and South Korea are already leading the way when it comes to using smart technology in this critically important sector. These nations have adopted innovative practices to great effect, making the most of technologies such as IOT, Edge Computing and Real-Time Data.
While South Korean and Singaporean leaders have made great progress in water innovation through smart technology, the greater region has lots of catching up to do to face both current and (increasingly complex) future water challenges.
Issues and challenges in water management
Industrial water pollution is a challenge across the world, but particularly in developing countries.
China has seen a massive spike in cancer rates in villages across the country, deemed the cancer village phenomenon. Additionally, tens of thousands of fish recently died in Vietnam due to a toxic spill from a steel factory. The United Nation estimates that the fossil fuel sector alone contaminates up to 18 billion cubic metres of freshwater resources annually.
The manufacturing, agriculture, and shipping sectors compound this problem further, particularly in developing countries: the UN estimates that as much as 70% of industrial wastewater is dumped untreated into waterways in the developing world, a figure which Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates as 80% for the Asia Pacific region. Industrial water pollution is likely to only increase, as the region experiences rapid population and economic growth, leading to further pressures on the environment.
Not only will this have dire consequences for the region’s citizens and communities, but industrial firms also risk financial and reputational damage in the form of consumer backlash and government fines. However, proper water management can also benefit companies in terms both of cost efficiency and social license to operate.
The geography and climate of Asia makes the countries in this region particularly vulnerable to floods, posing another set of challenges for organisations involved in water management. In 2014 and 2015, the north-east monsoon caused serious floods, afflicting Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Sri Lanka, and displacing millions. These floods also contaminated potable water, leading to dangerous and even fatal water-borne diseases: every year, more than 340,600 children under five die globally from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene or unsafe drinking water.
Disaster-related losses in 2016 totalled $87 billion in Asia; a quarter of these losses were caused by flooding. Additionally, Asia has incurred half of the estimated global economic cost of water-related disasters over the last two decades.
The impact of global warming and climate change pose another water management challenge. Changes in temperature, evaporation and precipitation will impact Asia’s water resources, such as river flows. Climate change has already increased the frequency of floods and drought. Many hundreds of millions of people live in Asian cities and countries which are situated in low-lying geographical locations and will be adversely affected by the expected rise of sea levels. Climate change poses new challenges to water management in Asia.
All the while, the demand for water continues to grow
The need for water is on the rise globally. Developed nations in the region, such as Japan and Singapore, have effectively reduced their per-capita water usage, but demand is nonetheless expected to increase across the region. Some estimates predict that water demand will increase by 50 per cent by 2050, leaving 3.4 billion people in the region facing water insecurity. Reducing this figure to 0% by 2030 as per the UN’s stated targets is likely to be a difficult challenge, particularly considering the rapid increase in Asia’s urban population (expected to reach 60% by 2050) and the inadequate urban infrastructure across much of Asia.
A further challenge is the speedy, unsustainable depletion of water in Asia. The Asian Development Bank finds that almost half of the 15 biggest extractors of groundwater globally are in Asia, with India, China and Pakistan accounting for 86 per cent of total Asian groundwater extraction. A complete depletion of groundwater would be inevitable if this status quo continues, with terrible consequences for human consumption and food production alike.
The answer: smart technology. How it is helping leaders solve problems.
Up until recently, engineers and technicians responsible for managing water and wastewater systems faced many complex challenges: maintenance and checking of facilities was often manual, labour-intensive and subject to unforeseen faults and failures. This led to the management of water being an arduous, laborious and largely inefficient process.
But with the rise of smart technology has come a game-changing, innovative shift in water management practices. The good news is that smart technology is helping to deliver solutions to water challenges.
Here are four examples of how leaders are using smart technology to tackle water challenges:
- Water quality Safe drinking water is something that many of us take for granted, but billions of people worldwide simply don’t have access to potable water. In India, many workers live in unofficial slums; their only access to water comes from polluted wells. An Indian start-up called Swajal Water has taken on the challenge posed by this humanitarian tragedy, devising a way to use smart technology for IOT-based, solar-powered clean drinking water dispensers.
- Loss through leakage Water brought to many cities is wasted by leaky pipes, at great cost: 20% in the average city and an astonishing 60% in Istanbul. 30% of Ho Chi Minh City’s freshwater supply has historically been lost to leaks and other infrastructure problems. Intelligent water management solutions have been implemented in several cities around the world, automatically adjusting water flow via remote sensors, thus reducing excessive pressure in the water pipes. This limits water leakages and losses, minimising waste, cost and energy use.
- Pollution prevention A non-sovereign project in China was supported with a comprehensive lake and river pollution prevention and rehabilitation program involving multiple environmental interlocking facilities and services. This included IOT-powered real-time river flow forecasting, drone technology for improved irrigation, solar-powered pumps, and equipment that generates water from the air.
- Climate change Digitalisation can be leveraged to develop cities’ reactions to extreme climate change events. Water solution providers can generate real-life simulations of a problem and its proposed approach before construction, testing and optimising various approaches. Through IOT, advanced real-time data collection and sensors, water networks can access information that allows them to operate in a more predictive manner, reducing downtime and avoiding serious environmental consequences.
Time to step up and invest
Now is the time for leaders to step up and invest in smart technology to address the world’s water and wastewater management challenges. Leaders can set an example and establish global best-practice by meeting Asia’s water management needs. This can only be done through effective, dedicated leadership and investment in smart technologies such as IOT, Edge Computing and Real-Time Data.
Follow the conversation about #SmartWater here.
Invest now in the future of #SmartWater
Industry leaders are increasingly using the innovation of smart technology to enhance their efforts in water and wastewater management, seeing incredible outcomes as a result. Countries such as Singapore and South Korea lead the way in setting the pace for the future of the sector, employing solutions like Edge Computing, IOT and Real-Time data analytics to measure, understand and optimise usage of the world’s most valuable asset: water. However, the rest of the region must catch-up and reinvent current practices to future-proof their water management solutions.
In the last of our three-part series, we explore why it is important for the rest of the world to investigate the opportunities posed by smart water.
Albert Tam (Lead Solutions Architect at Stratus Technologies) spoke to us about current happenings in the sector and the opportunities he sees: “It is time for a refresh of existing infrastructure and technology. Leaders are starting to look to more Cloud and Edge solutions. But the question is how are they going to shift their mindsets and address current systems to make full use of the innovation available?”
The paradigm shift is happening now: a gap is opening for global leaders to bring their smart solutions to market, offering Asia the innovation it needs to revolutionise the sector.
Albert highlights that within the water sector, the urgency to innovate is pressing because “water is a critical part of the public infrastructure and demands a very high up-time. So, it’s essential that the leaders in the water and wastewater industry ensure infrastructure, at its very core, is future-proof. It really isn’t there yet.”
There are three key areas underpinning any nation’s water system which need to be taken into account:
- Providing clean water for commercial use. Water usage varies across different countries and regions. For example, the non-domestic sector in Singapore uses about 55% of its current water supply, which is projected to increase to 70% by 2060. Additionally, Singapore’s per capita household water consumption is currently around 143 litres per day.
- Water management in city infrastructure. Depending on the location, water management data centres can be subject to flood risk, temperature extremes, and earthquakes. In remote or detached treatment facilities, technology elements need to run as hands-free as possible. Spreading data sites out geographically can allow operations to switch to another location without a moment’s outage.
- Sustainable management of water in agriculture. Good management is critical to increase agricultural production, reduce water pollution from agriculture, and ensure water can be shared with other users while maintaining the environmental and social benefits of water systems. Governments need to improve water management systems to improve water resource use efficiency and manage pollution. As you can see, the sector deals with large and complex issues, with many individual components that require always-on technology.
Albert elaborates on the smart water trend: “We’re talking about an industry that traditionally has relied solely on PLC devices – they’re designed to do just one thing, turn something on or off based on an input. Now, faced with powerful instruments that can process much larger amounts of data, they really have to find ways to equip themselves with the right processes to make full use of these.”
The key to innovation is in partnerships
To help the water sector in Asia get to where it needs to be, global leaders can offer much in the way of tools through strategic partnerships. The main goal is to help the region’s water management systems achieve the ideal of “always-on” in both functionality and data.
This is an area where Stratus actively partners with companies and government authorities to help develop a competitive edge through reliability, simplicity and overall cost-effectiveness.
Shanghai Disney Resort, the newest and largest Disney theme park in Asia, takes no chances. Disney’s critical water system is run on Stratus’ continuous availability solutions. Stratus built the core infrastructure of Shanghai Disney Resort’s water treatment system on the innovation of Stratus ftServer. Intelligent, self-healing ftServer prevents unplanned downtime, so the park’s critical systems run continuously with no data loss.
Mr. Pang, Shanghai Disney Resort’s chief engineer, explains, “We can count on the Stratus ftServer solution to eliminate single points of technical failure, so this critical system runs continuously—without unscheduled interruptions.” This translates to low total cost of ownership and high return on investment. For Shanghai Disney Resort, that return is best demonstrated by the delight and safety of tens of thousands of visitors that enjoy its vast facility every day.
Another key partnership is Hangzhou Jiuxi Water Plant, in China’s Zhejiang Province. The water plant deployed the ftServer system in August 2017 and has realised significant operational efficiency gains. The platform’s seamless virtualisation support has enabled the company to improve system infrastructure, reduce energy consumption, ensure minimal downtime and network disruption, and save valuable space within its control centre. The ftServer has also increased SCADA application performance, reliability, and data stability. This has allowed our client to remain on the edge, while acting as a backbone to ensuring safe and reliable water to Zhejiang’s citizens.
The opportunity is there for global leaders to make similar strong partnerships within the region.
Moving forward, when exploring the future of water and wastewater management systems in Asia, leaders should consider Asia’s growing population and its requirement for future-proofing systems with “always-on” solutions. Although Singapore and South Korea set a high standard, other countries are yet to develop suitable infrastructure. With increased demand, global leaders will only benefit from bringing their solutions to the region and investing in the future of the sector.
The question is: how confident are you with your edge computing solutions for the future of water and wastewater management?
Make sure you are edge ready and don’t get left behind.