Innovyze’s VP of Innovation, David Fortune, shares the company’s vision of using digital twin technology to empower the water industry.
What key digital trends have you seen emerge in the water industry over the last 12 months?
When you boil it down, the challenges facing the water industry have largely remained the same over decades: delivering effective services, protecting public safety and health security, ensuring a resilient infrastructure, and minimising costs. What has changed is the ability to understand and respond to challenges and deliver desired outcomes, like better operational performance. That is where cheaper data collection, innovative technology and new approaches have helped forward thinking water utilities make significant strides forward.
Over the past 12-24 months specifically, we are seeing the water industry come around to realising that “digital-twins” (virtual models of water supply, wastewater, flood control, networked assets, asset registry, etc.) can and should be at the heart of design, planning and operations. By applying operational data to the digital twin, decision makers gain invaluable insight into what happens to a foul or clean water network or in a catchment when conditions change. When water utilities gain full situational awareness of their assets and operations in near-real-time, we have seen them benefit from more accurate forecasting, prioritising capital planning and optimising operations.
Innovyze’s contribution to innovation in water infrastructure lies in the creation of the meaningful digital twin. We have been working in this area for decades, specifically in the design and simulation of water infrastructure as well as asset management and maintenance by integrating digital twin technology to link infrastructure assets, modelling/simulation, and real-world data streams together.
What are the main considerations for utility and municipality leaders wanting to “harness the digital revolution”?
To support the transformation of the design, planning and management of physical infrastructure, the digital twin needs to be up-to-date, complete, usable, accessible and to give rich, meaningful results. So, the considerations I see coming into play are cost efficiency in building and maintaining digital twins and linking these to real-time data streams (IoT) and also ensuring usability of this platform by engineers, operators, asset managers, financial planners.
Traditional hydraulic models were often built, used once, then discarded. Digital twins need to be maintained in parallel with the infrastructure networks, then they become valuable assets in their own right. That’s the Innovyze approach.
This gives utilities greater awareness of more than just the state of their static networks. It provides insight into likely and actual operational performance in near real-time: insight that drives action by empowering professionals across diverse departments to make better forecasts, prioritise capital planning and optimise operations.
We can do exciting things when we integrate live data into the digital twin paints an even fuller picture that makes a big difference to operational, and even life-saving decisions.
What are the latest major innovations that Innovyze is introducing to water companies?
We recently launched our latest innovation that takes the sharing of infrastructure asset management data to new levels. InfoAsset Online enables utilities to share the status of their water, wastewater and other assets – pipes, pumps, valves, drainage structures and so on – with maintenance crews, contractors, planning departments, regulators and consultants. Even non-specialist users can view, choose, filter and report on historic and current inspections and maintenance as well as the operational status of water and wastewater networks. This will provide utilities with immediate efficiency and productivity benefits. Data and information that was traditionally held separately in data silos becomes immediately available in the office or in the field through an easy-to-use web application. The new product is the latest addition to our asset management solution, InfoAsset, which comprises asset planning, management and mobile tools. Essentially, the data model embodied in InfoAsset Manager is the water network’s digital twin.
How are customers benefitting from your approach?
We firmly believe that technology unleashes innovative thinking. Some of our customers are taking incredibly innovative strides forward and leading the digital revolution in the water industry.
Thames Water (UK) uses Innovyze’s InfoWorks ICM technology to forecast storm and sewer surge events to ensure safety for workers during the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel in London, and to alert operational response to pollution and flooding events.
Our live catchment modelling technology ICMLive is used to inform operators of the ‘Smart Tunnel’ (Malaysia) – the road tunnel that converts to a drain in certain rainfall conditions to protect large parts of Kuala Lumpur from flooding. Our technology not only provided the hydraulic modelling solution for the Smart Tunnel’s design and construction, our live modelling technology models real-time and forecast data to determine when to use the Smart Tunnel for traffic and when to close it to handle floodwater
East Bay Municipal Utility District (California), is using Innovyze’s InfoMaster technology to enable comprehensive asset renewal prioritisation to minimise water infrastructure lifecycle costs, increase levels of service and avoid system failures.
In Australia, Sydney Water, uses Innovyze’s InfoWorks WS technology to efficiently and reliably deliver network optimisation and expansion for timeframes between three months and 50 years. The digital twin simulations ensure assets are commissioned that enable the targeted level of service for the least cost during their lifecycle. In addition to asset planning studies, analytics allow fire flow capability studies that inform development assessments on a daily basis, optimisation of pump schedules and many more operational and forensic tasks.
What’s next for the industry and for Innovyze?
Already, Innovyze technology is used around the world to build reliable hydraulic models, design and manage water networks and provide answers to critical questions about leakage detection, flood risk analysis, and optimal maintenance and rehabilitation planning. This can only gain further momentum and propel us towards new, innovative developments.
We see the water industry increasingly turning to innovation as the catalyst for improving operations. Turning data into information and information into decisions will accelerate improvements in the water industry. This will be powered by increased adoption of water infrastructure asset management, adoption of digital twin technology and analytics of real-world data.
What will you be looking out for at the World Water-Tech London Summit this year?
I will be looking for ideas – ways in which we can further embed digital twin models into everyday water utility network design, planning and operations. In particular in operations, what new cost-effective (big) data sources can we harness? What operational questions do we struggle with now that we can get fresh insight into using models? And how can we use technology better to route information and answers through to water industry professionals wherever they are, whenever they need them?
David Fortune will be speaking at World Water-Tech Innovation Summit on the opening panel of Day 2 Making the Digital Difference: Big Data and the Analytics of Things.