Updated: Mar 11, 2020
Sitting in a dark room with a muted screen, I ponder the implications of water enabled by technology. I’ve said it for years – the ROI on technologies for water that don’t actually touch, treat or move water will be HUGE. The capital costs are lower than installing pipes, pumps, treatments and conveyance systems and the outcomes can be significant. But it’s oftentimes hard to get through the noise.
I ponder this topic now, especially. The noise is almost deafening. Bitcoin is off the charts. Ethereum based ICO’s are out of this world. Everything is IoT enabled. AI seems to be everywhere.
It’s a bunch of noise to water enthusiasts until we find real, practical, usable applications.
There are some killer technologies out there that are being tracked. IoT is pretty common in water now – it’s not the future. It’s already here. In-home leak detection, smart meters (which really paved the way in water), quality monitoring solutions. IoT seems to have found a foothold. The real problem is what to do with all of that data.
Sorting through spreadsheets is, well, a bit archaic. Water utilities are starting to solve this issue with some great tools. Irrigation districts are a little further behind the curve. Farms are still figuring out which IoT tools make the most sense. The real issue becomes interoperability – but that’s another topic altogether.
AI and Blockchain have captured my attention over the past few years for a couple of reasons:
AI can sort through the massive amounts of data that we are now collecting and generate some real, actionable intelligence – or better, automate activity. This requires deeper integrations with other systems – like SCADA and CIS systems – but the potential is massive.
Blockchain can help us create new ledger and trading systems for water data. Leveraging the ledger and smart contracts, we can reduce the friction associated with trust and sharing of the data. I truly believe it can help mitigate the potential implications we have seen in IoT systems that may otherwise be prone to getting hacked.
We are still many cycles away from seeing the real value of AI and blockchain play out in water, but there is certainly opportunity.
Imagine a water system that leverages the data from 56K utilities across North America learning where common breakdowns occur in pipelines, sharing best practices to drive customer call center volume down and revenue collections up, reducing water loss, decreasing energy use and balancing production and energy loads across the system.
Imagine a food system where producers can maximize their earning potential by finding the right buyers at the right time in a trusted system, who have access to crop quality information from around the world, where water can be balanced between competing demands, compliance automated and the growers have access to their earnings in minutes rather than weeks.
The implications of these futures can bring water fully into the circular economy.
Yes, I am a true believer in the ability of IoT, AI and Blockchain technologies to transform our water systems and the way me manage water for the better. I’ve invested the past year of my life in better understanding how to bring this vision forward with our agricultural customers.
And that’s where the hustle comes in. There is no option to sit on the sidelines while developing these technologies. It’s only through hustling (i.e. Showing up for our potential clients) that we will build the right water management tools at the right time.
So, to all of the entrepreneurs changing the future of water management today – Thank You!