Innovation’s state of play in the water industry
“Adoption of innovative approaches is key to delivering long-term resilience” — OfWat.
In the coming period, technology and innovation will be essential to a sustainable and resilient future in the water industry. The 2023 British Water Company Performance Survey reports on performance in 11 areas performed over the past 12 months rated by contractors, consultants and suppliers.
This year, the innovation category revealed some concerning insights. While the industry's average innovation score has shown a positive shift between 2022 to 2023, increasing from 6.2 to 6.4 this year, the report highlights a notable discrepancy in the prioritisation of innovation. Innovation ranks as the lowest-performing category in the survey, trailing behind areas such as digital transformation and communication.
Digging deeper into the report, a notable gap has emerged between the industry's 'appetite for innovation' (scoring 6.9) and its 'overall speed of innovation adoption' (scoring 5.9). To expedite the integration of innovative practices that the water industry seeks, teams must concentrate on accelerating innovation adoption.
Though the mindset for adoption might be there, the water industry teams face obstacles and red tape when attempting to trial innovative solutions. In the long run, removing these barriers and fostering an environment which allows more testing of innovative technologies and strategies will be essential.
Top 3 water industry innovations set to make a lasting impact
The idea of innovation spreads far beyond just technology. Innovation is a mind shift needed in the industry that we all need to embrace. This includes innovating in processes, materials, as well as technology.
Here are three of our top innovations set to make a lasting impact in the water industry's future.
In the water industry, IoT (Internet of Things) sensors are poised to play a transformative role. These sensors are equipped to collect real-time data on various aspects of water management, such as water quality, infrastructure performance, and resource distribution.
The impact of IoT sensors lies in their ability to provide water companies with invaluable insights, allowing for proactive decision-making. For example, IoT sensors will allow water companies to monitor and respond to leaks more promptly without waiting for visible signs of damage.
AI-driven predictive maintenance
As AI becomes part of our everyday life, AI is also set to have a huge impact on the water industry during the next AMP period and beyond.
By harnessing the power of AI for predictive maintenance, water companies can predict better when critical infrastructure components are likely to fail, enabling them to schedule maintenance activities before costly breakdowns occur proactively.
As this is rolled out, this will not only minimise downtime and reduce operational costs but also extend the lifespan of critical assets. AI-driven predictive maintenance promotes a more sustainable approach, by notifying teams to act before water leaks, bursts, and losses.
Using visualisation technology, water companies can significantly enhance their planning processes. Unlike traditional software, visualisation technology enables the seamless integration of underground utilities, constraint information, and designs to be overlaid into the real-world context. This capability allows water companies to create interactive, 3D representations of their infrastructure and assets, offering a holistic view of the entire system.
By visualising assets, water companies can more effectively assess the potential impact of proposed changes or new projects, identify potential clashes or conflicts, and optimise the placement of infrastructure components.
Bonus ** Software reducing siloes solutions
Today we are collecting more data than ever before in the water industry. These data sources tend to be held in disparate software and need to be manually collated to paint a bigger picture. In the coming years, digital twins will be able to bring information to life, showing representations of the real world to create a holistic picture for teams to make data-driven decisions from.
The landscape of the UK water industry is undergoing a profound transformation as it prepares for AMP8. The promise of groundbreaking technologies like IoT sensors, AI-driven predictive maintenance, and visualisation tools is not just an option, it's an imperative.
Within the water sector, the journey ahead will be marked by the industry's ability to bridge the gap between its appetite for innovation and the speed of adoption. Fostering an environment that encourages experimentation will be essential for success.
As we gear up for the next period, one thing is certain: innovation will be needed to shape the future of water companies, enabling them to provide sustainable, resilient, and efficient services that benefit both industry stakeholders and the communities they serve.