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Utilities advised to find ‘right’ water data

Water businesses need to collect the 'right' data from a broad range of sources if they're to make smart decisions, says a leading researcher from CSIRO's Data61.

Data61 Group Leader of Enterprise Analytics Dr Fang Chen will be presenting at the Australian Water Association technical conference, Data-Driven Research Innovations for the Water Industry, set for October 20.

Chen said Australian utilities needed to assess the 'why, how, what and when' of data collection.

“Start looking at your data to see whether data can help you to solve your pain points,” she said. “If not, you need to collect different data.”

Chen, who helped develop a data-driven water pipe failure prediction model, said Australian utilities typically collected a lot of unnecessary data.

“If you don't use data, why do you collect it? It's a waste of money,” she said.

“Some data are collected for regulatory or licence purposes, and should also be used for business intelligence.”

Chen also recommended taking data from a broad range of sources.

“A starting point is getting rid of the silo view of different departments or systems. Try to put the data in the same basket and then look into how to better use it,” she said.

“For example, customer data is not normally part of equations for making decisions on asset management.

“If one of our main objectives is to serve our customer better, customer data should be considered and integrated in all kinds of business decisions.”

Chen also stressed the importance of data-driven decision-making in the future.

“Data will be very key to the new era because all of these assets are getting older. If you can't find smart ways to do business, then you can't afford to run the business,” she said.

“I doubt any utility has an increasing budget to augment their assets so you have to be smarter – you have to think about how to utilise all the resources. Data is one of your best resources.”

To learn more about data application in the water sector, register for the upcoming Australian Water Association Data-Driven Research Innovations for the Water Industry technical conference.