Q&A: Advancing the 21st Century Utility in a Connected World

A Q&A with Paul Hauffen, President, CEO & Chairman, IDModeling

Ahead of AWWA’s ACE17 in Philadelphia, where there’s sure to be plenty of discussion around smart water technology and its impact on utility management, we sat down with Paul Hauffen, president, CEO and chairman of IDModeling, for some perspective on utilities’ adoption of new technology, data integration and the next evolution.

WF&M: By your estimation, where do most water and wastewater utilities currently rank in terms of willingness to adopt new technology to manage their assets and operations?

Paul Hauffen


Hauffen: There are two paradigms here – one of the past, and the other of the present and future. Let’s talk present and future, as it’s really exciting to see challenges converge with opportunities and utilities ranking higher in terms of willingness and accelerating in terms of readiness.

The industry is facing a historic crisis, with failing infrastructure, depleting water supply, antiquated information systems quickly becoming legacy and a generational turnover, losing institutional knowledge while introducing a younger workforce. As a result, utilities recognize that status quo isn’t good enough, using technology to improve operating efficiency is a priority, and deploying an asset and operational strategy is not only essential to near and long term sustainability, but now makes practical sense from a resources and technology perspective.

WF&M: Do you think the industry struggles with promoting the value of investing in smart water technology?

Hauffen: The definition of smart water technology remains somewhat subjective, so I’d like to share ours. We see smart water technology as a connected solution that applies water data in real time toward a more efficient, higher-value outcome. This approach helps us work with utilities to understand their pain, to leverage their current state of resources, budget and technology-readiness toward moving the utility forward – and that’s really the key, and where value gets created. As we build toward a real-time, digital, optimized utility, where in continuous value ‘happens,’ and accrues because informed decisions are being made, supported by the digital infrastructure that they’ve bought into, every step of the way.

WF&M: Explain the difference between data utilities get from hydraulic models as opposed to data they get from other systems.

Hauffen: The hydraulic model simulates the performance of a water system for utility planning and operations, providing insight and foresight into the distribution system, with predicted pressures, flows and levels in pipelines, pumps and tanks, respectively. The utility engineer can understand “what happens if…” a pipeline is installed, to measure the benefit of a project for budgeting. Similarly, the utility operator can predict the risk of turning off a pump or closing a valve before affecting customers.

The model uses input from information systems that serve different departments across the utility, including GIS (mapping, IT), smart metering (customer water usage), SCADA (facility status and control), and CMMS (condition of assets). Data from these systems represents the physical location, system demand, performance and status of key assets that influence the model’s prediction of system behavior. The quality of model results, therefore, is directly impacted by the accuracy and availability of the data received from these other, departmental information systems.

Data integration and the use of real-time data is the water utility’s new paradigm, as the expectation of how, when and where utilities use data has shifted dramatically, defining a new category of smart water technologies to support this industry direction.

WF&M: Data integration is a big topic of discussion right now. Why is this, and what are some of the challenges and benefits to integrating these data sources into one common, real-time information system?

Hauffen: Data integration and the use of real-time data is the water utility’s new paradigm, as the expectation of how, when and where utilities use data has shifted dramatically, defining a new category of smart water technologies to support this industry direction. Hydraulic models, for example, are being asked to support day-to-day operations and maintenance such as identifying water loss, reducing energy costs, maintaining water quality, pinpointing critical assets and more. As such, accessing current data in real-time, and relying on that input to produce accurate results is paramount to decision making with potential implications to public health, customer service and revenue. The evolved requirement of the digital utility therefore includes not just a hydraulic model, but a utility operating model that optimizes efficiency for both water system performance and utility business processes.

At IDModeling, we’ve been passionate about applying the best possible data for quality models, while deploying the benefits of model results to the utility enterprise since 2004. We developed our Sedaru (See Data Run) technology to help our customers address the challenge of using their data effectively; deploying a unified, real-time operating platform to connect and apply disconnected data and systems to optimize daily workflows for utility departments. We’ve found that enabling access to better data creates efficient operations, empowers more impactful decisions, facilitates communications and raises the collective awareness and institutional knowledge-base of the utility business.

WF&M: What do you see as the next major development in utilities’ use of smart water systems?

Hauffen: The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is catalyzing a wave of network monitoring devices in the distribution system, presenting opportunities to significantly increase the quality and quantity of input to models for connected, integrated asset and operational management systems like Sedaru. Driven by real-time, analyzed data, utilities can predict and preempt pipeline failures or respond to them more precisely and timely, proactively manage system pressures to mitigate leakage and identify regions of water loss, inform and influence customer usage patterns towards conservation while maximizing water revenue.

We serve utilities across the United States with our Sedaru smart water technology, asset and operational management platform, including some of the largest utilities in the country, that are benefitting from real-time, digital, connected utility operations. We can help them harness data from disconnected systems, streamline workflows, predict outcomes, prioritize response plans and provide operational transparency for end-users anytime, anywhere, from a lightweight, easy-to-use, cloud-based application.

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