Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

THE LAST WORD The increasing incidence of extreme weather events is making the case that most people will come face to face with climate change through too much or too little water. Therefore, we need better data to understand how water ecosystems work, and rapidly maturing technology such as sensors, edge computing, 5G, virtual reality, cloud and digital twins give us the tools to do so. One example of where these technologies can help is in river cities. Globally, cities are rediscovering the importance of their rivers as a central tenet to the health, wellbeing and economy of the population. A river was often, if not always, the reason for a city to develop and grow but during the 20th century, authorities began to focus primarily on the built environment and regard water management as a separate sub-issue of city management. With the rise of environmental awareness in the 21st century, cities are beginning to re-examine the interrelationship between the built environment and rivers and the need for integrated data. An example is the Lillestrom Municipality in Norway, which is situated at the confluence of three rivers. The municipality is using the InfoTiles software-as-a-service solution, which is built on Microsoft Azure, as well as Azure IoT sensors to aggregate and synthesise real-time data from key features in the Lillestrom water and wastewater network. By integrating control systems and monitoring networks used by the water management company with maintenance equipment and open-source connectors, the municipality is able to collect data that was previously siloed for effective water management. Meanwhile, the Port de Bordeaux, an entity managing marine activities across Bordeaux and the Gironde Estuary in France, has built a digital twin to help with water management. The Gironde Estuary is where the rivers of Dordogne and Garonne meet and spans several cities, the main one being Bordeaux with more than 250,000 residents. The objective of the project is to create an open source digital twin of the estuary, which is the largest in Western Europe covering around 635 square kilometres, to model the impact of pollution, new infrastructure and other resources on the river. Digital twins are at an early stage of adoption for rivers and marine environments. However, the application of technologies to the blue economy is increasing. IDC’s Smart Cities and Communities 2023 Futurescape predicts that 40 per cent of large cities will have digital twins of their water resources by 2027 to manage water supply, quality, resilience and behavioural change to combat water scarcity and extreme weather conditions. Joe Dignan is head of government insights for IDC EMEA Empowering river cities for urban development 144 “40 per cent of large cities will have digital twins of their water resources by 2027” Digital twins and other technologies are helping cities to address the increasing challenges of water management JOE DIGNAN: IDC