Passion for ‘Digital Pacific’ – The gap in the Pacific
Digitalisation is progressing everywhere. It’s unstoppable. This is the biggest gap in the pacific and we have to find the best way to use it, leverage water utilities data and data from society. For example, that weather is a good indicator of demand, and freezing and thawing have an influence on pipe breaks. All data combined will result in improved operations and asset management information that is decision based.
In my recent and first ever virtual dialogue under Pacific Connect Network Dialogue on Technology and Water sanitation in the Solomon Islands, from my personal capacity it was fascinating and rewarding to discuss project initiatives around the ‘Digital Pacific’ concept to address water and sanitation challenges in the Solomon Islands.
It’s empowering coming out of the ICDP dialogue as we’re able to address the gap of ‘Digital Pacific’ especially in the water & sanitation sector. I felt connected discussing our project ideas with my team of experts and pacific leaders during our group discussions. It was as if we were on the synchronized frequency of development of a water sustainability mapping tool to help communities self-manage and report. It was amazing hearing about how they were empowering local communities through their success at the same time. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing, that you’re building something to help your local communities.
Passion for ‘Digital Pacific’ – My Input in the Water Sector So far
Data-driven decisions is of paramount importance to this evolving 21st Century. What is obvious now is that using data, right now, as industry adapts to the economic impacts of COVID-19 may enable better decision making.
For the past eight years in the water industry in Fiji and the Pacific, using Internet of Things (IoT) & Artificial Intelligence (AI) for data driven insights in addressing Water & Sanitation operational challenges has always been a key passion of mine.
As a consultant partner with DS Insight Pty Ltd based in Adelaide, Australia, we do a lot of work in the IoT Smart Networks space, Asset Management, AgTech and Non-Revenue Water (NRW) projects in South Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. Most of our projects are backed up with our R&D partners from University of Adelaide under Water Research Centre.
Joining the Pacific Connect Network under ICDP is a good platform for us to discuss WaterTech and AgTech solutions to improve our efficiency and resilience through Digitization in the pacific.
Through the Pacific Connect Network ‘Digital Pacific’ platform – it underpins our key upcoming projects in the Pacific (Fiji) and probably Solomon Islands as well to start off with.
- Monitoring COVID19 through wastewater systems
- As globally reported, there are concerns of a second wave once boarders and restrictions are progressively removed and we are working with key stakeholders in Fiji to sample first entry sites for incoming ships/cruise ships and International Airport, as these can be potentially undertaken as an early warning method to assist Ministry of Health & Government with critical public health information.
- Digitizing Aquaculture Farms in the Pacific using IoT
- There is a GAP in developing this area and data trends from IoT play a critical role. Digitalization of aquaculture farms for improved process development from egg collection, to hatchery, to fingerlings right up to grow outs meeting the farmers Tilapia demand. Reducing mortality rate in the process.
- Asset Management for Water & Wastewater Systems
- Use cutting edge imaging service that can assess the “Chemical” and “Structural Strength” of any pipeline material. This data is critical for determining the remaining strength of pipe walls to complement Asset Condition Assessment (Water Infrastructure) and additionally carry out Advance Condition Assessment for Asbestos Cement (AC) pipes
- Reduction of Non-Revenue Water (NRW) in the Pacific
- Water is at the heart of sustainable development and the need to protect and manage precious resources has become increasingly critical. NRW or Water Loss Management is the implementation of strategies, technologies and solutions to assist water utilities to reduce non –revenue water loss. ‘Digital Pacific’ under the Pacific Connect Network collectively addresses this.
Passion for ‘Digital Pacific’ – My Water Utility Input under the NRW Strategy
Under the Non-Revenue Water Reduction plans for a pacific water utility I had worked with, a synchronized program of deploying and installing advanced measuring flowmeters (Smart Meters), Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs) and pressure monitoring loggers (Pressure Data Loggers) started from late 2016 and ever since have been receiving continuous investments from the Government under the Capital Funding Works Program every year.
The power of data that is now available has made life easier for the utility’s Leak Detection teams, operational teams and hydraulic modelling engineers in its day to day core functions.
The leak detection teams are now zeroing in on the aging, underground labyrinths of pipes to pinpoint and repair small leaks. This is where Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and fast data analytics play a key role.
A particular District Metered Area (DMA) of roughly 1,223 Metered Connections was used as a proof of concept for a period of 3 months to show the importance of digitizing our water network through IoTs. Synchronized data from smart metering, robust PRV performance and critical pressure monitoring points installed within the proof of concept DMA improved water efficiency through – (1) Saving of approx. 11 mega litres of water (16%) after the proof of concept period, (2) Reduction in number of burst main frequencies (3) Optimizing average demand usage of DMA by month (4) Re-adjustment of DMA reticulation valve settings. Tackling Minimum night flows (MNFs) was a bonus where reported and unreported leaks were attended to right away by the water utility DMA operations team.
Having IoT with an alert system is a good investment but using the data to make legitimate decisions for optimum water network performance is a definite game changer.
From this study, water utility engineers had made changes to it valve settings and operations to meet the customer demand usage based on time of water use.
Workforce transformation to use these digital tools are a critical factor. Beyond the excitement around the IoT and Innovative technologies, water utilities are slowly empowering its key people on the front lines of water systems. As pressing as the situation is in many parts of the world, human resistance remains a barrier. The awareness of how critical water is, is not there. Then we can talk about digitalization of infrastructure investment.
Building Networks through ICDP – Pacific Connect Network
There is an exciting business venture that I’ve recently engaged with under FUNGS FARM in Fiji. We’ve been addressing a market gap on Soil Health Testing for farmers who wish to know a baseline of their soil fertility.
This is an exciting project and through the Pacific Connect we’re able to start preliminary discussions with Common Code Australia to work out an app specifically for Soil Health. Our common goal is to develop a mapping tool for soil health.
Fred is the consulting partner with DS Insight Pty Ltd based in South Australia. With extensive experience in the water sector Fred has now developed his passion through ‘Digital Pacific’ IoT to bring about WaterTech and AgTech solutions in the Pacific. Fred have assisted water utilities in PNG, Solomon Islands and Fiji through creating a platform for Artificial Intelligence tools that augment the ability of the human operator to make sense of it all. With his passion in ‘Digital Pacific’, Digitalisation provides tools to find best compromise between cost and consequence on the performance of the system – the biggest bang for the buck.