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Rethinking digital innovation

  • Posted on August 19, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 6 minutes

67% of businesses in the UK are already using AI to support decision-making, but there’s a lack of clarity when it comes to the use of modern digital solutions in the water industry specifically. Although water companies are already taking advantage of opportunities to optimise assets through digital innovation, the industry has not yet reached the peak in leveraging advanced technologies.

The idea of transforming operational performance without huge investment was once a fairy-tale, but it is now a real, actionable opportunity for the water industry, made possible by digital transformation. You’ll likely be confident planning 5, 10 or more years in advance, but there are increased expectations to move at a faster pace in order to keep up with digital technology and ensure that you don’t fall behind.

In this blog, we’re exploring game-changing digital solutions and how these could be implemented in your business to harness efficiency, cost management and resilience.

Can digital solutions help you hit your goals?
Water companies face increasing pressure to address Ofwat targets that demand high performance from you across the areas of leakage reduction, customer bills, wastewater services and more. Coupled with the upcoming net zero 2030 deadline, taking a reactive approach to problems is no longer enough – you need to be predictive, prepared and proactive.

The key to a resilient, agile business lies in your ability to forecast the future, and be ready for problems such as leaks, failed infrastructure, diminishing drought storage and quality risks before they happen.

Resilience for your infrastructure and your people
It’s not just resilience of resources and assets that is important, but resilience of your people too. Digital solutions can ensure that your teams are equipped with the right information, knowledge and assistance at the right time to perform their roles more efficiently – like a digital helping hand. From decision-making to reducing time taken on tedious manual tasks, digital tools such as automated data collection and machine learning can provide real-time intelligence to your teams when they need it most.

The power of digital-human collaboration is already evident: we helped leading technology company ABB to accelerate their employees’ daily decision-making by introducing their business to mixed reality innovation, which combines cloud and AI services. This technology provided ABB with the tools to train their specialised engineers more quickly – therefore reducing downtime and speed time to repair and increasing productivity. Innovation could be your next employee of the month.

Data, AI and automation analytics
Data collection is not new to the water industry, which is why it is easy to believe that your data usage capabilities have reached their limit. The question is, what part can data play in building future resilience for your workforce and business, if you’ve already been collecting data for years?

As well as reducing the need for time-consuming manual data collection, the possibilities of automating this process are endless. With more data than ever available in the world, this is the perfect time for water companies to harness advanced analysis of vast amounts of data to predict how best you can operate in the future, and make preventative data-driven decisions.

The best part is that you already have the data to do this – the next step is knowing how to interpret it. Our teams helped leading motor business AC-Motoren prepare for a digital-first future simply by transforming their data. We migrated and analysed over 6,000 pieces of their old, low-quality data, and used this to create an easy-to-visualise data pool that AC-Motoren’s team can use to confidently make decisions on future development.

Benefits of a cloud-first model
84% of the highest-performing utilities companies have implemented cloud solutions, yet only 50% of the lowest performers have taken advantage of cloud. In order to access complete visualisation and control over your operations, it’s time to switch to the cloud. Cloud technologies can be built on your existing IT infrastructure to help you speed up development and can work in partnership with your data collection processes – and there’s no need to take a blanket approach. You could choose a hybrid model and deliver certain products, services and data on the cloud, exclusively cover particular areas of your business, or move your existing applications one-by-one.

The information stored in your business can be accessible from anywhere at any time, with online and offline capabilities. Not only does this help your teams to become more agile, but it also assists with real-time updates and collaboration, and better visibility of huge amounts of information.

An example use case for cloud technology that could easily be implemented in the water industry is smart meters. Water companies can build customer satisfaction by offering customers ways to monitor their own usage and costs on their chosen device. We’ve already helped the energy utilities sector to harness the cloud for customer service – we led AGL in building a scalable cloud infrastructure that improved their existing self-service technology, allowing their customers to easily pay their bills, receive personalised usage reports and monitor their energy consumption.

Digital twins: your key to operational visibility
AI has already been adopted in many industries, including those in the utilities sector. Machine learning algorithms and AI software can be used to create automatic processes that replace manual tasks, which can be applied to minimise energy consumption, optimise resource recovery, reduce pollutants and prevent flooding, amongst other applications.

Another use case for augmented reality in the water industry is digital models, or ‘digital twins’. This is a digital replica of your assets and infrastructure powered by AI technology, which can help you troubleshoot problems, forecast issues, access real-time alerts, provide immediate service and identify opportunities for change. Accessing hard-to-reach geographical locations is no longer a roadblock – simply visualise digital models of your underground assets. By enabling AI technology on the cloud, insights can be automated, gathered in real-time and shared with you.

Proactive and preventative: rethink your approach to the future
You’ll likely be working hard to hit your targets for the end of this planning cycle, but regulatory pressure and a changing digital world means that you may need to rethink your speed of adoption. At Avanade, we have proven, proof of concept (POC) solutions to help your business identify where and how you can adopt new technologies within your business – so you can create an agile and resilient future for you, your customers and the world.

We’d love to hear from you about your plans to build a data-driven business – and a resilient industry. Drop us an email or comment below to chat about your data-driven future.

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