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Digitalisation to drive new water technologies

By State of Green, March 28, 2019

The potential for growth and better solutions in the Danish water sector is great and digitalisation can play a significant role in the development, a new report from the Technical University of Denmark estimates.

There is a big potential for the water sector to become more efficient, innovative, sustainable and less fragmented if everyone works together at implementing the next technology leap into digitalisation and Industry 4.0.

This is one of the conclusions of the DTU sector development report ‘Lad vand og data strømme’ (Let water and data flow), which has been published in collaboration with the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Danish Association of Consulting Engineers as well as several other players in the Danish water sector.

The objective of the report is to accelerate the development of new technologies and methods in the water sector, thereby strengthening Danish consultants, technology manufacturers and utilities within the field.

“The Danish water sector has made great strides, but more is needed to meet the goals in the water industry’s ‘Vandvision 2025’ (Water vision 2025) and achieve increased growth and exports. In addition, there is broad demand for a joint vision and overlapping incentive structures that can support the ambitions of taking Denmark to the forefront of developments and supporting this position in the future,” said Peter Steen Mikkelsen, centre leader at Water DTU and a professor at DTU Environment.

A need for new water technology systems 

Water-related issues—such as extreme weather, natural disasters, drought and failure of climate adaptation—are deemed to pose the greatest risks for human well-being and prosperity. Even Denmark has experienced sudden and heavy downpours and rising water levels which lead to significant financial and infrastructure costs.

Therefore, new water technology systems need to be developed based on new data sources, more intelligent products and robust planning tools. More service-based business models, collaborative autonomous systems based on intelligent water technology components and multi-utility systems, which combine water treatment and energy and resource recovery in a cyber-safe framework are also needed.

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According to Peter Steen Mikkelsen, major investments are in the pipeline. Climate adaptation is required, new waterworks and wastewater treatment plants need to be built, and the way we monitor water resources must be improved significantly. And all this must be done in a way that supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The potential in digitalisation

The Danish company Danfoss is a global front-runner within the water sector in terms of supplying frequency converters, which is the primary component that enables the regulation of pumps, fans, mixers, etc. to the varying strain that is present in both drinking and wastewater plants and associated pipe systems.

“Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has great potential but also needs to be concretised to have a tangible value for customers. At the same time, the issues related to data security need to be addressed,” said Mads Warming, Global Director, Water & Wastewater at Danfoss.

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Danfoss works with digitalisation within the water sector, where increased use of sensors and frequency converters combined with advanced process control has generated significant results in terms of energy neutrality, reduced water leakages as well as lower costs. IIoT is expected to further contribute to both OPEX and CAPEX reductions.

“Digitalisation of the water sector has shown significant results, and there is certainly much more to be gained. Therefore, there is a need for further research and development and demo projects,” said Mads Warming.

A common vision

“A potential common vision for the water sector could be to see digitalisation and integration of disciplines as drivers of a cross-cutting transformation that can make the sector more efficient and innovative while at the same time less fragmented and more sustainable,” said Peter Steen Mikkelsen.

“For decades, Denmark has been focusing on the green transformation of large parts of society. The time is now ripe to also focus our efforts in the water sector and to kick-start the blue transition. Knowledge about water can become a new business adventure for Denmark, but there is a need for action both politically and among the sector’s players to initiate a focused effort within the water field.”

Source: DTU

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