Sensus, one of the Middle East's utility providers, goes into depth with AMEinfo regarding the smart transformation that is revolutionizing water utilities.
Today, Middle Eastern countries like the UAE are working to bring their vision of smart cities to reality. Naturally, digital transformation plays a major role in this, and a key venue for this transformation is the utilities sector.
With UAE utility providers supporting Smart Cities and smart grids, the GCC's smart grid market is set to triple to $1.7 billion by 2026, according to a recent report by TechSci Research. The GCC’s water demand is set to increase by 62% by 2025, and GCC countries are investing $80 billion in water and wastewater projects, according to a recent report by MEED Insights.
To learn more about the sector, AMEinfo had the opporunity to speak with Francois Frigaux, Regional Director MENA at one of these providers: Sensus.
Can you tell us a bit about Sensus' background in the region?
Sensus has a long history here in the Middle East, having been present in the region for several decades. In that time, we have had the opportunity to work with some of the leading utilities across the region, helping to reinforce our success and cement our presence here as one of the key players in smart metering. For us, it’s important that we integrate into the markets in which we operate and add value to the communities there. To that end, we have brought our market-leading expertise in metrology to the region, and are proud to have played a key role over the past number of years in helping utilities better understand how to implement the right solutions to optimise their networks and gain greater efficiencies. This expertise is what sets us apart from the competition and I believe is a key factor in why we have had such positive success here to date.
Like other sectors in the region, the water utility sector is undergoing digital transformation. What trends are disrupting and reshaping the sector today in the GCC?
Just like every other sector, utilities across the smart water landscape are looking for ways to achieve cost savings, improve operational efficiencies and reach important sustainability goals. In a region where water is an incredibly precious resource, unnecessary water wastage is not just extremely costly for utilities, but also damaging to the wider environment. As such, we’re seeing a major shift towards the fight against Non-Revenue Water (NRW) loss and adopting the technology that can help in its reduction, thereby helping cut costs and deliver more sustainable solutions overall.
As the region embarks on its smart cities mission, we are also seeing utilities becoming even more customer-centric and playing a wider role as a connected service provider – bringing technologically advanced solutions that offer real-time intel on issues ahead of time, as well as solutions to identify and quickly address problems in the instance that they do arise.
Given the region's dry climate, do you believe there is any threat to water availability in the Middle East? If so, what can firms like Sensus do to combat this, in collaboration with governments?
Naturally in this region, production of water is very resource-intensive and as a result of climatic conditions. Any leakages have a higher net impact here on the overall ability of utilities to run a smart water network.
In the past, outdated infrastructure, inefficient utilisation and resource management have caused problems. Today, however, with sustainability being a key pillar of the UAE’s National Agenda 2021, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and a key priority for other utilities and governments across the GCC, we are seeing greater emphasis being placed on the integration of smart solutions, to guarantee optimal asset utilisation.
As the market-leading experts in metrology, our smart water meters enable utility networks to do just this. The provision of accurate intelligence collected using next generation analytics, allows utilities to achieve improved water consumption measurement, leakage detection, real-time data analytics and better water distribution management, all of which is key in protecting against potential issues or intervening ahead of time, to ensure more water is not wasted.
Briefly, what are some of Sensus' latest innovative products, and how will they contribute to the regional water utilities sector as the advent of smart cities becomes more commonplace?
Our products, including our new smart metering system, Cordonel, which we launched in the region at WETEX 2019, help water utilities achieve tangible cost savings and operational efficiencies. Cordonel in particular is an extremely versatile metering system, that helps users manage distribution networks more efficiently, thereby contributing to better water resource management through accurate, actionable data.
What sets this particular product apart is its ability to provide an intelligent response to two of the major challenges that utility network managers face – i.e. the lack of hyper-accurate metrology to detect even the smallest leaks, and the lack of a connected meter that communicates critical network data in real-time. By addressing these, it will not only help address leakage and save costs, but also enable managers here in the region to optimise daily maintenance to increase the uptime of the network.
Generally, what would you say is the role of smart utilities in the smart cities of the future?
Here in the UAE and wider region, we are witnessing incredible transformational growth, particularly in the realm of digitalisation and the smart city agenda. Governments are leading the way in realising the direct correlation between digital upgrades to utilities and economic security and growth and they understand that smart utilities are one of most important links in enabling smart cities.
Smart meters in particular play a significant role in delivering seamless automation, given their capacity to accurately track and quantify water usage, as well as offer other vital features such as real-time leak detection. By facilitating improved digital water capabilities, we can reap the rewards in terms of operational excellence, improved revenue potential and more sustainable resource management.
Sustainability is a key pillar of the UAE’s Vision 2021 initiative, and this coupled with the Dubai Smart City Initiative makes it an incredibly exciting and decisive time for the water industry here, particularly for ‘early adopter’ utilities.
Do companies like Sensus face any challenges in the regional water utilities sector? If so, in what way?
Utilities are rapidly implementing advanced communication networks, so with this comes the need for increased measures to ensure networks are fully secured. Data security is therefore one of the most important priorities for Sensus both in the region and globally. Through our enhanced encryption and key management technologies, we facilitate the secure transfer of data from smart meters and sensors to the analytics platform – providing utilities with the tools they need to protect their networks and endpoints from any external threats or vulnerabilities. We’re committed to continuously developing innovative, market-leading solutions that ensure reliable, end-to-end communications and data integrity for networks and end-users.
What cost savings for citizens and governments are involved in the implementation of smart water utilities?
When you think about our product, it’s a very valuable resource from an environmental perspective, and it brings substantial financial advantages. Being able to deploy a technology that allows utilities to monitor water consumption patterns and the network supply chain, enables them to plan for and alleviate potential issues or discrepancies before they even happen.
It’s important to remember that the production of water in this part of the world requires significant outputs of energy, which equates to increased financial costs. By implementing a holistic, smart approach to water management, utilities can gain greater operational efficiency and profitability in the long-term, whilst helping to reduce unnecessary water leakage and energy expenditure across their networks.