New research evaluates different pipe inspection technologies
Water infrastructure inspection and repair is a growing $20 billion market, but still needs better technology to make maintenance affordable, according to a new report by Lux Research.
The market for technologies that help inspect and repair the world’s aging water infrastructure is approaching $20 billion worldwide and is growing at a healthy 10%. Currently, that growth is mostly paid for by consumer water bills rather, leading municipalities to seek more cost-effective ways of maintaining their pipe networks. In its latest report, Lux Research argues that the most lucrative solutions will arise from technologies that can monitor the entire water infrastructure and allow owners to target sections in most urgent need of repair.
Titled “Plugging the Leaks: The Business of Water Infrastructure Repair,” the report provides a reality check on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the inspection and repair of aging water infrastructures. It includes guidance on how to identify technologies best equipped to isolate, prioritize and target critical repairs.
To conduct its analysis, Lux Research surveyed the field of technology providers and broke it into two segments: pipe repair technologies and monitoring technologies. It developed scores for the maturity and technical value of individual companies and used these scores to position each company in one out of four quadrants: “current winners” that are high on both value and maturity, “future winners” with high value but low maturity, “incumbents” with high maturity but low value and “long-shot” technologies that do poorly on both axes. Among its key findings:
• Pipe repair technologies lack innovation. The landscape of pipe repair technologies indicates an industry facing stagnation. While the quadrants for “current winners” and “incumbents” are well occupied, few companies land in the quadrants for “future winners” or even “long shots”;
• Smart meters currently lead the monitoring category. Smart water meters have yet to see major market penetration, but the presence of massive companies in the market with little technological differentiation limits opportunities in the market. “Future winners” in the drinking water industry will facilitate smart-meter sales and ride the coattails of their success, including algorithmic event predictors, leak locators and other methods for automating collection and application of smart meter data; and
• The big move is toward smart infrastructure monitoring options. Possessing a clear and comprehensive picture of the entire infrastructure could save a water company tens or hundreds of thousands in repairs each year. The first part of that goal is now widespread: Survey-quality GPS, sometimes combined with electromagnetic or ground-penetrating radar, can map pipe infrastructure, creating three-dimensional maps that show exactly where the pipe is and correcting the widespread errors in existing maps.