Interview carried out by Smart Water Magazine to Jose María Boutín, Sales Director of WatEner.
WatEner® is an ICT solution created to improve water and energy efficiency in the daily operation and management of drinking water networks. The platform provides Smart Water Management through real-time event monitoring, decision support systems, and expert knowledge models.
Learn more in this interview with WatEner’s Sales Director Jose María Boutín Mesa.
How was the WatEner platform created?
The idea of the platform originated from a European research project financed by the European Commission focused on innovative approaches of ICT to the water sector. The INCLAM Group contributed to this project with its experience and knowledge in the fields of Water Engineering and Information Technology, laying the foundations for the development of the WatEner platform. The result was the creation of a water solution to meet specific market needs towards a greater water and energy efficiency in the management of water supply networks.
WatEner® focuses on improving the daily operation and management of drinking water networks in the water-energy nexus, how important is this nexus in the sector?
Water and energy systems are interdependent. Energy is required for the catchment, transport, and distribution of water for different human uses, and again for wastewater treatment.
INCLAM Group‘s technological experience in the development of models and decision support systems have permitted identifying a necessary perspective change, focusing on the integration of knowledge, tools and expert know-how, and aiming at global urban supply management with an approach based on the interconnection of water and energy consumption.
Improving the efficiency of complex systems such as water supply ones, and maintaining the goal of a service quality level is possible with an integrated solution that takes into account the interrelations between water and energy through a holistic point of view.
How does WatEner® contribute to the daily decision-making and management of drinking water supply networks?
Every day the technical personnel of water supply companies has to make decisions to maintain quality and consistency in service.
WatEner® facilitates decision making in operation and the medium and long-term strategic management. Through visualization and series analysis tools, real-time event monitoring, integration of interoperable hydraulic models, algorithms, artificial intelligence techniques, and dashboards adapted to different profiles, WatEner® makes decision making easier for the operators.
The platform integrates data from the supply network’s systems (SCADA, GIS, Hydraulic Model, etc.) and transforms them into valuable information for decision making, facilitating its visualization and making it available to the control center operators.
As a result, the decision-making process is oriented to the achievement of the objectives, based on condensed information. WatEner® incorporates and stores the knowledge provided by the users to manage it and generate recommendations when performing planning tasks. The expert knowledge includes the experience accumulated by the technicians and managers of the supplier company. It is an internal corporate knowledge that is difficult for the company to preserve and use, and that is often lost when the person leaves the organization. Therefore, in those phases in which this complex task of knowledge transmission and acquisition is carried out, special attention has been paid to make the user’s interaction with the platform as friendly and simple as possible, facilitating the contribution of user experience to the processes implemented in WatEner®.
What role do innovation and new technologies play in water management?
Water systems tend nowadays to be more complex than some years ago. A considerable quantity of data and complex interconnections must be taken into consideration. Such data and interconnections need to be displayed and read in a simplified way in order to make safe decisions and maintain a global vision of the system.
Moreover, pollution, climate emergency, and its consequences may lead to further challenges for the water sector. For such reason, it is necessary to create innovative systems that are resilient and can support to face the growing emergency situations of the present days.
In this context, we must recognize the value of innovation and new technologies applied to water management for the support they can provide, in order to overcome old and new challenges.
In your opinion, what are the challenges in the path towards digital transformation in water supply networks management?
Although progress has been made in the path towards digital transformation, we have to take into account obstacles that may slow down the process like aversion to risk, resistance to change and sector conservative culture.
Change management can be the key. Helping people and companies to redefine processes and organizational structures is necessary to face digital transformation.
Distrust in data and reluctance in technologies investments are two of the main reasons why people involved in the process, experience resistance to change. That is why it is crucial to create a culture of innovation. In WatEner, we approach digital transformation by dealing with two relevant aspects:
The first aspect is the integration into one single platform of data and isolated systems. And the second one is the management of expert knowledge, which we retain and make available together with efficient decisions taken daily by experts. Thanks to the application of AI techniques oriented to the complex knowledge transmission and acquisition tasks, we are capable of making available to the operators and managers, all the experience acquired by the experts.
Furthermore, WatEner® is a scalable and flexible platform that makes possible for companies with a different technological level, to progress in the path towards digital transformation, being able to adapt to each case.
What would be the first step for the implementation of the WatEner Platform?
One of the relevant components of the implementation of WatEner® is the consultancy service, a customized study, and analysis performed as an initial step before starting the project. The objective is to study the requirements, needs, and goals of the client, and to know corporate tools whose data are to be integrated into the platform.
Which areas of water supply companies can benefit from using WatEner?
WatEner® has been developed to support and facilitate the tasks of water supply companies’ personnel at different levels:
At an operational level, we support operators through Data Visualization (GIS, functional scheme, data and time series), and Monitoring (automatic anomaly detection and event monitoring) that is, reactive operation. At a tactical level, we offer support to the operation managers through the Smart Operation tools (proactive operation), like demand forecasting, hydraulic simulation, training, and business rules. Lastly, at a strategic level, we offer the business managers crucial strategic management tools thanks to the Dashboards (KPIs, decisions).
On this basis, WatEner® is a versatile and multipurpose platform that can be implemented in any Water Supply Company that wants to improve its decision making, regardless of its technological maturity.