Using smart water in cities


Across the ​globe, Covid-19 ​has threatened ​cities and ​communities, ​endangering not ​only public ​health, but ​also disrupting ​the economy and ​the fabric of ​society. ​

It has ​highlighted the ​need for urban ​planners and ​municipalities ​to re-evaluate ​what a city ​needs to be ​resilient in ​the "new normal"​.

Swiss ​business school ​Institute of ​Management ​Development (​IMD), who ​publishes the ​annual Smart ​City Index, ​found that ​smart cities, ​or cities that ​have incorporated ​digitalisation ​into its urban ​planning, ​demonstrated ​greater ​effectiveness ​in handling the ​pandemic. ​

Malaysia is ​making positive ​progress ​towards ​establishing ​smart cities. ​

Earlier this ​year, it ​revealed the ​groundwork for ​its next smart ​city project in ​Johor, ​developing its ​use of Internet ​of Things (IoT),​ artificial ​intelligence, ​big data, ​advanced ​analytics, ​autonomous ​vehicles and 5G ​technology. ​Johor joins ​Sabah and ​Sarawak in ​promoting ​consistent ​smart city ​efforts. ​

The rest of ​the world has ​some catching ​up to do. Since ​2007, more than ​half of the ​world's ​population has ​been living in ​cities, and is ​projected to ​rise to 60 per ​cent by 2030. ​Therefore, it ​is critical to ​understand and ​tackle the ​systemic ​challenges ​cities face, ​which has been ​brought to ​light by the ​pandemic. ​

But where do ​we even begin ​with the ​painstaking ​process of ​transforming ​cities? Water ​management is ​one of the most ​pressing and ​urgent smart ​city conversations.​

Access to ​water is ​directly linked ​to our quality ​of life and ​proven critical ​today, with the ​rampant use of ​water for ​handwashing and ​cleaning of ​public spaces ​and homes in ​our fight ​against the ​coronavirus. ​

Water demand ​has skyrocketed.​ This begged ​the question of ​how we can ​better manage ​this scarce ​resource and ​ensure there is ​enough for ​everyone. The ​key is smart ​water, which ​refers to water ​and wastewater ​infrastructure ​that effectively ​manages this ​precious ​resource, and ​the energy used ​to transport it.​

Digitalisation ​can make our ​water ​management more ​pre-emptive and ​predictive, ​ensuring we are ​constantly ​monitoring the ​conditions of ​our water ​systems and ​attending to ​each change in ​time, and ​addressing any ​issue before it ​happens. ​

For example, ​water loss ​occurring along ​the water ​system due to ​leakage, or non-​revenue water, ​is a key issue ​for many ​cities' ​water ​management. ​

With ​digitalisation, ​water utilities ​can use ​technologies ​that adjust ​water flow ​according to ​demand through ​the use of ​remote sensors. ​

This reduces ​any excess ​water pressure, ​which in turn ​limits water ​leakages and ​losses, ​minimising cost ​and energy. A ​smart city ​approach to ​water ​management also ​ensures one of ​a city's ​most critical ​infrastructure ​operates more ​reliably and ​robustly than ​ageing systems. ​

Through the ​IoT, advanced ​real-time data ​collection and ​sensors, water ​networks can ​access ​information ​that allows ​them to operate ​in a more ​predictive ​manner, ​reducing ​downtime and ​avoiding ​serious ​business and ​environmental ​consequences. ​

Technology is ​at our ​fingertips to ​empower our ​cities. The ​first step is ​to have an ​integrated ​approach to ​operations. For ​example, ​streamlining ​the city's ​water ​operations and ​processes ​enables us to ​fully monitor ​and assess data ​collected from ​different ​touchpoints in ​the water ​system, ​providing us ​with a clearer ​picture of the ​state of the ​city's ​water ​management for ​better analysis ​and prediction. ​

Secondly, we ​need to drive ​investment to ​research and ​development, so ​that new ​knowledge and ​technologies ​are constantly ​tested and ​feeding into ​the upgrade of ​a city's ​smart ​operations. ​

In Malaysia, ​the government ​has dedicated ​significant ​commitments to ​supporting its ​intention of ​transforming ​this country ​with digitalisation.​

Another key ​area is people. ​We need to ​prepare the ​next generation ​of smart city ​leaders. We ​need to look at ​educational ​institutions to ​mould the next ​generation of ​urban planners, ​engineers, ​architects and ​more. ​

Lastly, ​collaboration ​between the ​public and ​private sectors ​can accelerate ​the process of ​transforming ​smart cities. ​Governments ​have the access ​and power to ​effect change, ​while ​corporations ​are driven by a ​commitment to ​be part of the ​solution and ​offer firsthand ​knowledge of ​what is needed ​from governments ​to unlock ​private-sector ​investments. ​

The pandemic ​has presented ​us a chance to ​focus our ​attention on ​what should be ​changed, re-​evaluating the ​way cities are ​built, ​maintained, and ​lived in, and ​ensure that our ​constrained ​public ​resources are ​going where it ​matters most. ​Our cities are ​due to be ​transformed, ​whether we like ​it or not. We ​should be ready ​for the next ​challenge. ​

The writer is ​general manager ​of Grundfos ​Malaysia, ​Singapore, ​Thailand and ​Vietnam ​

By Kenth Hvid Nielsen 



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