Transforming PUB into the smart utility of the future

PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, has launched its SMART PUB roadmap in its move to digitalise Singapore’s entire water system to improve operational excellence and meet future water needs. This is part of PUB’s continual investment in digital solutions to achieve smarter water quality management, network improvements, integrated customer engagements, and smarter work processes.


A Smart Roadmap for Intelligent Water Management in Singapore

Advancements in digital and infocomm technology are rapidly transforming the global landscape, offering water utilities new ways of enhancing productivity and efficiency in planning and operations.

Driven by increasing water demand, rising operational costs, manpower constraints and new challenges like climate change, PUB is leveraging digital solutions and smart technologies to strengthen its operational resilience, productivity, safety and security. The integration of Smart water technology will be a key pillar in Singapore’s water resource management to achieve greater efficiencies, and faster response time in planning, operations and service delivery.

“Business as usual is not sustainable. Not adopting new technology exposes us to inefficiencies and risk, and can render us obsolete or unable to adapt to technological disruptions,” Mr Michael Toh, Chief Information Officer, PUB, shared. “The integration of smart technologies in Singapore’s water loop – from stormwater management to potable water production and distribution for used water collection and reclamation – opens up new opportunities for us to enhance our system oversight and situational awareness. Data driven insights will also help PUB attain higher levels of operational efficiency, improve our incident response times, and ultimately serve our customers better.”


Smarter Water Quality Management with Artificial Intelligence and Automation

PUB’s key mission is providing a safe and sustainable supply for Singapore, where water quality is of key importance. PUB is exploring two key innovations for remote water quality monitoring – the Remote Micro-Invertebrate Detector and the Autonomous Boat.

The Remote Micro-Invertebrate Detector is an in-house prototype, designed and developed by PUB’s Water Quality Department. The portable low-cost device is easily deployed onsite to provide real-time detection and identification of images using Artificial Intelligence, with split-second imaging to determine the presence of micro-invertebrates in the water samples. The unit is linked to a mobile app and chat-bot, which allows the system to perform 24/7 real-time testing of water samples onsite, respond to commands, send live image reports, and trigger alerts when anomalies are detected. PUB targets to use this on a larger scale by end 2020.

With desalination as one of Singapore’s four National taps, it is important for PUB to monitor the quality of seawater intake to the plants. PUB is testbedding the Autonomous Boat, which has the capability to brave choppy waters to perform real-time water quality monitoring via onboard sensors, collect water samples, and take photos and videos of actual water conditions. Programmed to avoid obstacles in the water, the boat is also able to self-navigate to the designated sampling points.


Key Network Improvements with Predictive Intelligence 

With a focus on integrating data streams, PUB aims to take preventive measures to improve reliability of our network system, improve incident response time and achieve better water savings. One of the key benefits will be a Pre-emptive Leak Management System to detect potential pipe failures and prevent pipe leaks. The use of analytics techniques will allow PUB to identify and prioritise these high-risk pipelines for renewal.

In addition, PUB is issuing a Request-for-Proposals for smart sewer analytics and predictive management capabilities to optimise PUB’s sewer operations, maintenance, and automate workflow processes. The objective of this system is to allow PUB to reduce service disruptions, and help manage resources for better service delivery.


Integrated Customer Engagement with Water Usage Data 

In a move to make water usage data readily accessible for consumers from tap to app, PUB is exploring the use of Smart Water Meters, in place of mechanical meters, progressively across the island. The Smart Water Meters are designed to monitor and collect water consumption data.

This will enable PUB to provide consumers with value-added services through a mobile customer app, such as understanding their water usage, and alerting households of suspected water leaks. In motivating behavioural changes to save water during showers, PUB also introduced the Smart Shower Devices where consumers can track real-time water usage of their showers and set their own conservation goals via the mobile app on their smart phones.


Smarter Work Redesign with Automation and Robotics 

  • Streamlining work processes with automation, drones and robotics, PUB aims to eliminate manual paper-intensive tasks, improve knowledge management, while optimising workplace safety.
  • Automated Lab Analysis – Through robotics and automated processes, PUB’s Automated Laboratory System (ALS) will be able to test two to three times more samples in the same amount of time, while operating around-the-clock. The ALS automatically scans and records sample data based on their QR codes, thereby reducing the need for manpower.
  • Virtual Reality training for PUB Operators – PUB uses Virtual Reality (VR) to provide Water Reclamation Plant operators with a realistic and immersive training experience of operating a dewatering centrifuge. With the use of a VR headset and a pair of handheld sensors, operators can start-up and shut-down the dewatering centrifuge, and perform checks as well as respond to abnormalities in a simulated environment.
  • PUB is also developing a Building Information Model E-Checker to check building plan submissions. The software will ensure building plans submitted by Qualified Persons (QPs) are compliant with PUB requirements, thereby reducing the need for manual checking and resubmissions.


Smart Water focus at the Singapore International Water Week

Building on the Smart Technology momentum, PUB also organised the Smart Water Forum during the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW). There, the Smart Water Forum gathered smart technology solutions providers in the industry, as well as global utilities across major continents, to share their experiences and the latest in the areas of smart distribution networks, sensing, process automation, digital solutions and cybersecurity.