Is data security a barrier to AMP6?

In our latest blog, Riventa’s Steve Barrett explores whether data security is a barrier to AMP6 success in the water and wastewater industry

The Internet of Things has implications for the water industryToday’s mobile-centric world continues to advance at a rapid pace, with smartphone sales surpassing one billion units in 2014. We communicate with each other on the go and continue to have unprecedented levels of information literally at our fingertips.

The Internet of Things presents unique challenges for water companies and AMP6 The web itself celebrated its 25th birthday this year. The development of cloud computing has only served to progress the web’s remarkable rise, further leading to the creation of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).

IoT stats are staggering. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020, more than 5 billion people will be connected, not to mention 50 billion things. In a report by the UK Government, industry analysts estimate the number of connected devices could be anywhere from 20 billion to 100 billion by 2020.

Elsewhere the International Data Corporation says that within the next five years more than 90% of all IoT data will be hosted on service provider platforms as cloud computing reduces complexity.

The IoT challenge for water companies

Currently remote data access through the Internet is not generally allowed into water pumping stations.

While the world may be becoming more connected, the water industry is taking a more cautious approach to integrating 3rd party systems and data management.

And it’s no wonder. The downside of IoT being the more and more sophisticated cyber threats being posed and the need for increased security.

There are often more tangible issues on the ground to address, too. While more connectivity, more access, more information may come with the alluring promise of more data, companies need to be ready for this.

  • For one, data and databases need to be properly managed. Many corporate data systems can be black holes at best – where data goes in but it can be immensely difficult to get back out. The data may not be cleansed regularly, it may have become corrupted and be unreliable.
  • For another, it is often a complex process for companies to make sense of all the data they have to hand. The sheer amount can be a daunting prospect. Many teams or departments simply don’t have the time to interrogate that data in order to create the potentially value-adding “information”.

What does this mean for AMP6?

The challenges presented by IoT need to be addressed by water companies.

Why?

Because the first step in any AMP6 journey is to obtain reliable real-time asset-level performance data.

In our online resource – How to meet the AMP6 challenge – we highlight that a pre-requisite of any TOTEX/AMP6 reduction initiative must be the acquisition of data that is reliable, accurate and current. What this demands is an information-driven approach, where base-line data is trusted in order to make decisions that will have positive long-term implications on TOTEX outcomes.

The second step is that all gathered data will need to be cleansed, analysed, converted to useful information and then be acted upon without it simply becoming yet more information.

But, having worked with the water industry for many years now, I’m more than aware of issues around whether there is the manpower to do this – do people have the necessary responsibilities, time and availability?

How we gather and analyse data here at Riventa

When we’re asked to test or monitor a pump, station or water network we currently download data locally. The ideal solution is a means to access site instruments remotely through a dedicated broadband or 3G/4G connection (although a solid GSM connection outside a major city is as rare as winning a lottery ticket!).

Remote access would be more scalable and enable on-going, ad hoc analysis to support asset optimisation in the here and now. Because pump efficiency degrades naturally with use/time, and pump efficiency changes with system characteristics, being able to monitor and measure remotely would have obvious real-time benefits.

But remote access to data would require water companies to allow the internet into their stations, which would be a major change in stance.

It will be interesting to see if IoT’s meteoric rise and the potential of more data analysis presents water companies with enough of an incentive to make such a move.

Further reading

Our online AMP6 resources: How to meet the AMP6 challenge

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