Industrial Internet of Things transforms the water & wastewater industry
The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing the ways people interact with technology in their everyday lives. Likewise, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is changing how businesses—including municipal and commercial water and wastewater treatment facilities—manage their information assets. WWD Associate Editor Michael Meyer spoke with Saar Yoskovitz, co-founder and CEO of IIoT and predictive maintenance company Augury, about how the IIoT can help water and wastewater treatment providers become more efficient.
Michael Meyer: What benefits does the IIoT offer to water utilities?
Saar Yoskovitz: The IIoT is a big umbrella term that includes a lot of different components inside it. I think that by now, if you look at the larger IIoT, the first real “killer app” is predictive maintenance. How can I continuously get a sense of the health of my machines in order to enable me or the facility manager or the chief engineer to be more proactive and be able to intervene at exactly the right time? Predictive maintenance isn’t truly new—it’s been out for 30 years now—but it’s stuck in a very high-end market: gas turbines and jet engines and high-end facilities. Only today, through the introduction of smart connected sensors with advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms on top of it, there is a real viable solution for the lower-end commercial and industrial facilities, like water utilities and wastewater facilities.
Meyer: What goals should water providers have for IIoT implementation?
Yoskovitz: It depends if it’s a municipality or a private company. Some companies look at profit and bottom line, and through predictive maintenance you can really drive down the cost of your ongoing maintenance. You can reduce the number of breakdowns and the cost of repairs. But I think the overarching goal for all of the infrastructure, including water and maybe power plants and others, is uptime. In New Orleans, not too long ago, because of eight faulty machines—faulty pumps—the whole city was flooded when they had a storm coming in. That is unacceptable. The machines were down for maintenance, or they stopped working during the storm. They should have known ahead of time that something was wrong, or they should have planned better, if only they had the visibility. A year before that happened, they maybe could have replaced the bearing, or aligned the machines, and that would have stopped the machines from failing.
Meyer: How can utilities effectively budget for IIoT implementation?
Yoskovitz: One of the biggest shifts today in the market is a shift from capex to opex. If you look at traditionally what it took, let’s say five years ago, to bring the machines online and start monitoring them, it meant you had to go into a facility and wire all of it, because all the sensors were wired, and then connect all of it to the machine human interface or the machine control room. You were facing a seven-figure IT project just to get going. Today, companies like Augury have no upfront investment required. So when you work with us, as an example, we give away all the hardware for free, we provide all the installation for free, and we charge an ongoing subscription for the diagnostic services. So when you try to think of budget, it’s more about allocating an ongoing operating expense versus trying to figure out where you’re going to get $2 to $5 million to invest in a project just to buy the hardware and set everything up.
Meyer: How do you see this market expanding in the future?
Yoskovitz: As I said, predictive maintenance is the first real application that really resonates with almost everyone across organizations. If I can provide you uptime, you’re probably going to say okay. I can save you maintenance costs and repair costs, and that resonates with everyone from the CFO to the COO, and maybe the CEO of the organization, and maybe the chief engineers and maintenance people on the ground. The question is: What happens after? What other insights can you get when you have full visibility to all your machines—not only the health of them, but also the operating conditions, and also the throughput of how much water is being passed? Maybe we can help you benchmark your facility compared to other water facilities or wastewater facilities throughout the country, and also give you real insights into how you can improve both the bottom line.
Seeing the Big Picture
As implementation of IIoT applications continues, Yoskovitz and the team at Augury are considering how it will affect the evolution of industry. According to Yoskovitz, it is possible that the future will feature a seismic shift in the way equipment is sold and maintained.
“In the future, instead of you—the facility owner—buying a pump and running it, we will shift to an equipment-as-a-service type of a model, where you just pay for gallons of water, and then the [original equipment manufacturer (OEM)] will ensure uptime,” Yoskovitz said. “It’s [the manufacturer’s] problem to maintain the machine and make sure that it’s up and running, and they take all of the risk of malfunctions and replacement parts.”
If more machines are connected to the IIoT and maintained by the OEMs, the ways the industry is financed and insured could significantly change.
“It changes the way that they do business with OEM, it changes the way that they do business with the insurance companies, and there may be other second-order effects that we haven’t even realized yet,” Yoskovitz said. “That’s where it gets really interesting—what does this enable, having all the machines connected and knowing the health of every machine at any given moment?”
Saar Yoskovitz is co-founder and CEO of IIoT and predictive maintenance company Augury. He has extensive experience in machine learning, signal processing algorithms and system architecture. Prior to founding Augury, Yoskovitz worked as an analog architect at Intel. He holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and a Bachelor of Science in physics from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Yoskovitz can be reached at [email protected]