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Berlin to go, english edition, 01/2017

  • Text
  • Berlin
  • Digital
  • Startup
  • Startups
  • Digitization
  • Mobility
  • Innovation
  • Innovative


DISCUSSION DIGITAL FLOW: BERLIN’S INTELLIGENT WATER NETWORK Water 4.0 is much more than just a hot topic. In fact, digital water management solutions made in Berlin are now allowing for the resource-efficient, flexible and competitive management of the commodity of water. Text: Eva Scharmann Photos: Berliner Wasserbetriebe There’s a lot of water being pumped through Berlin. Indeed, roughly 500,000 cubic meters of drinking water are used every day in the capital, with 7,900 kilometers of water pipes transporting that water to consumers. The German capital is also growing at a tremendous pace, which means that it needs more water each year; in turn, the infrastructure needs to be adjusted to fit the demand. And then, of course, there’s climate change: in 2016, there were a number of heavy rainfalls, with images of the flooded Gleim Tunnel acting as the visual symbol of such states of emergency. Without a doubt, the challenges facing the water management industry are set to become increasingly complex. And this means it’s high time for “Water 4.0.” Berlin already plays a pioneering role in the digitization and networking of the water supply management industry. Technische Universität Berlin (TU) on Fasanenstraße is home to the testing hall of the Department of Fluid Systems Dynamics, which examines all technical matters relating to currents in machine engineering. “This is an example of how Water 4.0 can work in practice,” explains Prof. Dr.-Ing. Paul Uwe Thamsen, TU professor and department head, pointing to a testing station comprised of a large glass water tank, a flashing blue pumping system and a non-descript control cabinet. “This is an intelligent pumping station,” notes Thamsen. Process control center at the Berlin-Tegel waterworks Building K is full of activity. Employees bustle through the 600 square-meter hall or work at their laptops at one of the 20 test stands. The pounding sound of a pump fills the air. This historical brick building on the grounds of the 16

Inspired by the term “Industry 4.0,” digital transformation in the field of water management systems is referred to as “Water 4.0.” Although the water industry might be seen as conservative, it has long since recognized the signs of the times: “Water 4.0 puts the focus on the digitization and automation of a strategy for resource-efficient, flexible and competitive water management.” This is the essence of the German Water Partnership (GWP), a broad-based network of Germany’s water industry. As a result of the digitization strategy, the GWP sees good opportunities to create future-oriented jobs and a high level of transparency for water consumers. For Thamsen, “Water 4.0” is an evolution, not a revolution: “We’re building on what exists now.” He argues that the industry is moving from automation to the next step in development. Especially in the field of wastewater, Thamsen is able to name concrete examples: “In this realm, we benefit from the fact that we’ve been performing R&D for over ten years now.” Together with other research institutes and the small and medium-sized companies that comprise Berlin’s water management community, the TU is involved in innovative projects focusing on intelligent water infrastructure systems via networks such as Aquanet Berlin-Brandenburg. Back at the pumping station in the test hall, “Innovative Mechatronic Operating Systems for the Optimization of Complex Wastewater Systems” (IMEBA) are currently in action. Such facilities use sensor systems that are able to undertake diagnos tics, deduce action plans independently and react actively. For example, blockages caused by wet wipes can be eliminated using reverse rinsing without any need for exterior intervention. “We can also perform troubleshooting remotely via the internet,” explains Thamsen. The smart pumping station has also been used “live”: application tests were carried out and evaluated in different pumps belonging to Berlin’s waterworks company, the Berliner Wasserbetrieben (BWB). At the sites where wastewater is transported to sewage treatment plants via pressure “In the field of Water 4.0, we play a pioneering role for water utilities across the country.” lines, the TU can make development processes more efficient and reduce costs. In fact, Thamsen estimates that the efficient combating of blockages would lead to savings of roughly €10,000 per main pumping station in three months. The BWB is the largest water supply company in Germany and its main pumping systems are part of a massive water infrastructure. Berlin’s groundwater flows from 650 wells into one of nine water facilities. Households, industry and commercial operations are provided with drinking water via lines comprising roughly 7,900 kilometers. “The high quality of our drinking water has the highest priority at all times, and that’s why we’re somewhat cautious here with the use of new digital solutions,” says Jens Feddern, Head of Water Supply. He notes that cyber security is a big theme, especially in the case of a critical element of infrastructure such as the drinking water supply; this is why it is necessary that binding minimum standards with regard to data security be implemented. At the same time, the BWB sees digitization as an opportunity: “In the field of Water 4.0, we play a pioneering role for water utilities across the country. This is why we perform extensive research and are involved in numerous projects, so that we can create smart solutions to meet challenges such as urbanization and climate change,” emphasizes Feddern. One example is KURAS, a joint research project in which BWB experts joined with business and R&D actors to develop “concepts for urban rainwater management and wastewater systems.” Among the 4.0 solutions they developed are improved simulation programs that enable accurate predictions for water flow behavior and the inclusion of external data sources as well as weather data into web-based analysis tools. KURAS also makes it clear that in order to achieve sustainable rainwater and wastewater management, all actors in Berlin will need to work together, especially to be able to better manage heavy rain events such as in July 2016 in the Gleim Tunnel. And, as Jens Feddern notes: “Not only do we need better technology, we also need additional help from inner-city seepage areas and green roofs.” 17

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