A digital revolution in water
The UK Water Partnership (UKWP) has launched a 10-point action plan to help ensure that UK plc wins its share of an estimated $30 billion market created by the digital revolution sweeping through the global water economy. As part of our Utility of the Future campaign, this article looks at what is being proposed.
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The UKWP’s recommendations are contained in a draft white paper and call to action: Digital Water – understanding the commercial opportunities for UK plc, published for consultation on 3 December 2019.
The plan includes calls for more focused research on the primary areas of commercial opportunity for the UK, increased collaboration across the UK water economy and more proactive marketing of UK digital water expertise.
The white paper explains how digital “will impact every aspect of water, from management of sources, treatment technology and efficiency, consumption and customer engagement, through to re-use, collection and recovery of economically and environmentally important resources. It has the potential to revolutionise the water sector and its interaction with customers and the supply chain in ways that were previously unimaginable.”
While the total global water market is thought to be worth $500 billion, figures in Digital Water suggest that the market for digital technology solutions in the water industry is rising by more than seven per cent each year, reaching $30 billion by 2020.
It describes “a host of digital opportunities for UK companies to significantly increase their global reach, through collaboration between the water sector and the digital economy where the UK enjoys global prominence, in areas such as virtual reality and computer gaming.”
Digital Water explores digital opportunity across the wide spectrum of the water landscape, extending beyond the remit of municipal water and wastewater organisations, to include agriculture, industry and the economy as a whole. According to Digital Water, those opportunities include:
Exploiting vast amounts of real time data to create enhanced actionable insight, which in turn leads to better decision making. Advances in sensor technology offers the potential for acquisition of data from a more distributed and diverse range of sources.
Employing digital insight to improve business process performance by making individual steps more efficient, eliminating steps, or reconfiguring a business process as a whole.
Combining developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics provides the means to reconfigure business processes, increasing efficiency.
Utilising digital techniques to enable the creation of new markets, and hence the disruption of existing markets. Digital approaches can create new markets by making information visible, doing so in a timely way, and enabling transactions.
Enabling the creation of entirely new value adding products or services
Launching Digital Water, UKWP chairman Richard Benyon said: “In an uncertain world, there are two things that we now know to be beyond dispute. Firstly, that our planet is facing a growing water scarcity crisis, and that urgent, coordinated action is essential if we are to successfully address it.
“Secondly, that the digital revolution provides tremendous cause for optimism, that smart technologies, intelligently-applied at scale, can transform our ability to make real progress in the years ahead. The UK water industry is respected throughout the world and many of the digital innovations that have changed so much of our personal and working lives have originated here.”
The UK Water Partnership (UKWP) was established in 2015 and provides a strategic vision for the development and growth of the UK water industry. It brings together diverse water industry and related organisations in a single coherent alliance, promoting mutual understanding, cooperation and coordination.
Concludes Digital Water’s lead author Professor Tony Conway: “We’re looking to achieve engagement and consensus on these recommendations and to secure the stakeholder commitment needed to convert these plans into action. We’re seeking diversity of thought and the widest possible involvement of everyone with a stake in the digital water economy and beyond. We would encourage everyone to provide their feedback to us using the response mechanisms contained in the document.”
The consultation period ends on 28 February 2020.
For a copy of Digital Water, including details of the consultation process and how to participate, go to: www.theukwaterpartnership.org/initiatives/digital-water
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