Smart Water Technologies Help Cities Get Smarter




Forward-thinking towns and cities are leveraging IoT technology to emerge as smart cities. What each have in common is the intelligent use of integrated solutions and a common set of goals to improve city infrastructure, create more efficient and cost effective municipal services, and keep citizens safe and more engaged in the community.

A recent MIT Enterprise Forum panel brought together experts from business, education and government in a lively discussion centered around addressing the inherent challenges cities face with water quality, safety and efficiency. Essentially, how to help cities get smarter with their resources.

The panel, entitled “Can Smart Water Technologies Quench the Thirst of our Modern Cities?” and moderated by Galen Nelson of Massachusetts’ clean energy agency Mass CEC, offered insight into the goals, projects, and emergent technologies set to address what promises to become an increasingly pressing global challenge. Experts like John Sullivan of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Professor David Reckhow of UMass and the Water Innovation Network for Sustainability Small Systems, and Scott McCarley Sr. Director of Solution Management for Smart Cities at PTC shared insight and perspective on topics like distributed water systems and informed city management systems.

Sensors and Solutions Turning Cities Smart

Today 30% of the water in city pipes is being lost to leaks. Cities, burdened by burgeoning costs and declining revenues, are forced to deal with aged existing infrastructures that include pipe corrosion and water filtration. With a 90+ audience looking on, PTC’s Scott McCarley shared the role of IoT, ThingWorx, and partner companies already building innovative solutions to solve the toughest challenges.

McCarley gave the audience a glimpse into some of the solutions and how IoT platforms like ThingWorx set the foundation on which real-time, real-world applications have been developed that are helping cities build their Smart capabilities. In France, 20% of drinkable water is spoiled by leakage attributable to aging pipes. By implementing smart water grid solutions, a city can reduce consumption and thus save money.

Companies like Aquamatix, are implementing wastewater facility systems, equipping cities with real time sensor monitoring, and building ‘greywater’ water recycling capabilities around the world.

Another partner, Itron, Inc, is currently developing water main leak detection systems. In the not distant future, augmented reality will play a larger part in these answers, offering a literal view into real-time operating conditions, and the location of pipes and leaks under our streets. .

Adoption and the role of ROI

A smart city project must be financially sustainable. It is not enough to think about funding for just the initial stages of a project, as any project must live long enough to change the life of the city.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, $1.7T is the estimated annual potential economic impact of the IoT for cities. ROI drives projects. It’s got to make economical sense to get a project off the ground. As more cities begin to implement solutions, the demand for efficiencies and cheaper services will grow. McCarley noted that platforms like ThingWorx enable systemic efficiencies while accelerating scale across existing systems, disparate assets, and communications networks.

John Sullivan from the BWSC is looking to advanced technology much like the kind McCarley described to help Boston take the lead on water efficiency. Boston is one of the first cities to install smart water meters; by tri-angulating data from multiple meters, analytics detects system leakages.

The panel agreed this kind of discussion helped to frame a more comprehensive storyline and global need that expands beyond water. With just minutes left in the evening, the panel took questions from an audience clearly hungry to hear more from the panelists. You can watch the full recording of the panel session, Smart Water—Smart Cities: A Cleantech Event.

Smart cities represent a unique opportunity to apply the power of IoT to everyday environments, to improve the quality of the very roads, buildings, and public services that we use each day. For details on these opportunities, register to watch our IoT for Energy Webcast replay to discuss how IoT can bring value to utility and energy stakeholders.