Ready for future communications?
Is your water network ready for future communications?
From network monitoring and leakage detection to smart meters, mobile networks play an integral role in data connectivity and collection within the UK water industry.
Through the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, these networks enable the collection and transmission of data from various measuring instruments and transducers within the water network, enabling the ability to provide real-time monitoring, control and management capabilities. All vital for optimised network operation and achieving confidence in water.
As an industry, we need to ensure we are ready to welcome the next generation of communications, or risk being left behind. With the ever-changing landscape across various network providers, we hope to provide guidance and insight through the following summary to prepare customers as they enter the strategic planning and investment processes for the coming years, with particular emphasis on OFWAT’s price review planning.
We hope you find this a useful read as many Internet of Things (IoT) device fleets have either reached or are approaching their end-of-life window.
Are you ready for 4G LTE-M?
UK mobile network providers currently use four different ‘generations’ of mobile technology: 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G (though 5G is not yet used for water industry sensors) [ref. 1].
However, this situation is currently changing, with the sunset of 3G networks in the UK so that their frequencies can be re-used to provide 4G and 5G services:
● Vodafone started its switch off in 2023 [ref. 2]
● EE plans to start its switch off in early 2024 [ref. 3]
● Three expects to switch off by the end of 2024 [ref. 4]
● O2 has not yet announced any switch off plans
Support for 2G is being retained for now, though the UK mobile network providers have indicated that they do not plan to offer 2G services beyond 2033 [ref. 5].
Why choose 4G LTE-M and what is it?
The 4G mobile networks primarily serve the needs of today’s mobile phone users and the data-hungry applications they use. But their needs differ from those of IoT devices such as the sensors used by the water industry, which require only modest data bandwidth but ultra-low power consumption to provide five-year battery life.
Hence two variants of 4G exist to specifically cater to IoT devices:
● 4G Category M1 or “LTE-M”
● 4G Category NB1 or “NB-IoT”
In the UK these two technologies are competing; O2 are deploying support for LTE-M [ref. 6], whilst Vodafone are deploying support for Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) [ref. 7]. EE and Three have not yet deployed or committed their support of either.
What is LTE Cat-M1?
LTE Cat-M1 is a Low-Power, Wide-Area Network (LP-WAN) designed specifically for purpose-built devices, like trackers or water meters, that transmit medium amounts of data over wide ranges. LTE Cat-M1 is a category of 4G long-term evolution (LTE) technology for machines (M). LTE-M is an abbreviated name for LTE Cat-M1.
What is 4G Category NB1 or “NB-IoT”?
This is also known as Narrowband Internet of Things and is a Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LP-WAN) technology that has been developed to enable a wide range of devices to be connected to the internet using existing mobile networks. It is a low power, narrowband technology that can support small amounts of 2-way data transmission.
At Inflowmatix Ltd (a SUEZ owned company), the strategic decision to use 4G LTE-M rather than NB-IoT for our InflowSense™ high frequency (128 samples per second) pressure monitoring devices has been made due to its superior suitability for high-frequency measurements, as shown below.
Exhibit 1 – Suitability Overview
|Suitable for high-frequency pressure measurement (128 Hz)||Yes||No|
|Suitable for low-frequency pressure measurement (15 minute)||Yes||Yes|
|Excellent efficiency and power consumption||Yes||Yes|
|Data rate [ref. 8]||Up to 1 Mbit/s||Up to 66 kbits/s|
|Daily data allowance||Megabytes||Kilobytes|
|UK network provider||O2 [ref. 6]||Vodafone [ref. 7]|
Exhibit 2 – Current UK 4G LTE-M Coverage
Our InflowSense™ devices will continue to support 2G as a fallback for locations where LTE-M is not yet available.
With access to this real-time data, we aim to support our customers by reducing leakage and supply interruptions for their end customers and bring them closer to the industry ambition of a 50% reduction by 2050.
Why water companies should act now
As customers consider their future IoT fleet requirements to optimise investment as part of their digital journey, clear consideration should be made to align with future mobile network changes.
The impacts of not doing so (i.e. relying on 2G fallback as 3G is retired with no future 4G capability) will lead to higher operational expenditure through poor mobile network connectivity and loss of coverage in certain areas in addition to a higher rate of battery usage.
1. OFCOM, Switching off the UK’s 3G mobile networks: what you need to know:
2. Vodafone, 3G switch-off:
3. EE, We’re Switching Off Our 3G Network:
4. Three, Our plans to switch off 3G:
5. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, A joint statement on the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks and public ambition for Open RAN rollout as part of the Telecoms Supply Chain Diversification Strategy:
6. O2, LTE-M Coverage:
7. Vodafone, Vodafone expands IoT coverage to 98% as customer demands continue to grow:
8. Wikipedia, Narrowband IoT
“Our Data isn’t good enough to use for analysis, garbage in, garbage out”. Or more eloquently put:
“’Pray, Mr Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”Charles Babbage (invented the principle of the analytical engine).
Of course, we wouldn’t argue with Mr Babbage. However, phrases like this applied incorrectly can lead water network operators to misconceptions about what level of data is required to provide benefits from analytics and network modelling. I’ll let Mr Babbage clarify himself…
“Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.”Also, Charles Babbage.
Better Water Network and Asset Performance
In reality, asset and water network modelling, management and control should be measured not only by the performance in relation to the optimum performance but also compared with the performance you would have had without using any data at all. Even working without ‘great’ data, modelling, management and control performance with ‘some’ data will most likely be better than not doing it at all. Start with better, work your way towards great.
If your water network data really is that inadequate that it can only lead to worse performance, then have a strategy for using your data that includes improving it. Make plans that have a number of milestones along the way. The point at which your data will become useful may be much earlier in your plan than you think!
Service Solutions for Water Network Modelling and Control
If you already have a strategy but it isn’t working, then do something different. Have you considered Data as a Service (DaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) approaches? Consider what outcome you are trying to achieve and pay for that outcome, without having to do half of the job yourself.
At SUEZ, we are able to provide tailored solutions to the water industry for; network data collections and collation, presentation and analytics, hydraulic model creation and model maintenance, and optimisation of network planning and control. We can use the data and models that you have (even if it’s not perfect) and help you to make significant progress, using the most advanced analytical engines available. We can also help you to improve the data you have, by providing DaaS; while also providing the key insights that actually help you make better decisions. And we can help you to use all of those insights by automating water network modelling and control.
Don’t let your data hold you back, use it to progress!
The water industry has talked a great deal about moving away from the ‘sawtooth’ model to leakage that is driven by a reactive approach to Active Leakage Control (ALC), with the help of permanent monitoring. But why is this limited to acoustic monitoring? The industry must also shift away from the sawtooth approach to network hydraulic models, which are used to measure, understand and manage network and asset performance.
How often does your utility update hydraulic network models?
The general number is every 5 years. How useful is that static model that doesn’t adapt as your network changes? In reality, model calibration often happens far less frequently. Outdated models, whilst better than nothing, are not as useful as they could be. They tell us what ‘used to’ happen in the water network, not what ‘is’ happening in the network.
So, how soon does a static model become outdated and need some TLC?
The answer is… whenever something changes. Valves are operated more than you are aware and probably more than you’d like! They are also often not put back the way you modelled them. Pressure control assets are sometimes changed without updating the model and control assets can start to behave unexpectedly when they require maintenance.
Over a 5 year period, these and many other variables change; new developments, large users coming and going, commissioning or decommissioning control assets, pipe replacement (if you’re not in the UK), fixing long-running leaks and more. These all affect the accuracy of your network model and your ability to make accurate and timely tactical and strategic decisions
As a modeller, being asked questions that require checking and updating the model can be a time consuming and manual task to figure out what’s changed and to make the updates needed.
Wouldn’t using models to make active decisions, plan and make changes to networks be more efficient and effective if the models were calibrated and maintained for when you need them? Let us know your thoughts.
What can be used to look after your model?
With this in mind, Inflowmatix have developed a data agnostic network modelling ‘service’ that automates and maintains the calibration of network models in near real-time, reducing cost and time, whilst making outcomes a deterministic process, moving away from the trial-and-error approach to calibration. The service maintains the accuracy of network models using live data and lets you know as changes arise over time, so what’s actually going on in your network based on the data. The ‘sawtooth’ effect becomes a smooth line, with consistently useful network models.
Furthermore, arboricity™ provides a richer insight into your network operation through data-driven algorithms and mathematical solvers to identify anomalous network behaviour such as leaks, bursts, throttled or closed valves in order to highlight changes or problems for faster resolution by network operations and field teams. When you’re confident of how your network is operating from the near real-time data, arboricity™ can update the model using the latest pressure, flow and elevation data points from sensors in the network.
With arboricity™, you can look after your model and your model will look after you!
SUEZ Commitments & Energy Solutions
1. The Global Stage, COP27 – CO2 Emissions
With climate change at the centre of the world stage, where are we currently and what commitments are we working towards to change our global direction of travel?
It is estimated the remaining carbon budget to keep warming below 1.5°c will be gone in nine years if emissions remain at current levels.
Global CO2 concentrations set a new record of 417.2 parts per million (ppm), up 2.5ppm from 2021 levels. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are now 51% above pre-industrial levels.
It is estimated global carbon emissions from non-revenue water (NRW) to be 187 million metric tons CO2 per year.
Exhibit 1 – Visualising the Global Trend
Exhibit 2 – GHG overview, driving the need
What are the vision and goals, therefore, from the recently held COP27 summit held at the Sharm el Sheikh Climate Change Conference in November 2022?
Exhibit 3 – Goals & Vision
From a global company and water/wastewater sector viewpoint, what role can we play in this reduction?
2. SUEZ Group – sustainability goals for 2027 and beyond
2.1. Playing our part in this global challenge – 24 commitments, 43 performance indicators across 3 pillars
In January, Sabrina Soussan (Chairperson/CEO SUEZ Group) announced our ambitious plans at a Group level covering, 1) Climate, 2) Conservation & Biodiversity and 3) Social Responsibility.
Focusing on Climate, we aim to contribute to decarbonising energy by:
Increasing the proportion of renewable energy as a share of the Group’s total consumption, to 70% worldwide and 100% in Europe by 2030, compared to the current average of 24%, by harnessing its own power generation capacities and new renewable energy supply contracts (solar and wind power).
Increasing electricity generation on the Group’s sites with the ambitious target of becoming self-sufficient for electricity in 2023 in Europe, and remaining as such throughout the plan.
Contributing to communities’ low-carbon transition by enabling communities to benefit from locally sourced and renewable energy generated by the Group’s waste management activities and by reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by its energy consumption.
Reduce the GHG emissions from its own activities and from the sites that the Group operated on behalf of its clients:
- Cut the emissions of its Water activities by 40% by 2030 by improving the operational and energy efficiency of its operational process.
- Cut the emissions of its Waste activities by 25% by 2030 (excluding energy from waste).
- Improve, through innovation, the environmental performances of its energy from waste activities. The Group will invest an extra 40 million euros in its R&D programme dedicated to carbon capture and storage (CCS).
- Lastly, adapt the most exposed sites to the consequences of climate change. The Group undertakes coverage of 100% of its high-priority and vulnerable sites between now and 2027 through an established and funded action plan.
Is your company playing its part too? If so, how and what?
3. Optimising Energy Usage – Reducing Non Revenue Water (NRW)
Global events are driving the price of electricity/kWh ever higher as we decarbonise from fossil fuels. Additionally, there are specific significant cost drivers within the water/waste sector of people, chemicals and energy. How do we approach the trilemma of this challenge?
1. energy optimisation/tariff
2. burst/leakage reduction
3. network optimisation for control
3.1. Introducing SUEZ AQUADVANCED® Energy
AQUADVANCED® Energy is a proven real-time optimisation system for water distribution networks, reducing energy costs while maximising operational performance, water quality and energy efficiency, which leads to an improved environmental footprint. The system uses the available network data to calculate and implement optimised operating schedules for water production and distribution from raw water sources to end pressure zones.
Additionally, AQUADVANCED® Energy is now integrating with:
• InflowSense™ ‘Edge’– high-frequency pressure monitoring devices for burst/leakage reduction, using our Cumulative Pressure Induces Stress (CPIS™), ‘event’ source localisation (to the nearest measured asset) and self-learning anomalous detection algorithms to ensure network calming post-pump optimisation
• arboricity™ – near real-time network modelling ‘service’, to calibrate and maintain optimal network models providing changes in network operation to the OEM network modelling package
Case study – Boise, Idaho – Reducing costs and increasing reliability
Serving over 240,000 people in Idaho’s capital city, Boise is supplied by 2 surface water treatment plants and 80 groundwater wells and 59 million m3 to 97 pressure zones via more than 1,250 miles of piping.
As times change, achieving the lowest possible carbon footprint and delivering water to customers in the most sustainable way possible is important. The possibility of doing that, while at the same time lowering our overall operating overhead, could not be ignored – even if it required challenging the clients’ traditional methods of operation.
The Boise water network implementation presented some special challenges to the SUEZ team. With many pressure zones and options for supplying water into the network, there were difficult hydraulic considerations and many disparate potential solutions.
Efficient operation of the network through understanding the hydraulic interactions within the network was key to cost reduction.
By managing supply across the different sources spread throughout the network, AQUADVANCED® Energy was able to supply the same volume for 7% less energy. Together with savings from shifting electric load scheduling under new TOU rates from Idaho Power, cost savings of over 10% were achieved.
AQUADVANCED® Energy analysed the full Idaho network simultaneously to identify the globally optimal operating schedule. Synchronised operation of assets to improve hydraulic efficiency allowed the more efficient transfer of water to customers. Using this technique AQUADVANCED® Energy has reduced Boise’s total electrical usage by 7%, $233,000 per annum.
A key part of optimising the hydraulic performance was transferring volumes of water across the many different pressure zones. Hydraulic benefits could be found by synchronising operations in neighbouring zones to move water across the network with lowered hydraulic resistance.
Other advantages seen within the network were improved operational consistency and knowledge retention, simulated contingency planning for improved resilience, coordinated maintenance scheduling, improved tank cycling for enhanced water quality and reduced leakage.
Client Testimonial – Marshall Thompson, Director of Operations
“We were impressed by the knowledge and professionalism of the SUEZ Smart Solutions (3S) team involved with the project. The well-planned and structured processes followed by 3S ensured the project was delivered with a high level of certainty and transferred to SUEZ seamlessly”.
Every single day in the UK, over 3 billion litres of perfectly good clean water is being wasted. That’s enough to fill 1,200 Olympic sized swimming pools. It’s estimated that this equates to roughly 25% of the UK’s daily water consumption.
Despite the stories we may tell our children, the majority of this wastage comes from leakages from pipes within water networks, and not from leaving the tap on whilst brushing our teeth or having a bath. Although every drop we can save does of course make a monumental difference.
So how is this happening? And more importantly, what can water companies do to prevent this? In this feature, we’ll explore all these questions in an effort to understand the complexities of our water networks.
What exactly is a leakage and how is it classified?
When referring to leaked water, we are talking about any treated water (i.e. cleaned) that is lost from the water network’s distribution systems and supply pipe losses from consumers’ pipes.
Essentially it is any treated water that a water company is unable to account for as having been used by someone. This can be broken down into two sources:
- ‘True’ or ‘Real’ losses, includes any water that is lost from a network’s pipes into the ground. For the average water company, a pipe network consists of mains (which move water around their supply area), communication pipes (which supply water to a property from the main) and other fittings, such as stop taps and valves, which allow them to control the flow of water.
- ‘Apparent’ losses refers to any water use of which a water company isn’t aware, such as illegal tapping, higher-than-estimated use by households and businesses that don’t have a meter, inaccurate metering and any data-handling errors.
What causes these leaks?
There are many factors that affect ‘true’ leakage, but the main ones are:
- Operational strategies, i.e. pressure management
- Network characteristics, i.e. length of mains
- Asset condition, i.e. age or natural wear and tear caused by pipe corrosion, ground movement, repeated stresses such as weight of traffic on roads above
- Changes in season and weather, i.e. in colder winter months it’s common to see an increase in pipes shrinking, causing disruption to the joints and increasing leakage. On the flip side, in hotter summer months, long dry periods can cause the earth to shrink, causing further movement of the pipes it usually supports and subsequent bursts.
- Customer base composition, i.e. rural or urban
Who estimates the amount of this wasted water?
Each water company is responsible for estimating their own water leakage and reporting it to Ofwat. They do this by comparing the measured volume of water that they recorded as being entered into supply, against the volume they estimate is being used. The difference between these two values is then recorded as leakage. Nearly all companies measure leakage in millions of litres per day (Ml/d).
What are the benefits of reducing water leakages and wastage?
Ofwat has set water companies ‘stretching performance commitments’ to reduce leakage over the period between 2020-25. By achieving these commitments, the sector aims to cut leakage by 16% by 2025. This reduction would save enough water to meet the needs of every person living in Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield and Liverpool combined.
Rather than looking at the negative consequences of water leakages, we prefer to look at the wider positive impact that prevention and reduction can have:
- Reduced abstraction and therefore environmental improvement
- Increase in the planet’s drinkable water resources
- Reduced operating costs for water networks
- Reduced fines for water networks
- Increased reliability of water supplies
- Deferment of capital expenditure on water resources and supply schemes
- Improvement in the public’s opinion of water companies
- Reduced energy and chemicals for treatment and pumping which will reduce carbon emissions
- Reduced infrastructure damage, i.e. weakened road foundations
- Reduced flow and headloss, facilitating pressure to be stabilised and optimised
What measures can be taken to mitigate this wastage?
One of the main recommendations highlighted by Ofwat is for water networks to adopt more innovative approaches to deliver these reductions efficiently. When utilised properly, technology and data should successfully aid and enable across these four core areas:
Identify anomalous behaviour in a network before they lead to performance issues and mitigate the causes to achieve ‘calm network’ operation
The ability to understand and have awareness of weaknesses in a network, allowing action to be taken immediately
The ability to identify and locate weaknesses, enabling specific action to be taken without disrupting huge parts of a network
Tailored outcomes and actionable data in order to solve the problems that have been identified
There are many factors at play when looking to achieve a calmer network and reduce water leakage.
Utilising arboricity™, our near realtime hydraulic network modelling service, allows higher level automated analytical services to be brought online which are cognisant of the hydraulics of the network and therefore not ignored, increasing confidence in operational decision making and providing actionable insights.
High frequency technology InflowSys™, is also able to capture and localise significant pressure events within a network using leading edge analytics.
Inflowmatix were delighted to win The Institute of Water’s (IOW) Northern Area Award at The National Innovation Awards 2020, as well as being shortlisted for the National Award.
Whilst the IOW provides a stage on which to recognise Innovation in the UK water and sewerage sector, their National Innovation Awards gives a much needed spotlight for the many innovative individuals and companies. The awards recognise excellence within the water sector and are just part of the commitment the IOW is making to promote the right cultural environment and to encourage pride in the sector.
Inflowmatix were recognised for their products and services that enable water networks to monitor, understand and optimise the performance of their distribution networks through high resolution hydraulic monitoring solutions and insights. This allows networks to source, prevent and resolve issues such as leakages and supply interruption.
After receiving the award, Inflowmatix CEO, Dr Mike Williams, said “We are honoured to be recognised by such a prestigious platform for our work in the water sector, and this award will only spur us on to continue to work collaboratively with the networks, providing groundbreaking solutions to help optimise their performance.”
Sam Bright, Innovation Programme Manager, from the IOW commented, “It feels like every year we compliment the standard of the applications but truly this year’s cohort has been exceptional, which is a great sign of the Innovation culture blossoming in our area right now and I want to thank you for your part in contributing towards that.”
The Award is normally presented at the President’s Dinner during a prestigious ceremony where water sector experts from across the UK gather together, however, unfortunately due to the pandemic, the ceremony was not able to take place in person this year.
SUEZ Group announces the acquisition of Inflowmatix Ltd. This acquisition will enrich the Group’s range of digital solutions with a unique offering to ensure the performance and resilience of water distribution networks. It will reinforce SUEZ’s position as a leading technology provider for water utilities worldwide through its Smart & Environmental Solutions Business Unit.
Founded in 2015 as a spin-out from Imperial College London, Inflowmatix is the leader in the acquisition of high-frequency pressure data and associated edge analytics to support near real-time operational and asset management decisions for water utilities worldwide. The company has deep expertise and R&D capabilities in mathematical optimization, data science and hydraulic engineering applied to complex water supply networks. It offers the InflowSysTM suite, a combination of high frequency pressure monitoring devices and an enhanced data management platform, to enable water utilities to continuously monitor, analyze and optimize the performance of their water distribution networks and critical assets. Inflowmatix also developed arboricityTM, an integrated real-time network modelling and monitoring service to help water operators secure the management of their distribution systems while reducing leakage and disruptive pipeline bursts.
Inflowmatix has a broad and engaged customer base in the UK, France, Italy and Australia/NZ. The SUEZ Group’s channels to market will accelerate growth. Inflowmatix’s offerings complement and are already integrated with key SUEZ offerings such as Calm NetworkTM and AquadvancedTM suite. SUEZ became an Inflowmatix shareholder through a SUEZ Ventures investment in 2019. Parkwalk, the specialist investor in UK university spin-outs, and IP Group plc provided initial seed and follow-on funding. “This deal is an excellent example of how value can be created out of commercialising university IP”, said Alun Williams, Investment Director at Parkwalk. “I am convinced that this partnership with SUEZ will drive continued success”. Kelsey Lynn Skinner, Partner at IP Group, agrees: “This is a world-class innovative team driving change in a key industry, and we welcome this next chapter – to global scale.”
After several years of collaboration, Inflowmatix and SUEZ have been able to offer innovative solutions to our clients thanks to their complementary expertise. This acquisition, announced a few weeks after the creation of a joint venture with Schneider Electric to support the digital transformation of water operators, will allow us to offer a greater range of smart water solutions and to reinforce our position as a leading player in the fast-growing water pressure management market.”Diane Galbe
Group SEVP – Smart & Environmental Solutions BU and Strategy
The Inflowmatix journey started in 2015 and over the last 5 years the company has grown its technology based solutions and deployed them extensively in the UK and around the world. Inflowmatix contributed to the ‘Our Water: Our Future’ a news and current affairs style series by ITN Productions and the Institute of Water. Featured at the Institute of Water virtual conference, 15th October 2020. This video produced in conjunction with the Institute of Water and ITN Productions gives an insight into how Inflowmatix and its ground breaking solutions fundamentally change the behaviour of water networks.
Inflowmatix appoint a new distributor for Australia and New Zealand
Inflowmatix is delighted to announce their new partnership with Detection Services Ltd as sole distributor of the InflowSys™ Edge product range covering both Australia and New Zealand.
As demand for greater network insight, integration and network optimisation continues to increase, so does the need for effective technologies and advanced analytics solutions that provide unique insights into network dynamics. Inflowmatix, through the use of the InflowSys™ analytics platform combined with high frequency InflowSense™ Edge pressure measurement devices enables this journey through a scalable, secure and accurate set of solutions.
The platform provides water utilities with deeper insights to better understand the dynamic behaviour and the performance of their water networks in order to enhance asset life, mitigate supply interruptions and thus provide confidence in a client’s network.
Detection Services, General Manager, Chris Evans said: “This partnership not only increases the Detection Services offering, by adding the Inflowmatix expertise for data and insight driven strategy, it extends the commitment to our customers to deliver them the latest innovative solutions and technologies.”
Robin Bell, COO at Inflowmatix said: “We are excited to be working with Detection Services to introduce the InflowSys™ Edge technology throughout the regions of Australia and New Zealand. The Team at Detection Services have a deep understanding of the effects of dynamic pressure behaviour on critical network assets and their added value approaches combined with the Inflowmatix product range are already helping customers implement proactive solutions.
Giving customers confidence in their water networks.
To add to the challenges of water scarcity and aging infrastructure, the water industry is now tasked with achieving a 16% reduction in leakage by 2025. HELEN COMPSON speaks to one company who are challenging conventional approaches and are already helping utilities meet the target.
Inflowmatix is that rare beast, a company capable of developing, manufacturing and effectively integrating advanced monitoring technologies, with modelling and optimisation applications as a core part of their offering.
Thanks to the supreme quality of the data collected by its InflowSys™ Edge system – and indeed the size of the resultant databank – Inflowmatix has a unique advantage in being able to apply its patented algorithms and analyses to tackling leakage, supply interruptions, asset management and water quality.
Now, hot off the presses, the company has a new, expanded package that builds on the strengths of its already established InflowSys™ Edge product line, which incorporates the InflowSense™ pressure devices that do the legwork.
But before we talk about arboricity™ and its boundary-busting ability to integrate with other systems, let’s set the context. Where did Inflowmatix come from?
The story begins when Inflowmatix was founded as a company by Dr. Ivan Stoianov in 2015 to make good use of a decade or more of research carried out at Imperial College London. CEO Dr. Mike Williams and COO Robin Bell were in at the beginning.
If Inflowmatix can be described as having a mission, it is to help water network operators control pressures and optimise their services, embracing the subjects of resilience, asset management, leakage and water quality in the process.
By mapping where the customer’s network is most at risk and exposing dynamic pressure variability, it can present a detailed picture of pressure surges, unusual usage patterns, negative pressures and asset misbehaviours.
The company has harvested the expertise of water industry specialists, engineering experts and world-class academics to bring cutting edge solutions to water utilities around the world
According to Robin “When we set up the business, we started out with the aspiration to provide analytical solutions to our customers, so it is all about solutions based on numerical, mathematical and computational approaches.”
“The company has been founded on the dynamics of pressure variations in water networks building on the innovative work carried out at Imperial College London by Ivan and his postgraduate team over many years working hands on with industry partners.”
The hardware needed to come first as there was nothing currently in the market that was capable of the spatial and temporal accuracy and resolution required. The result: InflowSense™, the pressure sensors that are part and parcel of the InflowSys™ product portfolio.
The brand has since been extended to InflowSys™ Edge, reflecting the advent of devices that can sense anomalous behaviour at the edge of the communications network as well as across the entirety of the water network.
As a standalone system, it typically comprises an optimised number of InflowSense™ devices that are deployed to provide insights into the behaviour of the network on a zonal basis.
In contrast, to address a gap in the market, arboricity™️ takes a top down agnostic approach. Mike clarified: “arboricity™ builds on the solid foundation of InflowSys™, but integrates other data sets to provide a more insightful input for the water utilities.”
A prime example of this ability to integrate is the SERENE™ ‘DMA Health Index’ product Inflowmatix has built in partnership with Black & Veatch, one of the water industry’s tier one suppliers.
“Black & Veatch supply consultancy services in management, logistics and delivery to companies around the world, but principally in Britain.”
“Combine what they do with arboricity™ and you can see where we’re going with this – together we are driving towards healthier and more resilient water networks.”
DMA insights from the sharp end are crucial if the industry is going to meet what is the most ambitious leakage control programme set in decades. “Success will require just this type of digitally-enabled network management,” Mike said.
The starting point is the integration of multiple in-house and customer systems to collect the data required. The sensor and network data is then brought together in one, seamless platform.
Using 12 key network parameters, lagging/leading and supporting features are brought together in concert to create a DMA Health Index score through our SERENE™ product. This provides a unique network view on how a DMA is performing towards key regulatory targets, based on a narrative of real-time measured network behaviour.
The resulting DMA Health Index – offering multiple, scenario based assessments – provides the mechanism by which water companies better understand how and where investment can be targeted most effectively to reduce leakage.
Mike said: “SERENE™, and the relationship with Black & Veatch, is just one example of what arboricity™ can do – it can and will go much further.”
“We are actively integrating with other platforms such as hydraulic modelling systems and thereby building on its versatility.” Mike acknowledges there are many software packages for hydraulic modelling in existence, but they all require data to be provided by the utilities to be of true value. This is governed by the accuracy, resolution and timeliness of such data, as well as the standard of the calibration process used.
The calibration of hydraulic models is typically something of a ‘dark art’, carried out by consultants with little reference to external validation. As a consequence, it often delivers results of minimal value to network operators, despite having significant associated costs.
Furthermore, hydraulic models tend to be deprived of regular maintenance and as such, their operational value depreciates rapidly.
Inflowmatix has solved these critical constraints with a proprietary ‘model calibrate and maintain’ process that involves making the initial model calibration a low-cost deterministic process.
It does this by combining the high spatial and temporal resolution data acquired by InflowSense™ with robust mathematical optimisation methods and analytics delivered by arboricity™, and then both automatically and recurrently maintaining the model’s performance and accuracy.
All of the Inflowmatix technologies are tailored to one end, said Robin. “Ever greater pressure is being placed on the water industry. Ofwat as a regulator has been very incisive in its approach to improving the customer experience not only in terms of reducing leakage by at least 16% through the Asset Management Plan (AMP period 7 – 2020 to 2025), but additionally demanding resilience of supply whilst reducing customer bills.
Mike summarises: “The Ofwat drive is in many ways leading the world – a good example of the regulator taking a focused and proactive approach to improving our use of water.”
“Our role here is to help operators build confidence in their network and support the industry in meeting its challenging targets.”
Read the full article online: https://t.co/HpKcoibMpL