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32 (127) 2017
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Energy & Environment

Smart technologies, or how intelligent systems protect water and air

By Agnieszka Klich-Dubik, senior marketing specialist, Future Processing
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Half a billion litres of water saved, the amount of water consumed by 20,000 people annually, and much quicker response to water supply failures.

Now, failures are located and dealt with in less than 72 hours. Before, it could take up to 180 days. All this thanks to an innovative SmartFlow system developed by specialists from the Gliwice-based Future Processing and from the Municipal Water and Sewerage Company in Wrocław.

Future Processing is a dynamically growing IT company which employs 850 specialists. One of the company’s business lines is development of smart solutions for cities as part of Smart City projects. Wrocław's municipal water and sewerage company (MPWiK S.A.) is one of Poland’s largest companies of its kind.

SmartFlow is a tool that supports the management of a water supply network. It is aimed at ensuring continuous monitoring of the installation operation, automatically gathering data on such operation and locating any irregularities in the water supply network. The system detects installation failures at an early stage, unauthorised water consumption and so-called hidden leaks.

A hidden leak is a type of installation failure that is the most difficult to detect. It is not visible with a naked eye. Water flows out from a leaking installation and does not come out to the surface. Such a leak may last even up to several months. It can be detected only using specialised devices and with huge involvement and determination of network technicians. Hidden leaks generate water losses, and hence costs, to water supply companies. And given limited resources of drinking water, they generate immense losses to the natural environment. “The SmartFlow system detects hidden water leaks automatically. The leak is located and quickly eliminated. The entire process may last only 72 hours,” said Monika Brachmańska, business line manager of the Smart City Unit at Future Processing. “The system benefits citizens, water supply companies and the environment. Quick failure detection and removal means shorter water outages, which are extremely onerous to inhabitants. Reduction in the number of uncontrolled leaks means savings for water supply companies. Annually, they can save up to even 500 million litres of water. Therefore, we are contributing to protecting valuable resources,” she added.

How does it work? The system includes a network of detectors located in the system area and an innovative, extremely quick application. The role of detectors is performed by flow meters installed on the water supply installation. Flow meters are measuring devices that measure the stream of water flowing through the network. This way, they collect data on water flow and network operation. Then detectors send the data collected to the system. The system processes and analyses the data. Upon automatic analysis, information on the water supply network operation is presented in the form of graphs generated by the system. This enables employees of the water supply company to use an immense set of data.

Importantly, if the system detects any irregularities, such information is displayed on the city map as an alert. This way SmartFlow indicates the precise area of the city where anomalies were found. “An alert is a guideline for technicians and repair teams,” said Tomasz Jankowski, from MPWiK S.A.

Wrocław is a city that has been effectively using SmartFlow. The system covers 80% of the city. The company saved some half a billion litres of water in the first year. “From its launch, SmartFlow has been one of the systems supporting the management of the water supply network and helping to reduce water losses. Network visualisation and advanced analytics make the system a great support in the diagnostic process,” says Mr Jankowski.

We use our taps every day. How many times? Probably nobody has ever counted that. Why would they, anyway? We turn the tap on and expect fresh water to flow. We never tend to think how much work and commitment is required from specialists working at water supply companies to enable us to benefit from unrestricted access to fresh water. SmartFlow was developed with the use of the latest technologies and software. Hence the work of water supply specialists was aided by IT experts such as business analysts, software engineers, graphic designers, software quality engineers. “This synergy of action led to the development of a unique tool,” said Monika Brachmańska.

By 2050, 7 out of 10 people will be living in smart cities. This are innovative solutions that enable implementation of the smart city and sustainability concepts. SmartFlow is part of the concept of an intelligent city of the future. Thanks to the solution, the water supply company detects and responds more quickly to network irregularities, is more effective in removing hidden leaks and has all the network operation data in one place. More control over the operation of the network enables to actually reduce water losses. This results in smarter and more sustainable resource management. “Therefore, we contribute to the protection of the environment we live in,” summed up Monika Brachmańska.

Innovative technologies provide strong support not only in the area of water protection. The air that we breathe is equally important. Specialists from Future Processing developed a solution called DiscovAir to monitor air quality. A network of proprietary measuring stations located in various city locations measures air parameters. The collected information is fed into the system in real time, which then analyses and visualises the data in the form of a web application. Moreover, the system will soon be supported by the aerospace technology because the app will use data from satellites. “The solution measures air pollution and visualises the distribution of harmful substances. The use of aerospace technology will enable new, previously impossible forms of measuring pollution. Thanks to analysis of the collected data, city authorities may inform the inhabitants of the air condition on an ongoing basis,” said Kamila Cieśla, product manager of the Smart City Unit at Future Processing.

Creating a city of the future where municipal infrastructure is used optimally isn't possible without innovative technologies that support the man and the environment he lives in. Teams of specialists work on smart systems every day. Their effort results in such systems as SmartFlow or DiscovAir that enable to lay foundations for safe future in inhabitant-friendly cities.

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