Access to clean water is a basic human right, and while Government strives to provide access for all, the reality is that South Africa is currently facing a potential water crisis. But, with big data and advanced analytics software, water utilities and municipalities will be empowered to better manage water networks, writes ECKART ZOLLNER.
A shortage of clean water to areas already serviced by municipalities is becoming a growing challenge, as demand outstrips supply, aging infrastructure becomes unable to cope with volumes, and millions of litres of clean and treated water are lost due to leaks, amongst other problems. More effective management of water networks is key to addressing these and other future challenges. By harnessing the power of technology in the form of big data and advanced analytics software, water utilities and municipalities alike will be empowered to better manage water networks and as a result, improve service delivery. Technology solutions enable them to address previously unidentified issues, become more proactive about maintaining networks, respond more effectively to the growing demand and to tackle the looming water problem before it can become a full-blown crisis.
With the energy crisis being top of mind at the moment, many South Africans are unaware that water is a growing problem and should be on everyone’s radar. In fact, according to an article published in Business Day in February 2015, “The 2014 Global Risk Report conducted by the World Economic Forum rated ‘water crises’ as the third-most significant global risk, two places above that of the failure of climate change mitigation adaption”. This is a significant statement, especially when the vast majority of the South African population are not aware of the current state of water services in our country. In addition, the newspaper reported that “by 2030, it is estimated that water usage in South Africa will have grown to 2.7-billion cubic metres, leaving a 17% gap in supply and demand. Taking into account the current projected population growth and economic development rates, it is unlikely that meeting the projected demand for water resources in SA will be sustainable.”
To add to these alarming statistics, it is estimated that 36.8% of the total municipal water supplied in South Africa is lost before it reaches municipal customers, from industry to households, according to research released by the Water Research Commission (WRC). One of the major reasons for this wastage is due to undetected leaks, which are an issue because the majority of the water network is buried underground, and leaks are often difficult to pinpoint until they cause further damage such as sinkholes or collapsed infrastructure. This wasted water is still undergoing costly treatment to ensure it is clean and potable, however, it cannot be charged for and fails to generate revenue for municipalities. This in addition to the cost of fixing massive infrastructure issues when they occur puts increasing strain on already tight budgets. This in turn takes funding away from Government’s ability to deliver services to more people and provide access to water for all.
The upshot of this situation is that municipalities and water utilities face the challenge not only of having to manage the demand for clean water and ensuring there is sufficient supply when already faced a shortage, but they are also losing money too. However, new technology solutions such as big data analytics have the potential to turn this challenge around.
Water utilities by their very nature generate significant volumes of data, which can be harnessed and analysed to provide insight for improved management and decision-making ability. Utilising intelligent data analytics based on past usage data combined with predictive flow modelling as well as real-time information on water levels, weather reports, water flows, pressure and more, significant events can be detected and alerts sent out to highlight potential issues. This type of data analysis can create alerts for water leaks and loss, burst pipes, loss of water pressure and faulty metres, as well as usage patterns, water quality issues and much more. This helps water utilities and municipalities to generate knowledge about network inefficiencies, water loss and other hazards. In addition, it can help to proactively detect leaks for faster resolution, and can help municipalities to prioritise repairs and maintenance based on the likelihood of problems and failures, as well as perform accurate network planning and optimisation.
This type of end-to-end water network management, delivered as a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SAAS), can greatly assist water utilities to avert a water crisis. By providing instant visibility into problematic areas of the water network, many improvements can be made. It provides real-time data and analysis for quicker response to events, allows municipalities to pre-empt issues and deliver improved customer service, amongst other benefits. With a growing population with increasing need for water, both for consumer and industry, improved management and service delivery is essential, and the goal is to reduce non-revenue water losses to between eight and 10%. Technology that assists with early leak detection, proactive maintenance and better management is essential, and ultimately supports the global drive towards the creation of smart cities.
* Eckart Zollner, Business Development Manager, The Jasco Group
CES: Most useless gadgets of all
Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.
But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.
The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.
1. DUX voice-assisted bed
The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.
2. Smart Baby Dining Table
Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.
Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.
CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”
Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.
Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:
Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator
The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication.
It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.
It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.”
Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.