Transformation of Anglian Water’s treatment and recycling processes is being made possible by trials of artificial intelligence (AI) driven software developed by Norwegian technology company InfoTiles.
The digital analytics company is collaborating with the UK utility on a 12-month pilot project focusing on biofilters and anaerobic digestion.
Both biological processes and assets are integral to the treatment of wastewater and a key aim of the collaboration is to enhance operational visibility and decision-making around asset management.
The initial trial of the InfoTiles software will monitor the rotating arms of biofilters at 15 sites to assess whether they are rotating when needed. It will also involve measuring sludge blanket levels in primary settlement tanks at a further 15 sites, to ensure they stay within optimal ranges for effective operation.
The data, collected from a mix of new and existing sensors through Anglian Water’s existing supervisory control & data acquisition control (SCADA) systems, will be combined with flow rates and publicly available weather data to build a rich contextual overview of what is happening at the water recycling plants in real-time.
What is more, InfoTiles can also combine Anglian’s existing SCADA systems into one event streaming platform that can aggregate, compare, and visualise reliability of the equipment. This same platform also allows Anglian Water to trial different sensor technology and easily compare the reliability and accuracy of the different sensors undergoing testing.
InfoTiles’ strength is in the ability to visualise and model process data through machine learning to show the likelihood of critical failures in wastewater treatment, such as potential stoppages and breakdowns.
This will give Anglian Water, one of the UK’s largest water utilities, the ability to anticipate, detect and resolve potential problems. By continually assessing the health and effectiveness of assets, maintenance teams can be deployed much more efficiently.
The two companies were brought together through WaterStart, a US-based membership platform which seeks to remove common barriers to the adoption of innovative technologies, and connects utilities and municipalities with solution providers globally.
“We are so proud to be involved in this pilot programme, which will transform the way we manage our water recycling sites,” said Adam Jessop, optimisation technologist at Anglian Water. “Collaborating with international companies through WaterStart has helped the team to work at pace to find solutions and ways to improve the service provided.”
The overall aim of the collaboration is to enhance operational visibility, create more informed decision-making, and understand where and how to prioritise maintenance of the water company’s assets.
Adam Wood, chief product officer at InfoTiles said, “Our Nordic customers use InfoTiles to guide their maintenance decisions with real-time data. Our team is enthusiastic to collaborate with the technicians and analysts at Anglian Water to tailor the InfoTiles platform to enable better, data-driven, maintenance at this major UK utility.”
Nathan Allen, executive director at WaterStart, said, “InfoTiles have proven the technology works in the Nordics, and WaterStart is thrilled to support the company’s expansion into the UK market. Effective data management is a global challenge for water utilities and it is exciting to see the outcomes of the pilot as the technology is expected to be broadly scalable among our global membership base.”
The most commonly used systems for cleaning and recycling the process water required in mass finishing operations today are centrifuges. For example, Wegmann Automotive, is utilizing a fully automatic Rösler centrifuge, model Z1000. As a pilot customer Wegmann expanded the software for its centrifuge with the “advanced version” of the innovative digital process water management system from Rösler Smart Solutions. Compared to the previously practiced manual process control the new software package with its digital algorithms has produced considerable benefits. It helped not only to improve the overall product quality but also resulted in substantial cost savings.
When it was founded in 1882, the company initially was building carriages. From these modest beginnings Wegmann expanded into a corporate entity with three different business units. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann develops and produces a wide range of products in the field of national defense. Schleifring is a leading provider of systems for the transfer of energy, electrical signals, data and electronic media. With a huge portfolio of balancing weights, tire valves, battery terminals, tire pressure control systems, including suitable service kits and special weights, Wegmann Automotive supplies not only numerous automobile manufacturers but also serves the entire automotive aftermarket. The company, located in Veitshöchheim, Germany, produces more than one billion components per year.
A mass finishing operation that must meet stringent demands
The balancing weights are made as stampings from steel and galvanized steel as well as die-castings from zinc or zinc alloys. Eugen Weizel, the department manager for mass finishing and coating at the Wegmann Automotive company, explains: „After the stamping or die-casting process the weights undergo a part-on-part mass finishing operation in a rotary vibrator. The goal is to completely remove the residual oil left over from the stamping process and the water-based mold release agent left over from the die-casting operation. At the same time the utilized compound provides a corrosion protection for the steel parts. On the other hand, the zinc die-castings require a certain surface tension for the subsequent coating step. The surface tension is carefully monitored and controlled.” Eugen Weizel’s colleague Manuel Salomon, at WAPS (short for Wegmann Automotive Production Systems) responsible for setups in the coating department, trainings and Lean Management, adds: “A high compound concentration in the process water is beneficial for the corrosion protection on the steel parts. But if it is too high, we will not achieve the required surface tension on the zinc components. This can cause inadequate coating results and may even force us to scrap some products.”
The product quality depends on the quality of the process water
Since the process water is recycled, the process water cleaning operation with a fully automatic Z1000 centrifuge from Rösler and the control of the compound concentration are key factors that determine the quality of the balancing weights.
Manuel Salomon: „When the mass finishing machine and the centrifuge were commissioned, we quickly recognized that there is a close correlation between the process water quality and the quality of our products. Therefore, we carefully measured the compound concentration once per week and recorded the measured results. This allowed us to precisely define the compound concentration for our finishing process and correct it as needed.” Since measuring and recording the concentration values was quite time consuming, Wegmann gladly accepted Rösler’s offer to utilize the advanced version of the “digital process water management system” as a pilot user. Eugen Weizel concludes: „We quickly recognized the benefit to further develop and refine the software package together with Rösler, and, at the same time, to deepen our process knowledge.”
The new, interactive monitoring and control system for process water cleaning and recycling with semi- and fully automatic centrifuges is integrated into the centrifuge controls and allows the monitoring, recording and evaluation of all relevant process parameters. At Wegmann this includes measuring the compound concentration by titration or refraction (BRIX), the pH value, the process water conductivity, the water hardness, the microbiological contamination with bacteria, yeast and fungi, chloride contents, CSB value (chemical oxygen demand) and BIT concentration (biocide in the process water). The system also monitors the appearance and the smell of the process liquid. The process water parameters to be monitored can be individually selected and their values adapted to the respective finishing requirements.
In the basic version of the digital process water management system from Rösler Smart Solutions the samples are taken manually and analyzed with suitable measuring devices that can also be supplied by the company. After the data have been entered into the system, the algorithm in the software determines if the measured values are within the specified limits. In case of deviations the dashboard displays suitable actions, which can be immediately implemented. In addition, the technical background and corrective actions are explained in detail. This allows the operator to undertake the measures required to bring back the values into the acceptable range and to secure the desired process stability. Since all parameters are stored in the system, they can be retrieved at any time, for example, in the form of a table or a chart. The latter helps to prevent unwanted and costly downtimes by carrying out necessary process water changes during periods, when they are not interfering with the manufacturing operations. The complete documentation of the operational parameters is also a valuable tool to prove the process quality and process stability during quality audits as well as for validation purposes.
Recommended actions can also be called up in case of events that affect the overall quality of the mass finishing process. This includes foaming during the process, corrosion of the work pieces or insufficient work piece cleanliness that could negatively affect subsequent manufacturing steps. Manuel Salomon comments: „The pointers and recommended actions are extremely helpful. In the past we measured the process parameters. But when it came to the necessary corrections, we were entirely on our own. And in case of process problems we had to search for solutions ourselves, or we had to ask for help by telephone. Today the digital system provides all the support we need. This is especially helpful for colleagues with little knowledge of mass finishing and process water cleaning and recycling.”
A simple solution that can be quickly implemented
The smart process water management system has been in operation at Wegmann Automotive since the middle of March this year.
Eugen Weizel remarks: „The software structure is well organized and easily understandable. And the system can be fully utilized after a short training. All critical data are arranged so that they can be viewed at a glance. And the entire information is presented in an easy-to-understand manner.”
While in the past the compound concentration was only measured once per week, now it is measured twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon of a particular day. In addition, the pH value is recorded, and the appearance and smell of the process water is monitored. „This approach provides us with valuable information about our process. For example, the development of the compound concentration tells us that due to a higher
volume of oily work pieces we must increase the compound dosing rate to maintain the required process water quality,” explains Manuel Salomon, who continues: „Another example is the microbiological contamination. In the past we did not control this at all. If the contamination is too high, it can have an adverse effect on the corrosion protection of steel parts.”
Significantly improved process stability and cost-efficiency
For monitoring the various parameters with the digital process water management system Wegmann Automotive needs about 20 minutes per week. Compared to the once-per-week measurement of the compound concentration this requires about 15 minutes more. But the technical and economic benefits achieved by the digital system are so significant that the company gladly accepts the fact that a bit more time must be invested.
Eugen Weizel concludes: „With the digital process water management system we find out quickly, if for example, the compound concentration is no longer adequate. Since this could have an adverse effect for subsequent manufacturing steps, we are grateful to have such a valuable, early warning system. Our finishing process is now not only a lot more stable but also more economical.”
Therefore, it is not surprising that the company is interested in the next version of the digital process water management system from Rösler Smart Solutions. This allows the automatic measurement, evaluation and recording of the process parameters.
Microcomputer brings water data to cell phone
Andreas Scharf, a computer science student from Coburg, uses microcomputers to network elevated tanks in the water industry. This is how he became a company founder in Lower Franconia. Water is one of the most precious resources of the blue planet. Today, the waterworks of cities and municipalities measure all relevant data in their plants to ensure supply and quality, and this is now mostly done digitally. However, only stationary on site. Not networked.
“People control their coffee machine and the light via cell phone. But for the community’s elevated tank, which stores the drinking water and cost a few million euros: There’s no proper app for that!”
– Andreas Scharf
The student found it unbelievable that a water custodian can’t see the status online at any time. So he developed an affordable, modern solution for municipalities himself. That was the basis for founding his company frapp.
Waterworks all over the world
In addition to his studies at Coburg University of Applied Sciences, Scharf worked at Energie- und Wasser-Technologie EnWaT, a water system builder based in Stettfeld, Franconia (Haßberge district), whose customers include industrial companies and municipalities all over the world – with different, very individual needs, focuses and problems. Is there a leak somewhere, did the refilling during the night perhaps not work out? What is the water level right now? Or a question that is particularly crucial for health departments: What is the temperature development? To check something like this, there is often only one option: get in the car and drive to the elevated tank. At EnWaT, the digitalization of water treatment and supply systems has been discussed in a very innovative way, Scharf explains. “It’s not that there are no apps at all. For example, the major control system manufacturers offer software to visualize the data. But then what does it mean when a curve breaks in? That’s what municipalities need.” And that was Scharf’s approach: “I’ll put the data on your phone and also tell you what you can do with it.”
He taught himself the basics of programming as a teenager. “There was a book on Java lying around at home – I tried that out.” Back then, he went to Realschule, then switched to FOS, graduated from high school in 2018, and started his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Coburg University of Applied Sciences right after that. As part of the Communication Systems event, Scharf attended an IoT workshop with Prof. Dr. Matthias Mörz and dealt with the very topic that the waterworks are missing. IoT, the Internet of things, makes it possible to network physical and virtual objects.
So, for example, the high water tank and the app on the cell phone. Mörz likes his student’s solution: “It’s just nice to see how he lives the basic idea of applied science,” says the professor. The technology of Scharf’s “HBBox” for elevated tank digitization consists in particular of a circuit board that translates information from existing industrial sensors for microcomputers. It allows the data to be stored in a cloud via cellular or the free wireless standard LoRaWan and, for example, a push message pops up in the app when special events occur. “The municipality has access to the data at all times – regardless of where the employees are. Irregularities can be detected right away,” says Mörz. Digitization helps prevent water losses.
High water tank in your pocket
The high water tank in Scharf’s home municipality, for example, is fully networked. Scharf can access it from Coburg. He looks at his cell phone, frowns “There’s a lot going out right now for the noon hour. Maybe a fire call.” In any case, the waterworks knows: what flows when is absolutely transparent in Stettfeld. Scharf brought the elevated tank into his back pocket. EnWaT, the company where he got a lot of input on plant technology as a working student, is now his customer, and so Scharf’s digitization technology was also used during the floods in the Ahr Valley in 2021, when the company deployed a mobile waterworks in a shipping container there. Scharf founded his own company, frapp, in 2020. He shrugs his shoulders: “The first Corona summer. You didn’t have much else to do then.” He was 19 at the time. Today, he’s thinking about other fields of application for his HBBox: “We can digitize not only in the area of drinking water. I could also cover sewage treatment plants.”
On the Polish peninsula Hel opposite the metropolitan region of Gdansk in the village of Jastarnia, the fourth Baltic Earth Conference will take place from May 30 to June 3. It is organized by the international Baltic Earth Secretariat at the Helmholtz Center Hereon in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW) and the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IO-PAN), Sopot.
A total of about 130 participants from the Baltic Sea region and other parts of the world are expected to spend a week exchanging their scientific results and experiences. The common thread of the conference will be the so-called BEAR reports (Baltic Earth Assessment Reports). These are scientific summaries of current knowledge on specific thematic complexes concerning the Earth system of the Baltic Sea region.
Rich variety of topics
The reports cover marine, meteorological and climatological topics and are available free of charge as original English-language publications. The focus is on conditions currently expected in the Baltic Sea region as a result of climate change and other man-made environmental influences. Topics include salinity dynamics of the Baltic Sea, material fluxes in the catchment area, extreme weather events, sea level and coastal dynamics, and the interplay of various factors in the observed changes in the Baltic Sea region.
“In addition to climate change, there are many factors in the Baltic Sea region, as in other marginal seas heavily used by humans, such as agriculture, shipping, pollution, or tourism, whose interactions with each other as well as with climate change are poorly understood, but climate change seems to influence all other factors.”
– Dr. Marcus Reckermann
An outstanding contribution is the summary of the current state of knowledge on climate change in the Baltic Sea, the update of the two so-called BACC reports from 2008 and 2015, for which about 900 studies were evaluated and compiled by 47 authors. “Water temperatures in the Baltic Sea have been rising for 100 years, and this will continue in this century,” says Markus Meier of the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW), chairman of the Baltic Earth Steering Group and lead author of the current climate study. “Current climate projections show that the Baltic Sea will be mostly ice-free during normal winters by the end of the century.”
Karol Kuliński of the host institute IO-PAN in Sopot, vice-chair of the Baltic Earth Steering Group and lead author of one of the reports, emphasizes the international and interdisciplinary dimension of this collaboration: “Scientists from all Baltic Sea countries and beyond were involved in the preparation of the reports, as were representatives of all scientific disciplines relevant to the Baltic Sea regional Earth system. This gives the reports scientific breadth and high credibility,” says Kuliński.