Jaime Barba Sevillano is CEO of Idrica, the Spanish company responsible for the development of the GoAigua technology solution, which spun out of Global Omnium, the water utility behind Valencia’s water management. Idrica is the host company of WEX Global 2020. He is chair of the session: Where Engineering Meets Scientific Discovery: How Deep Tech is Transforming Water, Energy and Smart Cities. GoAigua developed a nuanced technological solution to Valencia’s water management which went on to be adopted by 400 cities globally.
Why do you come to WEX?
We hope to meet with utilities that need help to optimise their networks. Sometimes we can also assist engineering companies that need the type of smart-decision systems we can offer but that don’t have in-house teams.
How did you begin your ascent?
Ten years ago the IT and Operational departments of the Valencia water utility, Global Omnium, combined to manage their assets. In order to be able to adjust in the field, we monitored using 700,000 sensors connected to a central management module. Then we began analysing the data and soon learned that the most important thing was to convert all that data into information. So we called in the mathematicians. They helped us develop sophisticated ‘digital twin’ software. A digital twin is a replica of a real-life thing – in this case a system – which can be applied to other relevant situations.
Then what happened?
By around 2015 we entered the world water market. We saw that a lot of utilities didn’t have any digital transformation in place or underway. We were also useful to companies and countries that had more limited physical infrastructure. We now have 1.4m installed meters globally.
What about the Circular Economy?
Relating and connecting assets intelligently leads to saving on energy and saving on water – so for example in the Colombia project, where they are looking for leaks, it reduces the amount of treated water which is wasted. In terms of energy, one of the utilities we have worked with in Spain has saved €1m / year on its energy bill. Crucially, we are able to reduce risk in the network, and have knowledge of what is going on both with the network and with the water. We have undertaken a line of work aimed at strengthening social commitment wherever we operate, whether promoting environmental protection, contributing to curbing climate change or solving supply problems.
A big project for 2020 is the Qatar network where we have seven contracts in place, the seventh won recently. We are contracted to monitor the system and analyse the data, looking for leaks and improving efficiency. In Gandia, Spain, we are currently reading 40,000 smart metres of city networks. We always begin the process by working out what utilities actually need. In one case a utility asked for a ‘smart metering’ solution, but what was actually needed was a proper billing system. It is important to put the correct processes in the right order so you don’t create a mess – rather than defaulting to a big, inappropriate solution. We are also tech-agnostic as a company – we analyse the market constantly and see what’s best/most appropriate for the situation, and recommend a solution. We have an in-house system whereby we can see the stats of all the different relevant solutions (loggers, monitors etc), watch the behaviour of each one, and compare them.