The coronavirus crisis has raised a scenario of uncertainty, in which digitalization is key to maintaining business operations and social activities.
Chema Nebot, Head of Business Development at Idrica, shares in this interview his perspective on the transformation of the sector, and how water has become not only a driver for change, but also a critical element in the fight against the spread of the virus.
How is the crisis affecting the water sector? Are companies prepared for the impact?
Uncertainty is perhaps one of the words that could best define this crisis, we do not really know how long it will last, which are the best measures to overcome it, or what the “new normality” will really be like.
This applies to the different business areas, such as turnover, new measures to be implemented or new operational costs. Many companies are rethinking their planned investments because the consequences of the pandemic remain largely unknown.
The coronavirus has highlighted the role of water in emergency or crisis situations, as we have commented in the Idrica Water Security Series over the last few months. Technology is helping our clients ensure the quality of their service. Remote control and telecommuting allow processes and activities to be maintained, overcoming mobility restrictions and minimizing risks for operators. Reading, billing, collection and customer service processes have been less affected. And for those companies that were not yet technologically mature, the crisis has served as a catalyst to see the need to digitize processes and foster automation.
Thanks to water technology we detected that the virus was present in some cities before March. In the case of Spain, a few months earlier. It is currently helping us to identify potential outbreaks or detect the spread of the virus, which puts us one step ahead of Covid-19. The current situation has allowed us to identify water as a differentiator for managing the pandemic.
How is GoAigua technology helping in these unprecedented times?
GoAigua provides solutions for a holistic view of all processes. For example, our GoAigua SARS Analytics solution, recently awarded by Water Europe, is an Early Warning System that integrates the entire process, from planning and sampling in city sewer systems, to receiving and analyzing samples in laboratories, and finally representing results in real time. GoAigua SARS Analytics allows us to observe the spread of Covid-19 and facilitates decision-making. It is a process that must be well orchestrated, so all entities involved in it must be synchronized, and it is essential to have a single management point. GoAigua has much to contribute to this important work.
GoAigua is a mature technology that allows a vendor-agnostic data integration and the automation of processes. This is undoubtedly one of the main added values of GoAigua, and Idrica as a company.
Can we draw any conclusions from the crisis?
Maybe we just reached the end of the learning and analysis stage. History and behavior patterns are very important in the water industry, and thanks to digitalization we know what has happened in the last few months and how operations have been affected. We are analyzing every aspect and laying the foundations on what would be the optimal way to face future emergencies.
The coronavirus crisis is not a one-off event, but rather measures are being taken in the medium and long term. Many of us think that it will take time for the world to be the same again, so we must prepare for this in the best possible way.
The first conclusions are that it is necessary to promote the control of field work and the remote access to infrastructures from the employees’ homes, and to foster automation and remote control. The crisis, in short, must become a driver for management improvement.
Do you think we will see new trends in the water sector?
I believe that the sector was already undergoing a process of transformation prior to the crisis, but of course what has happened is accelerating it and will mean a change of paradigm with respect to how it was being done until now.
Due to the current context, many companies have realized that digitalization is essential to continue with their activity during emergency situations. From now on we will see new trends, some of them also driven by customers and operators. In addition, we have realized that digital twins are essential to simulate the behavior of the network, for example, in the face of a new lockdown.
The future is uncertain, but technology gives us the necessary tools to face it with guarantees.