From data to decisions – the real meaning of smart water utilities

Utility management


New technologies offer ever more opportunities for water utilities to gather data, but they can only be smart if they lead to decisions. Keith Hayward spoke with Pernille Ingildsen, co-author of a new book on this subject, about how utilities should approach this area and the culture change that is needed.

Dr Pernille Ingildsen
Dr Pernille Ingildsen

As a senior manager at the water utility of the small Danish city of Kalundborg, Dr Pernille Ingildsen finds herself in the position of being able to help lead creation of a smart water utility.

Just what this fashionable term means is open to debate, but it certainly covers an area in which Ingildsen has long been qualified: it is some 20 years now since she worked as a PhD student under the supervision of Professor Gustaf Olsson on the use of real-time nutrient sensors in wastewater treatment plants.

Using sensors to feed control loops able to make decisions automatically can be one aspect of creating smarter utilities. However, many decisions still require human input, especially with respect to the environment, believes Ingildsen. ‘Decision making can be automatic at the very low level, but at the higher level, we will need to use people for a long while still,’ she comments. Her point is that there is the potential to deploy sensors to a far greater extent and to feed into that human decision making. ‘We really have to extend this way of thinking, and the sensors that we are using for automatic decisions can also be used for other things,’ she says.

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See interview with co-author Professor Gustaf Olsson here.


  • utility management, smart water utilities