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An interview with Peter Seltsikas, by Linda Kemp, AMCouncil Communications Specialist

At Asset Management Council, our Strategy ’23 is made up of three strategic goals: Strengthen our Asset Management Community; Share Information and Knowledge; and Build Capacity and Capability.

Imagine how my interest soared, then, when I stumbled across information regarding the smart network sensors created and operated by SA Water, being deployed within Sydney Water’s pipe networks. How collaborative, I thought! Two of AM Council’s member corporations proactively sharing knowledge dovetailed into our strategic goals and I therefore immediately arranged an interview with Peter Seltsikas from SA Water. During our chat, I discovered more about the smart sensor’s role at SA Water in terms of maintenance and reliability, as well as the partnership with Sydney Water.

PSeltsikasPeter’s role at SA Water is Senior Manager, Asset Management. He is responsible for the strategic development of asset management across the corporation. With a team of people, Peter also looks after asset and capital investment planning in line with the business’s $14 billion asset base. As the custodian of asset information, Peter ensures appropriate structure around asset information and the systems that capture data to allow the business to make decisions that enable value. Peter spends his days balancing between critical projects and connecting with people: stakeholders and customers, regulators and staff. During his spare time, he is a non-executive director of the Australian Dance Theatre Company in Adelaide, a role he thoroughly enjoys as a way of supporting the community and providing assistance to the arts sector.

SA Water’s smart network was deployed midway through 2017 with the installation of 350 sensors and loggers, as well as 100 smart meters for 70 businesses in the CBD of Adelaide. This critical maintenance asset was born in partnership with the University of Adelaide, from a drive within SA Water’s asset management team to reduce the impact and frequency of water main leaks and breaks, provide a more detailed view of the water network and enable customers to gain more understanding of their water use, and deliver service expectations. The implementation of the smart sensors into the water pipes within the CBD’s system minimises interruptions and disruptions to service, while also providing SA Water with precise evidence about how the pipes are performing.

The smart network functions by listening for leaks via acoustic sensors placed on the outside of the pipes. The acoustics pick up base noise level; a world-leading analytics platform enables the system to identify the specific noise of a leak. Since deployment, SA Water has used the technology to identify and then proactively repair around forty potential main breaks in the CBD, and thereby reducing the impact on customers and commuters. Following the success in the CBD, SA Water has now rolled out variations of its smart network to four additional targeted locations in metropolitan and regional South Australia.

This is a highly positive result for SA Water.

Given the success of the smart network, it comes as no surprise that Sydney Water reached out to SA Water. The utilities sector is one where traditionally collaboration is sought and valued, both domestically and on a global front; partnerships are viewed as a path to advance opportunities and science at a much greater rate. SA Water joined forces as part of a research project between Sydney Water and numerous other water utilities and leading research universities, as part of a $3 million project coordinated by a NSW State Government initiative, the NSW Smart Sensing Network. The network in Sydney deploys forty acoustic sensors across an area of around thirteen kilometres in the CBD, using SA Water’s analytical tools and data systems, reviewed in Adelaide on a daily basis. The CBD in Sydney is vastly different to Adelaide’s; the size of the two cities alone brings about a highly disparate base noise level. The smart system therefore needs to learn again in a different environment which noises to block Interview with Peter Seltsikas and which specific noise presents a leak in the pipes.

The collaboration proves symbiotic for all parties. Sydney Water is trialling the smart network on a temporary basis as part of the research project to discover the validity of such technology in its own pipe network. For SA Water, however, the company is able to understand the data systems and techniques from a different perspective, as well as additional ways to add value for their own customers and stakeholders.

From a maintenance and reliability perspective, the operational lifecycle of the asset is reasonably short, given the technology that underpins the smart network, and the need to replace it as new and more advanced technologies become available. However, SA Water is looking to use smart technology as an enduring capability at an operational level, working on new ways to apply infrastructure that disrupts traditional asset management practices. The technology behind the smart network system has flow-on benefits for SA Water in terms of providing a data-centric focus that offers good quality data, enabling the company to move from asset management justifications based on limited information to reliable and trustworthy information that proves valuable in the long-term.

The smart network technology is powered by batteries. SA Water runs a regulated maintenance and reliability program of battery replacement. Part of the maintenance program for the smart network seeks to identify where sensors go offline, and the reasons why they do so.

In their revolutionary smart sensor network, SA Water has provided a positive example of critical support systems for asset management.