Smart city solutions keep water supply safe

Water is more than a municipal service—it is essential for life, and smart municipalities are looking to technology for more intelligent ways to provide and protect this lifeline.

Jodi Glover
Jodi Glover, founder and chief executive officer, Real Tech Inc.

Municipalities are turning to technological advances to address infrastructure development and maintenance challenges and emerging “smart cities” are continuously seeking to leverage technology to improve the quality of life within their city limits. The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning—a subset of artificial intelligence—and information and communications technologies (ICT) in general, can offer solutions for municipalities, which are responsible for many essential services such as a safe water supply.

When water leaves the municipal treatment plant, it is both potable and safe. It then travels through distribution pipes and in tanks, where there is a risk of contamination. The monitoring of water systems is essential to ensuring the safety of a city’s inhabitants.  No municipality wants to risk exposing residents to the kinds of contamination incidents that have devastated communities such as Walkerton, Ont., Cabool, in Missouri and Milwaukee, in Wisconsin.

Real Tech Inc. founder and chief executive officer Jodi Glover understands the benefit of bringing intelligence to water, and is determined that her company will make its mark in the smart city space. Glover’s Whitby, Ont. clean technology (cleantech) company provides real‑time water quality monitoring solutions to their domestic and international customers.

Glover believes that smart water networks are the best safeguard. Using ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy—used in chemical analysis—combined with machine learning algorithms, Real Tech’s solutions can detect changes in a baseline and sound an alarm. Products such as the company’s Real Spectrum PL Series sensors will scan for contaminants including pesticides, algae, diesel fuel and dyes using real‑time instrumentation. From an industrial standpoint, Real Tech offers leading, data‑driven technology solutions such as product loss monitoring, water re‑use optimization and process water control, she says.

“The water industry is a fun place to be right now,” says Glover, who is enthusiastic about the future of smart solutions for water management. “Now that we have the processing power and connectivity that exists in today’s society, we’re taking tools that were traditionally found in a lab environment and putting them into a real-time process environment. We’re able to bring reliable, accurate meaning to the hundreds of pieces of information streaming every single minute from data‑rich sensors. What’s more, the longer our sensors are installed, the smarter they become.”

While its core business remains the municipal sector, Real Tech’s current focus is on growing its industrial client base. Glover is conscious of the fact that water intensive manufacturing facilities need to understand the various compounds in their wastewater and production process in order to meet increasingly stringent water regulations.

For example, intelligent solutions could be useful in the pulp and paper industry, for the management of a toxic manufacturing by‑product known as “black liquor,” a carbon-neutral energy source which can be captured and converted to power. According to the Centre for Paper Business and Industry Studies, 240 million tonnes of black liquor are produced each year in pulp production worldwide.  While this is a marked improvement from the era when black liquor would simply be released into the waterways accidents do still happen and Mills must minimize the risk that spills will leak into their wastewater treatment process, wreaking havoc and resulting in fines for environmental pollution.

Real Tech’s algorithms monitor the process in real‑time, notifying operators who are able to take rapid action and minimize damage, while saving energy, costs and time. “Real‑time detection becomes almost predictive,” Glover explains. “It allows you to become more proactive in your approach. If you can improve the management and control, you’ll see invaluable benefits from improved quality, cost reduction, compliance adherence, early‑warning detection, increased efficiency and process optimization.”

By leveraging connectivity, telemetry and IoT, the company aims to produce the highest quality data from its hardware sensors to make the best custom algorithms possible for its customers.

The Canadian Trade Commission Service (TCS) has provided the company with export market access to clients and partners in countries as diverse as India, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland.

The company’s solutions are used by large water treatment players, municipalities, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies in 53 markets worldwide. Describing herself as an environmentalist at heart, Glover says she’s proud of the fact that her company’s technology has a direct and positive impact on climate change by optimizing the water management process and reducing energy consumption. Glover sees tremendous potential for water monitoring systems in every municipality and plant around the world. That’s 53 markets ... and counting.

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