The Covid-19 pandemic has placed substantial pressure on water utilities’ ability to continue providing crucial services to customers while working with minimal resources. Post the pandemic, utilities will have to make their supply chains more resilient to future shocks by employing digital solutions to optimise and automate their water management operations. Utilities need to develop a long-term holistic vision of an integrated water resource management system that will serve as a central system of record and a control system for all their assets. They also need to look at implementing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies that help to process data from multiple sources into actionable operational insights on a real-time basis. Utilities can map and monitor their water resources by combining various remote sensing and imaging solutions with geographic information system (GIS) technology. Further, they can obtain accurate insights into the water consumption of end-consumers and improve the accuracy of demand and supply forecasting using smart meter data.
Already, many water utilities are deploying smart solutions to address issues such as unbilled consumption and leak detection. A look at some of the smart water technologies and solutions being offered to water utilities…
Aclara Technologies LLP
Water utilities can mitigate unbilled unmetered consumption, meter inaccuracy and leakages, and reclaim lost water revenues by leveraging advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology. Aclara Technologies’ smart infrastructure solutions can help turn these obstacles into opportunities. As part of its distribution solutions, the AclaraONE (One Network for Everyone) platform provides utility operators and planning experts with insights to properly monitor, manage and regulate distribution grid assets through intuitive dashboards, prioritised alerts and alarms, and proactive analytics. AclaraONE leverages AMI networks to provide communications and visibility to all-electric distribution devices including capacitor banks, reclosers, voltage regulators, customer meters and other intelligent electronic devices. The load control solution manages customers’ loads, operates the grid at optimum efficiency, and rapidly manages and sheds load during peak hours while maximising customer comfort and cost savings. The AclaraONE platform also delivers meter-to-cash operations securely and accurately while providing an insight into a customer’s AMI network’s billed consumption. The meter data management component underlying AclaraONE provides accurate data to the utility billing system through a comprehensive set of industry standard interfaces that connect securely to utility back-office and distribution operations.
Aclara’s Grid Monitoring technology can be used to detect faults in real time, classify different forms of line disruptions, and continuously monitor power quality across all phases of medium-voltage distribution networks. The solution simply interfaces with data historians as well as supervisory control and data acquisition, and order management systems, complementing them by providing detailed data on load, outages and faults, aiding in better understanding of the operation of circuits.
Aclara sensors and analytics enable customers to monitor their water distribution networks and optimise their everyday operations by providing useful, actionable information about their usage. The sensors and analytics alerts give real-time insights into customers’ distribution networks, allowing them to respond to potential problems before they turn into expensive failures. Real water losses on the distribution system are caused by leaks on water mains and at device connections, or by tank overflows. Collecting data from sensors or monitoring points located throughout the distribution system improves the efficacy of AMI solutions. Another important role of a sensor and analytics system is pressure monitoring, whereby it actively monitors distribution networks and collects precise, accurate, and actionable data on the pressure of water. It combats faults quickly using trend mode, which sends pressure readings every six minutes in response to alarms.
As a part of Aclara’s consumer engagement solution, the Aclara Adaptive Consumer Engagement (ACE) platform offers data-driven services such as displaying AMI data, redefining customers’ digital experience, informing users with advanced load disaggregation models, and leveraging alerts to keep customers engaged. Aclara ACE provides a suite of informative notifications designed to keep customers informed about consumption and costs through bill-to-date and monthly bill projections, as well as other time-sensitive touchpoints such as leak detection notifications or consumption threshold alerts. It also engages with customers online, providing them with 24×7 access to billing, consumption and conservation tools through its My Bills, My Usage, and My Savings modules.
Cognizant’s water utility business provides a digital experience for water and wastewater processing utilities to develop new values and improve customer experience in order to provide clean and safe water in a sustainable manner. Water utilities are increasingly resorting to smart asset management solutions to improve equipment reliability and operational efficiencies within ageing infrastructures. Cognizant provides technologies such as GIS, mobility and advanced analytics to its utility clients as a part of its smart asset management solutions, assisting them in improving asset safety, minimising maintenance costs, and preventing water leaks and theft.
Advanced water utilities are implementing digital technologies to improve smart network management, resulting in reduced costs and greater sustainability. The smart technology solutions provided by Cognizant include smart meter infrastructure implementation, roll-out services, operations management, and analytics for network and customer operations. These technologies enable water utilities to detect and prevent leakages, better understand consumption trends based on real-time data, and categorise customers based on variables such as water conservation and billing rate structures.
The water solutions provider offers a comprehensive range of GIS products and services on desktop, web and mobile platforms. GIS functions as an integrating technology, assisting water utilities in achieving a unified view of their asset information, and efficient operation and maintenance, resulting in higher customer satisfaction. The company specialises in various aspects of GIS services including GIS data services, GIS application development and maintenance services, geospatial analytics, and GIS consultancy services. Water utilities can leverage Cognizant’s solutions and frameworks such as the WebGIS framework to accelerate digital transformation.
Increased competition and evolving markets are compelling water utilities to improve customer service while also lowering prices, resulting in strained margins. In many cases, providing outstanding customer service that improves efficiencies and reduces the meter-to-cash cycle is the key to success. Cognizant offers services such as customer account management, billing and invoicing, service order management, and sharing information with customers via smart meters as part of its customer information system and billing solutions, to help achieve greater flexibility, reduce days sales outstanding, and ensure timely financial reporting and reconciliations for improved regulatory compliance. Water utilities are undergoing a huge paradigm shift as a result of shifting regulations and rising customer expectations. Cognizant provides robust customer experience management services that are backed by substantial experience in delivering products and services across multiple channels. UtilityOne Engage and UtilityOne Insights are two of its key customer experience services.
The way ahead
Water utilities are currently at a crucial juncture as they are seeking to upgrade their existing infrastructure to improve the resilience of key operations, better serve their customers and curb water wastage. Governments and policymakers across the globe are also taking a number of short- and long-term steps to increase water security and self-sufficiency in their economies.
Net,net, AI, ML, and other emerging digital technologies have the potential to transform the functioning of water utilities by enhancing day-to-day water management and tackling long-term water security challenges. As water utilities implement digital technologies, it is imperative that they develop a road map for digitalisation while keeping customer and business outcomes as the focal points.