Connecting Your Data Environment

DataBentley Advances Asset Performance Modeling from Planning to Operations

By Andrew Farr

Water and wastewater utilities looking to enhance their asset performance modeling now have new software tools available to heighten decision-making. As utility asset management has continued to evolve from best practices and strategic management to incorporating the use of data analytics, new concepts are trending toward better integration to address a range of business problems.

One of the main concepts behind asset performance modeling is that the convergence of technologies and their data can assist organizations to move from a reactive to proactive, predictive mode in maintenance management.

Decision Support

Water and wastewater utilities use various models for asset management, such as water quality modeling, energy use modeling, reliability and performance modeling and operational analytics. But recently, the next step for this technology has focused on the ability to allow operators to have better decision support for the full lifecycle of their assets, from planning and design to construction, operations and maintenance.

In performance modeling, a connected data environment is one concept used by infrastructure modeling software company Bentley Systems as a way of providing owners and operators the ability to apply building information models (BIM) to the full lifecycle of assets. The idea of connected data environments was born out of Bentley’s CONNECT Edition of infrastructure performance models including its AssetWise for asset performance management and proactive asset maintenance support and ProjectWise for project information management. According to Bentley, a connected data environment is all about integrating data from various phases of a project to create a more comprehensive model to support asset performance.

“A connected data environment is really meant to facilitate tying together the kind of work that happens on the design side – from conceptual design all the way through to specifying materials, components and laying out the geography of a [water] network – all the way though to bringing it into operation and beginning to operate that network,” says Vonnie Smith, vice president, asset performance, for Bentley Systems. “There are a lot of things that are specified in the designed process that are going to impact the way you’re going to operate.”


Asset performance modeling tools give water system operators better decision support for the full lifecycle of assets, such as details about pipe materials and manholes.

According to Bentley, connected data environments are beneficial to infrastructure advancement because capital improvement projects can benefit from the continuity of digital engineering models. A connected data environment advances the convergence of engineering technologies with information technologies and operational technologies.

As an example, water and wastewater utility operations involve constant monitoring and maintenance of assets such as pipelines, pumps, meters, process equipment and more. A pump, for example, has a tendency or characteristic for failure. When selecting a pump during the planning and design phase, the operation of the utility is already being impacted. It is here that the integration of performance models allows for better connectivity and convergence of information, regardless of project phase.

“The real benefit is better decision support,” adds Jim Newman, director of AssetWise product management for Bentley. “[Organizations] have a lot of information, but they make decisions in isolation about what they can see. A connected data environment is really intended to help make decisions and get better value out of what you do organizationally.”

Technology Evolution & Adoption

For water and wastewater utilities, the primary goal of a model is generally to create a representation of a system that is gathering data from numerous sources like smart metering, GIS, SCADA and other monitoring systems. What makes a model unique is its ability to integrate various systems. Still, the purpose of a model is to represent that system. From that representation, a water utility may model its distribution system to help determine the capital improvements necessary to meet the current and future needs of the population it serves. It may also use the model to understand things like how to respond to emergencies such as water main breaks or unplanned water usage. The model can also provide information about minimizing impacts to the overall system or to show what to do in response to unexpected events or emergencies.

“When we were talking [in years past] to engineers and designers and CAD technicians, they were just looking for ways to make their jobs easier. I think the criteria for making those kinds of purchases were kind of low-level. But if we can really get leadership in these organizations to focus on how this makes a difference, then I think that their adoption cycle will shorten.

–Vonnie Smith, vice president, asset performance, Bentley Systems

Historical data gathered by smart metering can also be used to estimate average and peak demands and patterns needed for the model, and the real-time demand data can be used to set the initial conditions for simulations and for demand forecasting. It is here that connected data environments and the integration of these systems applied to business processes can be valuable. This can help utilities achieve better outcomes like reduced costs, improved service and lower risk.

Newman says the use of modeling goes hand-in-hand with the overall increased use of data analytics in other industries, noting that organizations such as utilities are looking toward algorithm-based analytics and looking at risk profiles and past behavior to estimate future activity.

“There’s a movement away from understanding what happened to understanding what will happen,” he says. “Proactively taking steps to ensure that what you want to happen does is the evolution of modeling. Organizations are going to have to step through maturity levels. And, that’s what we’re trying to help with. AssetWise enables step-by-step growth.”


Decision makers at water and wastewater utilities now have better data about what their assets are and where they’re located throughout their entire lifecycle.

Smith ads that from the perspective of water operators, it’s unrealistic to have a piece of technology that allows for 100 percent reliability. The reality is that equipment does fail and unexpected challenges can always occur. However, she says, asset performance modeling tools and creating a connected data environment allows utilities to achieve an efficiency that they haven’t had before, helping them to make better decisions around risk, investment, revenue goals regulations.

According to Smith, where the technology goes from here is still relatively unknown, but it is trending more toward lifecycle asset management. “All this IoT stuff and the concepts that are happening right now is game-changing,” she says.

Smith and Newman also say the overall evolution of asset performance modeling is dependent on its application, noting the construction industry’s willingness to adopt new technology can vary.

“We need to get the leaders in these organizations to think about this,” Smith says. “When we were talking [in years past] to engineers and designers and CAD technicians, they were just looking for ways to make their jobs easier. I think the criteria for making those kinds of purchases were kind of low-level. But if we can really get leadership in these organizations to focus on how this makes a difference, then I think that their adoption cycle will shorten.

“Certain markets and certain industries are more risk-versed and some are more willing to be early adopters than others. But I think with water shortages and a number of trends going on in water, it seems like they’re ready to start embracing this kind of technology.”

The Next Step

According to Bentley, the future of connected data environments will be to enable business and operational intelligence analytics to have open and live access to information within digital engineering models. This will enable engineering technologies and operational technologies to better complement each other and improve the lifecycle, safety and reliability of infrastructure performance.

In the case of water and wastewater utilities, having these new capabilities can help minimize the lifecycle costs of owning and operating infrastructure, while continuing to improve the levels of service they provide. This will lead to better-informed emergency response to drinking water delivery and wastewater collection challenges by ultimately improving operational efficiencies. This in turn will help these agencies deliver a better level of service to customers.

To learn more about Bentley Systems’ asset performance solutions and connected data environments, visit

Andrew Farr is the associate editor of Water Finance & Management.

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