Data science is becoming increasingly important for the water sector. Transferring and analysing large amounts of data about complex and dynamic processes, in a short time and over large distances, will be key in the coming years. Cornelius Wicks, Director of Head Communications, specialises in this field and makes a highly personal connection between the water sector and his technological focus.
“I was a pilot for 26 years and during a period of F16 test flights I started thinking: ‘there must be a better way to transfer large data volumes from the aircraft to the ground station, fast and over a large distance’. That was the first step towards Head Communications.
I see very attractive commercial opportunities in connecting water and data, and it’s certainly promising from a technical point of view, but the interest in this field actually started as a result of some dramatic personal experiences.
When I was living in Texas, I once witnessed a severe flood caused by a major hurricane which took the life of one of my neighbours – it was a tragedy. That was my wake-up call. Right then, I realised that climate change is real, it is in our face. Later, in California, we had a seven-year drought with the ground water level dropping about 30 metres. That is when I made the connection with water, especially for drinking and irrigation.
Everyone is now talking about the internet of things but that offers only limited data bandwidth. And the need to monitor complex and dynamic processes is rapidly increasing. There is more happening, so there is more data to monitor, transfer and analyse. Especially when it comes to the impact of climate change.
Our technique compresses data down to as little as 4% of the original volume while maintaining 100% fidelity. This is combined with sophisticated data analysis techniques and a clear presentation. We only deliver what end-users need in a way they can easily understand. Most of the other compressing solutions cannot achieve that. Let me give a clear example: imagine an apartment building where you want to monitor the electricity consumption of all 600 users every 15 minutes for a month. With our compression technique you can simply transfer the data by SMS.
We have shown these opportunities with data from drones in the field of traffic management but, of course, this data exchange can also be applied to the water sector. Take for instance the monitoring of large areas for pollution, weather conditions, rainfall or drought – thanks to data compression, these large datasets can be delivered fast and over large distances at very low cost. This means that adequate measures can be taken quickly in the event of imminent calamities. We are now in the process of bridging the last 10 percent to bring our product to the market through financing and cooperation with a partner.
Connecting water expertise and data science fits in with a very important and interesting trend towards a multidisciplinary approach: water and data, water and food, water and energy, water and finance. It is key to join hands and look at things from different perspectives. NWP is doing just that, and I think it’s a very wise thing to do because this approach leads to a better outcome. They are on the right track!”