Most people in the Water Industry have heard the term Water 4.0 or some derivative of it such as a the “Digital Water Industry” or concepts that form a part of it including Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or even the Industrial Internet of Things but what does all of this actually mean to the Water Industry?

Water 4.0 as a concept was brought to life by the German Water Partnership who defined the concept as:

WATER 4.0 puts digitization and automation at the centre of a strategy for resource-efficient, flexible and competitive water management. In doing this, WATER 4.0 incorporates the same main features and terms of the industrial revolution INDUSTRY 4.0, such as “networking of machines, processes, storage systems and resources”, “smart grids”, “Internet of Things and Services”, and brings them together in a systemic, water management context. In the implementation of WATER 4.0, Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) are drivers of the optimal networking of virtual and real water systems, with planning, construction and operation being largely done by software.

In these terms the concept is all about Cyber-Physical Systems which to be honest is a difficult concept to understand. From an operational point of view Water 4.0 is all about having the right information to enable the water industry to make an informed decision. An informed decision is about having a situational awareness that will allow the industry to operate in the most efficient and cost-effective way in order to deliver a service to the customer.

In order to have the right information to hand the water industry needs to understand the information that it needs and from this the data that it needs to collect. This in turn allows the water industry to install the right data gathering from the water meter that collects how much a customer uses to the plethora of instruments that make sure that the product that is delivered to the customer is fit for consumption.

At the current time the industry collects hundreds of millions of pieces of data everyday and it is often difficult for the water industry to see what data is useful and can be used to give situational awareness and allow informed decision making. Couple this with the fact that the quality of the data that is being used is often unknown, the water industry faces the potential danger in suffering from the concept of “Garbage in Garbage Out” which as a concept dates from as early as 1957. As we run towards a “Digital” Water Industry we have to ensure that the quality of the data that we use is of a standard that allows us to make informed decisions. In order to do this there is a need to go back to basics of instrumentation maintenance and calibration to ensure the data that is converted into information at a very basic level is right. It is only by getting the basics right that the water industry will be able to start to walk and then to run towards a future where Water 4.0 is transformed from the concept of a factory-based approach to an actual reality.

Oliver Grievson, Z-Tech Control Systems

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