WaterGroup shaping the future of water

Aimi Macready, Head of Sales and Marketing at WaterGroup, Holly Guy, Head of Smart Metering Operations and Guenter Hauber-Davidson, Managing Director, provide insights into implementing sensors and IoT devices for a better water future.

Aimi Macready, Head of Sales and Marketing at WaterGroup, Holly Guy, Head of Smart Metering Operations and Guenter Hauber-Davidson, Managing Director, provide insights into implementing sensors and IoT devices for a better water future.

“As a small child, I could never walk past a trickle of water without playing in it, much to my mother’s great dismay. I’ve always had an affinity for water. This might suggest that I would have become a dam builder. Instead, I work to avoid the need for new dams.”

Guenter Hauber-Davidson has been instrumental in developing water conservation designs, tools, and models. To date, he has developed and delivered more than 100 water savings projects and a smart water meter. Hauber-Davidson is among a handful of water conservation experts who can claim involvement in implementing large-scale integrated water conservation schemes.

“I did initially start on the dirty side of water, focusing on wastewater,” said Hauber-Davidson. “However, during the first millennium drought, I found an opportunity to work in the water efficiency space. I’m a greenie at heart, so I loved the opportunity to work on managing water better.”

Starting WaterGroup

As one of the founders of WaterGroup, Hauber-Davidson’s goals for the company were to help the world with cost-effective and sustainable solutions that allow society to manage water better and more efficiently. In the intervening 17 years, he believes the overall solutions and goals remain the same. What has happened is a shift in focus around water efficiency and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“When we began 17 years ago, Australia was generally horrible at water efficiency,” he said. “Most Australians did not think about water because it just came out of the tap and was always there. When the Millennium Drought arrived after the Olympics, we saw our dams rapidly deplete; the Murray Darling River was just a series of ponds in some parts of Australia, and water dwindled everywhere across the country.”

Around this time, there was a focus on water efficiency, which saw the introduction of dual flush toilets, water-efficient taps and showerheads, among other things. The implementation of this equipment was quickly followed by legislation and regulation, such as the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme. According to the WELS scheme website, Australians could save more than $2 billion by 2030 through water-efficient products – working out at an average saving of $175 per household per year.

“The legislation and regulation very quickly eliminated the worst offenders when it came to water efficiency,” said Hauber-Davidson. “Then there was a lot of funding for rainwater and stormwater harvesting.”

Other involvement in WaterGroup

Similarly, Aimi Macready has been involved in technology for over 18 years. She is passionate about getting to the heart of individual business needs, with over 25 years of experience working across world-class technology and related organisations. Macready is strongly determined to solve ongoing business challenges with the help of IoT-based solutions. When it comes to the water industry, she believes that it has advanced so much technologically.

“I like how technology creates better outcomes for people, businesses, and the environment,” said Macready. “I wanted to be a part of the water industry and its advancements.”

Holly Guy came into the water industry and smart metering field more recently. After finishing a job in the financial services industry, she wanted to find something new. With a progressive view of the industry and utilising the latest IoT and LPWAN technologies, she is set to successfully manage many of WaterGroup’s largest smart metering projects for key clients.

“I wanted to work for a company that was actively investing in ways to revolutionise how we manage global resources,” said Guy. “I was lucky to come across a sales role at WaterGroup in 2019.”

She’s been with WaterGroup ever since and now heads up the smart metering operations team. She has moved quickly to develop a lot of knowledge. Her career path within WaterGroup has satisfied her desire to work on optimising water resource usage while enhancing environmental conservation.

Internet of Things

On reflection, Macready stumbled into the Internet of Things (IoT) industry. Her first role in a technology integration and consulting business had just started to talk about IoT in the early to mid-2000s.

“I became more interested in IoT when I moved into the Connected Lighting Industry — it was a light bulb moment,” she said. “The intake and evolution of IoT has and continues to impact customers and businesses across lighting and water. Commercial, industrial, retail, and tertiary segments are, in my experience, the ones that have been benefiting the longest. Our case studies and results for these clients are hard proof that technology and the data it provides significantly impact how a business runs and becomes more sustainable.”

Guy believes that the smart water industry has changed significantly with the introduction of IoT technology.

“I’d say that’s significantly accelerated,” she said. “It has led to more advanced sensors and data analytic capabilities. In smart water monitoring, IoT has outpaced 3G or other radio networks due to energy efficiency, scalability, interoperability, and diversity in connectivity options.”

A treasure trove of data

“To be honest, we squandered a huge opportunity when the funding from the government for water harvesting and recycling schemes was available,” Hauber-Davidson said. “We should have been monitoring and measuring all these systems. Imagine the treasure trove of data we could be sitting on now. Yet, we’ve barely scratched the surface of possibilities.”

Hauber-Davidson believes that understanding how systems funded have been operating has helped us to work out what has been achieved – and what has not.

Still, he believes we are now at a reasonable level of basic water efficiency. The focus now is on monitoring and understanding what is happening across the system.

“In water conservation, slow and steady loses the race, to coin a phrase,” said Hauber-Davidson. “If you have just a small leak of one litre a minute, it doesn’t look like much on its own. It is a fast-dripping tap but not a stream of water. Yet, it works out to nearly 1,500 litres a day. That is about as much water as 10 people use.”

Like Hauber-Davidson, Guy believes in the importance of examining the data. Understanding the data generated by smart IoT devices is critical for water utilities and municipal governments.

“Smart systems generate a lot of data,” said Guy. “Businesses that adopt smart monitoring need to have addressed how they will effectively manage the data coming in. WaterGroup places a lot of importance on ensuring our clients can interpret and use the data efficiently. As a company, we want our clients to instantly have access to the information they need without getting lost in the volume of data coming through.”

Water savings and software

She emphasised that while the basic water savings and water efficiency measures are now in place, the industry is moving to a high-tech level of monitoring. With all the software, monitoring, and IoT devices, the industry can understand what is happening, keep efficiencies high and avoid wastage wherever possible.

“The advantages enable real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and seamless integration with existing infrastructure,” said Guy. “We’ve seen an evolution in how we collect, analyse, and use the data we collect from meters. WaterGroup is continuously gaining insights into our water networks which in turn is making us more efficient in the upkeep and maintenance of those networks. One of the biggest advantages is improved resource management and customer satisfaction. We’re a society that thrives on having data at our fingertips, and software advancements are making it readily available, allowing us to action issues as they arise or even ahead of time.”

Guy’s involvement in the industry has seen the impact of software improve the quality of data received.

“I reckon software developments have ensured the data we’re receiving from smart meters is more user-friendly whilst being easily interoperable with other business technologies,” said Guy. “We’re part of the evolution of smart cities, so integration with multiple systems is a must for success. WaterGroup’s SaaS platform UtiliOS is one of the ways we ensure our clients negate the need for multiple systems. We maintain the capability of integrating with other software whilst providing a device-agnostic platform allowing you to display all your smart monitoring data in one place.”

Technology supports savings

With the wide range of IoT devices available in the market, WaterGroup needs to understand many aspects of the systems in which they work. There are differences between the biggest and smallest installations.

“If we’re just dealing with a few points, we want devices that can connect through narrowband IoT (NB IoT),” Hauber-Davidson said. “Those devices, like our mobile phones, can connect to the existing telecommunications network. On the other hand, if we’re doing a mass rollout of hundreds or thousands of devices, we might look at long-range wide-area networks (LoRaWANs). Such a dedicated network can look after many devices.”

By using IoT devices, WaterGroup is trying to pick up when, where and how abnormal usage occurs. The data collected from sensors monitoring how water flows through a system can pick up unusual patterns. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help identify where a leak might occur.

“Every leak has a pattern and a fingerprint,” Hauber-Davidson said. “Our software and algorithms can pick that up and verify it through years of data monitoring and experience. We have spent enough time on those sites to know what is normal and abnormal. As a result, we can get pretty close to the cause of a leak and its location, saving money for our clients.”

The future for WaterGroup

Hauber-Davidson would like to see every single 40mm and larger water meter monitored online. That would prevent any further undetected water leaks throughout Australia’s water network.

“We know when more water is used than necessary. AI can help streamline the procedures to make sure people know what to do,” he said. “As a company, we are working hard to automate these things to scale them up and become significantly bigger.”

WaterGroup has been around since 2006. Hauber-Davidson, Macready, and Guy are part of a company known for its ability to address many of the water industry’s challenges. Macready pointed out how WaterGroup was the first to bring Australian Utilities a commercially ready NB-IoT, fully integrated, ultrasonic smart water meter, an industry favourite now.

“We’re an effective team when it comes to communication, transparency and collaboration,” said Guy. “This is not just about communication between our clients but our providers too. I think that is what makes us one of the strongest companies in providing fully integrated end-to-end solutions. By embracing change, being adaptable and fostering a culture of innovation, we’re confident in our ability to positively impact water management in the future.

In looking forward, Macready is looking to its history. She knows that WaterGroup will continue to evolve and make an impact.

“With a progressive view of the industry and utilising the latest in IoT and LPWAN technologies, WaterGroup has won awards for excellence in this area,” said Macready.” We see water network monitoring as the next frontier.”

For more information, visit https://www.watergroup.com.au/

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