AI can detect and prevent water leaks at source, saving money and cutting down waste, says Yaron Dycian.
Water leaks in a large building can have a big impact. Damage to equipment, manufacturing facilities, and the fabric of the building quickly inflate the repair bill. Plus there's disruption to the business, lost productivity, delayed projects and clients feeling let down.
Water waste in commercial facilities vary, but offices, manufacturing facilities, hospitals and healthcare estates could all benefit from early detection of leaks. Cooling towers, irrigation systems, toilets and normal plumbing, for example, are all significant sources of waste, and leaks can go undetected for months or years.
The cost of water leaks
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says the total cost of escape of water claims (water damage from faulty infrastructure) has increased year on year to 28 per cent, and insurers are paying out nearly £4 million a day on claims in the UK.
Damage from water leaks is costly. In December 2019, a 24-inch water pipe burst on the sixth floor at a major US hospital, causing flooding, severe water damage on multiple floors and electrical problems across the facility.
Also last year, an NHS hospital in Wales doubled its water bill after suffering a major leak. The hospital was charged about £45,000 a month (for an unspecified period) compared with its average monthly bill of £20,000. Work was carried out to fix the issue, but officials admitted that the source had taken some time to locate. The board's overall water bill went up to £1.67 million in the 2018/19 financial year - a significant increase compared with the previous 12 months.
Asset damage and sustainability
Water waste and damage caused by leaks used to be two different topics but as the sustainability agenda becomes a priority for many asset owners, efforts to reduce water consumption are fast becoming an issue for facilities managers.
Recent technological advances including the IoT, cloud computing and AI are transforming the way organisations deal with the twin challenges of sustainability and the protection of assets from water damage. These technologies use AI and pattern matching to identify anomalies and detect leaks and waste at the source, then alerting FMs and shutting off water supplies when necessary.
By combining AI with smart shut-off valves, each installed unit continuously learns and adapts to the building's water network to optimise detection and prevention for each site, making it easier to manage complex facilities run by teams of staff across multiple sites.
The devices are autonomous and continue to operate even if network connectivity or power supplies are disrupted. The connected devices monitor water flow continuously in real-time to identify sources of water waste, identify leaks and inefficiencies - from a simple leaky toilet or misconfigured irrigation system to faulty manufacturing equipment.
Cloud-based processing enables advanced data aggregation and analysis of flows to detect anomalies, and management tools provide visibility and control from any location.
In addition to preventing water leak damage, the technology also detects and alerts staff to ongoing waste from sources such as malfunctioning devices and unnoticed non-damaging leaks.
A large office and shopping complex with three towers and a multilevel shopping mall spanning 186,000 square metres didn't realise that it was wasting massive amounts of water until management requested an analysis of the water consumption and installed the technology on its cooling towers.
After installation, the algorithms identified irregular water use activity in the cooling towers. The issue was traced to a mechanical fault that was wasting about 300,000 litres a day. Once identified, the problem was easily resolved. By detecting the cooling tower malfunction, the client saved over 113,000,000 litres a year.
With the right technology in place, clients can successfully combine water savings with asset damage prevention.
AI technology is successfully deployed at thousands of locations globally, enabling organisations to reduce the risk and cost of damage from burst pipes and undetected leaks, lost productivity, and increased insurance premiums while reducing their continuing water consumption by 20-28 per cent.
Yaron Dycian is chief product and strategy officer at WINT water intelligence