Water utilities already have a great deal of data collected through various pieces of technology. Utilizing that data and transforming it into useable information takes the use of digital twins to better inform business decisions. But making the shift isn’t easy.
Historically, any transformation in technology has gone through three distinct phases.
In the beginning, the transformation focuses solely on the technology. Take, for instance, the surge in computing technologies in the late 1980s or digital cameras in early 2000s. The focus at the time was on the computer memory, the disk space, the software development to create new tools, and on the megapixels and storage cards.
In the middle phase of the transformation, the focus shifts to the technology applications. In the personal computing world, this meant focusing on software packages; for cameras, the shift was toward image processing and filters.
Finally, in the last phase, technology transformations focus on the user. Today, when someone downloads an app or uses a phone to take a picture, hardly a thought is given to the disk space, processor speed or development it took to produce it.
These digital transformations not only change the way we live, but they also change the way a utility does business as it moves through each phase. At the start, the water industry’s digital transformation focused heavily on the technologies, such as geographic information system (GIS) or hydraulic modeling platforms. Today, mathematical models, sensors, dashboards and other data collection tools work wonders, creating datasets that provide myriad opportunities to improve business operations. But without a focus on the value that data can truly bring to an organization, this digital transformation is ultimately less impactful than it could be. Water utilities need to move to the final phase of digital transformation, to refocus on utilities’ return on investment from data collected.
Today’s data analysis and visualization tools are being used to create digital twins — or representations of a system — that can help inform business decisions. But finding the value of these tools means first understanding the issues that need to be solved When an individual utility identifies a problem and then applies the data it has already collected to solve that specific issue, then the true value of digital twins can be garnered form existing systems.
Using digital twins to inform business decisions and improve processes and operations is the next step in the digital water transformation. Working with a partner that understands the water industry, the problems water utilities face and the products available to assist in the effective use of data can lead water utilities to make more informed business decisions that directly impact the bottom line.