11 Jul 12 Outsourcing analytics solutions for increasingly thirsty cities
“Water, water, everywhere; Nor any drop to drink” from Coleridge’s famous poem was part of everyone’s curriculum in school, but it may soon become a harsh reality for today’s urban dwellers living in mega cities. With only 2.5% of the total volume of water available in freshwater form and the increasing requirements for safe drinking water, city planners are facing a global water crisis. In 2011, about 80% of the world’s population live in areas with threats to water security. The stress on the water supply system is high with most cities in developing countries not getting a 24/7 water connection. The present infrastructure in most cities is ageing resulting in physical losses of 30-50% of the daily water supply.
Amid worries of decreasing water supply, outsourcing service providers such as IBM see a huge opportunity. The company’s ‘smarter water management technologies’ is part of its USD 100 million investment to expand into environmental fields. IBM is in talks with urban local bodies to introduce its advanced analytics driven water management solutions. The implementation of this solution is done through a real-time analytics system that tracks and reports on several parameters of the water utility infrastructure including filtration, water pumping, storage basins, monitoring pollution levels and most importantly, increasing the supply of water. The combination of volumes of data, the need for mining across discrete data types and the need for real-time responses require new kinds of water management intelligence and models which require complex statistical algorithms and massive parallel analyses.
This intelligence also includes predictive analytics to monitor systems and alert authorities regarding potential problems such as burst water mains, leakage points, clogged junctions and hazardous sewage overflow. The overall solution encompasses ‘smart sensors’, data modeling, visualizing tools and analytics to monitor water infrastructure and predict scenarios to reduce wastage. IBM has successfully implemented these solutions globally and their past clients include, the Fukuoka District Waterworks in Japan, DC Water, the Power and Water Corporation in Australia and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Smaller service providers are entering this space too. Prominent among them is an Israeli start up Takadu. It has partnered with Thames Water to monitor infrastructure and detect leaks in underground pipes. Through this partnership, Thames Water has achieved its annual water reduction targets five years in a row.
In the past few years, the public sector has opened up to outsourcing as a key strategy by partnering with service providers for process driven BPO (administration, payroll etc) and technology solutions (smart grids for electricity distribution). Taking this forward, KPO, specifically data analytics will usher in the next wave of outsourcing between the public sector and third party service providers. Larger IT-BPOs with analytics capabilities must explore this option by extending their existing relationships with government bodies to include analytics driven water system monitoring solutions. With annual budgets reducing and austerity measures implemented across all levels, local governments will realize greater benefits and increased cost savings through outsourcing partnerships to increase water supply and reduce wastage. The greatest benefit, however, will be urban dwellers like us who will be guaranteed an uninterrupted supply of fresh drinking water.