The Role of Technology in Driving Sustainability
Over 800 million people worldwide lack access to clean, potable water.
1.8 billion people globally will face water scarcity by 2025.
More than 3.5 million deaths across the globe take place on account of water-related illnesses.
Every one of us is cognizant of the Global Water challenges and understand the need to do our part, whether as a citizen or as a technocrat. In my experience, technological innovations offer promising solutions to even the most complex problems. In this blog, we dissect how digital transformation can drive water sustainability and what should be the focus areas when it comes to smart infrastructure investments. I look at the role of technology in driving sustainability from four perspectives.
- Water Equity & Availability
Three-fourths of the earth’s surface is filled with water. But all this water is not potable. Technology plays a crucial role in converting unusable water into clear potable water. Advancements in nanotechnology are spearheading this transformation by taking out lead, arsenic and other harmful substances from water, making it fit for use. Desalination plants and ultra-purification centers are deploying reverse osmosis technology to treat water. These are some of the ways becoming more and more prevalent to ensure that technology is used to convert various sources of water into clean, accessible water. These investments are critical for comprehensive progress on clean water access. After all, clean water is not a privilege of the affluent. It is a commodity that needs to be available to all people. Smart investments toward ensuring water equity across the globe have become the need of the hour.
- Transcending “Leaky” Infrastructure
Overhauling water infrastructure will take a lot of time and investment. But we can leverage technology and data to ensure that the infrastructure, no matter how old, can be used efficiently. This starts with gathering data through technologies like smart metering, 5G and sensor technologies, followed by analyzing the collected data—this is where digital software, such as SEW’s SiQ® platform , becomes indispensable. Analytics coupled with location intelligence with the help of GIS technology can give utilities crucial information on where faulty infrastructure is located and the appropriate approach to handle it. Deploying predictive analytics through AI/ML is helping utilities analyze and predict leakages and even pilferage well in advance. Digital twins can simulate the real world and provide utilities with intelligence on where the infrastructure may go wrong.
- Meet the Conservation Goals
Water conservation starts with awareness, both at the consumer level as well as the utility level. Understanding how much water is available and how much is getting wasted. Then comes the question of what we can do to take actions to prevent wastage. For example, a digital consumer experience platform, such as SCM®, enables consumers to address what is the amount of water being utilized, when it is being used, whether it is being utilized optimally and how much of that amount can be saved and conserved.Similarly, using a digital workforce management platform like SMW®, utilities can be well-informed about the areas falling behind in their water conservation targets. They can have the field inspection teams visit the sites and identify ways they can improve the connection and help conserve water. Through intuitive digital platforms, utilities can aggregate all the intelligence together and define conservation goals for a week, a month, or a year.
- Enhance Customer Experience
Today’s digital reality is that water consumers are constantly comparing every software they interact with to the ‘Amazons’ and the ‘Ubers’. This underlines the need for water providers to provide enhanced, superior customer experience to engage the consumers and then empower them to take the right decisions to optimize water conservation. Customer experience enhancement areas for the water sector include delivering omnichannel communication, digital self-service and personalized experiences across the consumer journey. It could be as simple as offering online payment options to customers or providing complex features such as understanding billing and usage patterns through easy-to-use interfaces.
Taken together, all the high-impact investments and technologies available today can create a massive impact in a short period of time. The water industry must come together, engage in knowledge-sharing and craft action plans to advance the journey toward achieving sustainability through technology.