People take water for granted – they only notice when the water stops running or starts gushing, their usage is limited, or water quality is impacted. Today, water utilities are increasingly being forced to confront their crumbling infrastructure. As a result, consumer water rates have increased over 40% since 2010 and will rise even further.
But there are many innovations in the water sector that are going unnoticed. I attended the Smart Water conference last week in San Diego – which, incidentally, is one of the “smartest” US cities. Sponsored by SWAN, with over 300 attendees, the conference was held at Qualcomm Headquarters –it’s telling that such a mobile technology company would sponsor a water conference.
Change is already happening, albeit at a pace slower than needed. Across the value chain, water utilities, technology companies, hardware, and software companies are collaborating on smart water innovations.
By leveraging big data, analytics, and the Internet of Things, key players in the water sector (once known as somewhat stodgy and never-changing) are pro-actively innovating to help solve issues of water scarcity and address aging water infrastructure.
A few examples:
- Using imaging to inspect corroding pipes, enabling predicative maintenance
- Analyzing data in real-time to identify leaks that would otherwise go unnoticed
- Leveraging software to help utilities and consumers track their home water usage
Imagine a world where you can see your water usage, alongside your electricity usage—all from your Smart Phone – we aren’t far that off. As Trevor Hill from Fathomrecently proclaimed, “the future of the water sector is in the tech cloud.” And as Dave Stanton, President of the Utility Business for Suez, pointed out to a full room of conference attendees, “As an industry, we are underselling the potential of Smart Water… We must think big, start small, act fast.” Large private utilities are helping to drive this innovation. In fact, Paul Gagliardo, Innovation Director for American Water, spoke about their in-depth process for evaluating which vendors and companies to work with and where to invest their money.
There are major questions to be grappled with – questions that other industries have faced and continue to face:
- Who owns the data? Is it the utility, the homeowner, the technology provider?
- What defines a smart utility?
- Which of these start-ups will be around in the next three to five years?
Bluefield Research supports companies trying to map the trends and players in smart water. Through our data and analysis, we are sizing the market, evaluating the key players, and assessing the opportunities.
Water utilities and customers can no longer afford to maintain the status quo when it comes to technology adoption. Smart Water is going to change the water industry as we know it, and Bluefield will be there along the way.
Stay tuned for more smart water innovations – this is just the beginning.
Steph Aldock is Marketing Director for Bluefield Research – a market research and insight firm dedicated to helping companies advance their water strategies.