Ahead of the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit, we spoke to Thouheed Abdul Gaffoor, CEO & Co-Founder at EMAGIN. We asked his opinion on the key trends within the water industry, how EMAGIN is making the future of the water sector a reality and what the sector needs to know about AI.

What key trends have you seen emerge in the water industry over the last 12 months?

One of the major trends that we’ve seen in the last year is a concerted effort to implement innovative digital technologies to improve the overall situational awareness of assets and operations across multiple levels within utilities. Specifically, this has translated to shifting traditionally siloed approaches of how assets are planned, maintained and operated, towards a new TOTEX paradigm of system management and optimisation.

This has been one of exciting ways that EMAGIN has contributed to better water management in the industry. Since we were last at the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit, we have synergised cutting-edge technologies in real-time event detection and process optimisation into our platform and have successfully deployed to utilities and industrial users, beyond our North American and UK footprint. This included users in the Middle East, Latin America, and East Asia. EMAGIN has also expanded vertically within the water sector through city wide deployments from drinking water treatment to wastewater treatment and drinking water distribution networks.

Of course, our global reach and vertical integration wouldn’t be possible without the pull from innovative leaders in utilities and industries. This is the second major trend we’ve seen in the last year – the pull for innovation across the sector and large corporations partnering with or acquiring innovative technology providers to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for enhanced service delivery, resilient processes and low cost operations. We look forward to announcing exciting partnerships and products at the World Water-Tech.

How do you see the future of the water sector and how does EMAGIN work to make it a reality?

The biggest challenge we see is using existing assets efficiently to avert bigger spending. The last decade has been about implementing ways to measure and collect data in plants and throughout networks. Now, the big question is “what to do with the deluge of data?” Most organisations collecting this data are limited by computational power or human resources to analyse it effectively and implement informed changes to their operations.

The water sector is generally adept at looking at historical trends for operational troubleshooting, and some utilities have built robust numerical models to identify why a particular issue occurred. These have been good first steps towards where we want to take the sector.

As a sector, we can move from reactive management to proactive operations efficiency through real-time predictive analytics. We can begin to systematically identify issues before they become costly problems and unlock the full potential of our water and wastewater systems.

Our upcoming product launch couples EMAGIN and our partner’s collective expertise to enable this shared vision of a holistically integrated, predictive and efficient water system. This product builds on years of expertise from both companies to leverage operational understanding with asset performance and help users reduce TOTEX and avert issues that would negatively impact on resources.

What should water sector professionals know about AI?

In general, AI sounds unmanageable because we don’t have a proper definition, however when viewed as a point along a technological evolution, we start to understand that it is an iterative process.

There was a time where spreadsheets unlocked significant efficiencies for water professionals, enabling them to better model processes for detailed design and troubleshooting. This technology made sense at the time, given the relatively limited amount of data that was historically collected and stored.

Similarly, AI represents the next big leap in technology that will enable engineers to design, operate and optimise their processes more intelligently and at-scale. This is why we’ve coined the term “Engineer 2.0” – today’s water engineers must use the latest technologies that have been imported from other sectors and adapt them for the unique challenges of our industry. The outcomes and expectations of AI, like spreadsheets or any other digital technology, must ultimately be managed by humans. AI enhanced human intelligence will enable water facilities to maximise their productivity while reducing their resource requirements.

Thouheed and Mark Kaney, Director of Assessement Management – Europe, Black & Veatch, will present: Engineer 2.0: How Human and Artificial Intelligence can Reshape the Future of Asset Management at 9.45 on Day 2 at the 2019 World Water-Tech Innovation Summit. You will also be able to speak to EMAGIN and Black & Veatch at their exhibition stand at the summit.