Technological solutions for leak detection and Xylem

Xylem has been at the forefront of leak detection – its systems incorporate an array of technologies to support water utilities.

Xylem has been at the forefront of leak detection – its systems incorporate an array of technologies to support water utilities.

Xylem has developed a range of leak detection systems designed to pick up and locate leaks within a pipe network. Kevin He, the Senior Practice Solutions Architect (Design Intelligence Solutions, Emerging Markets), has spoken about how the company’s range of solutions is providing new opportunities for water utilities worldwide.

“Xylem’s leak detection systems combine network sensing technologies with advanced algorithms and machine learning models to detect leaks,” He said. “We use techniques like pressure transient, exception, and acoustic energy monitoring. This monitoring system is now integrated into an advanced water management platform called Xylem Vue Powered by GoAigua. It unifies information across data silos to provide a holistic view of all processes and infrastructure across the entire water cycle. It can generate insights and identify potential leaks from the customer’s premise to the distribution and supply network.”

Xylem’s experience in this field has seen its systems implemented in many countries. Of note is the installation of 1800 Xylem sensors by Air Selangor, Malaysia’s biggest water services provider. It provides safe and drinkable water to about 8.4 million consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya.

“Those sensors were installed in 2017/18,” He said. “Air Selangor has been using the Xylem sensors to monitor over 6,000 km of their trunk main network. Since installing the sensors, the system has identified hundreds of pressure transients, bursts, and leaks in near real-time.”

IoT and big data in leak detection systems

Xylem has invested in the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. That’s how the sensors connect and provide information to the customer.

“Xylem can utilise the flow meters, customer meters and pressure sensors to calculate the performance efficiency of the networks,” said He. “This then tells the utility where they need to implement field intervention works, what those works need to be, and when they need to be done by putting an order of priority to the areas. Also, noise loggers can help pinpoint where the leak is located.”

With all the information from flow meters, customer meters, and pressure sensors, it’s vital that the data can be read and interpreted in a way that supports the water utility. Xylem is ahead of the game when it comes to that, following its partnership with Idrica.

“Xylem Vue powered by GoAigua is a multi-faceted data agnostic digital platform that provides actionable insights into the asset performance of the utility,” he said. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows big data to improve network management.”

He cites how water utilities traditionally recorded data at 15-minute intervals, representing a maximum of 96 daily readings. Xylem’s pressure transient monitoring system records up to 256 readings per second. That means it is now possible to handle larger volumes of data. This big data analysis provides better granularity for water network oversight.

Looking across the business

Many utilities and local councils across Australia are investigating the digitisation of their water networks. Such a project involves the entire business, as it can impact every aspect of the business.

“Leakage management is a multi-functional effort for water utilities requiring input from many functions,” said He. “It includes the non-revenue water team, field operations, engineering, IT, customer service and metering. As such, designing and configuring a leak detection system requires all the stakeholder groups to align their understanding of water efficiency and data insights.”

That also means sharing data. One problem impacting businesses is the tendency to keep dialogue for their own department rather than sharing it. This is called data siloing and can impinge on the effectiveness of any digitalisation project.

“If departments within a business adopt a siloed mentality, it prevents data from being shared across the business,” he said. “It often prevents businesses from identifying the root cause of an issue. That means more time and money having to be spent to resolve the issue.”

In He’s experience, data silos often appear when different vendors provide individual data services, not interacting with each other. It results in multiple platforms being used by the employees, reducing efficiency, and increasing the risk of mistakes.

“Having a single platform to manage all information can bring separate and seemingly unrelated data streams together,” He said. “This allows cross-parameter analysis, which can deliver previously unidentified benefits.

Digitisation all-encompassing

He firmly believes in supporting the digitisation of water authorities and local councils. At the same time, such groups must understand the goals of digitisation and how to monitor the data entering the system.

“The first step on the digitalisation journey is the setting up of an overall monitoring platform,” he said. “Subsequently, sectorising the network enables the utility to monitor its performance in more detail. It is important to include leak detection systems in a water utility’s overall digital transformation strategy. Otherwise, the operator could be left with several independent systems that can’t be integrated, and information ends up in data silos.”

Being proactive is a fundamental component of any digitisation project. He recognises that there are many operational improvement opportunities once the data flow starts coming in.

“Tracking the data from sensors enables early identification of decreasing network performance,” said He. “However, live alerts and alarms from sensors linked to the digital platform enable the identification of the root cause of the alarm. The utility can send its field teams to the cause, saving time, effort, and money.”

This is why the Xylem Vue Powered by GoAigua can combine alarms into clusters. There’s no point in sending individual alarms to system operators when a cluster of alarms can provide more accurate information. It’s also why clusters work better with big data.

“It is impossible for human operators to monitor large volumes of information in near real-time in an era of big data,” He said. “It is essential that leak detection systems have automated analysis which can issue alerts and notifications to allow operators to respond effectively.”

Artificial intelligence and the future of leak detection systems

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing almost every industry across the globe. Its use in the water industry has created many opportunities for improvement.

“AI has brought and will bring further improvements in data analysis capability and accurate reporting of changes in operational performance,” said He. “Providing an intelligent eye on asset performance will enable utilities to increase their proactive network management capability and reduce their reactive-based event resolution process.”

The impact of these intelligent systems is helping reduce the volume of water lost through leakage. The future remains bright for the water industry and the role of AI in detecting leaks.

“The volume depends on how long it takes to be aware of a leak, locate it, and repair it,” He said. “AI will play a major role in improving the efficiency of utilities to reduce the length of time of each of these factors.”

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