En route to smart data for water supply

How can artificial intelligence, algorithms or data platforms help water supply companies to deal with future challenges? On 14 November 2018, TZW and the public utilities company Stadtwerke Karlsruhe organised an event on the topic of “Tech transfer – digitalisation in water supply”.

“We wanted to demystify the buzzword digitalisation and present specific applications of this in water supply” Dr. Josef Klinger, TZW CEO, explained the aim of the conference in his welcome address. For the cooperation partner, Prof. Dr. Matthias Maier, Head of the Drinking Water Division, Stadtwerke Karlsruhe, cited good reasons for using digitalisation more intensively. “Besides significantly more efficient processes, greater transparency of our activities, and a simplified way of exchanging knowledge, data in real time helps us react quicker to extraordinary events.”

Collecting, connecting and evaluating data can further support and make the daily work in water supply companies easier, as shown in the presentation of the integration platform watener by Jorge Helmbrecht from INCLAM and Dr. Dirk Kühlers from Stadtwerke Karlsruhe. For instance, the platform makes it possible to visualise pipework models to gain valuable information, to customise the preparation of key performance figures for the different company divisions, and to determine an energy-saving method of operating hydraulic pumps using self-learning operating systems.

At TZW, multiple projects are already focused on digitalisation and offered several tangible application examples. For water suppliers, forecasting demand is essential for optimising the resource and plant management. A team of researchers from TZW at the Dresden site is working on developing short, medium and long-term forecasting models based on neuronal networks or a combination of different methods, and making them more robust.

The early identification of risks to water quality and the safety and security of supply is especially important in areas where water is scarce. As part of the BMBF-joint project TRUST, in a pilot region in Peru, TZW is testing under which requirements digital tools such as data from earth observation satellites, algorithms and online tools can usefully supplement conventional methods. Particularly in rural regions that are not easily accessible, this can help to carry out a data-based hazard analysis for water catchment areas.

Using this and other examples of the interface between research and practice at the event in Karlsruhe, it was possible to show how digitalisation can be turned from a vague buzzword into tangible applications. “A great event” was the conclusion of one of the about 50 participants from German and European companies from the IT and water sectors, and from universities and scientific institutes.