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Member Spotlight

Kelvin Hurdle, Industry Manager Water/WW – Rockwell Automation

Rockwell Automation is a global leader in industrial automation with an overall mission is to improve the quality of life by making the world more productive and sustainable. Rockwell integrates control and information in a way that brings the Connected Enterprise to everyday Life. One of the industries that Rockwell is focused on is the Water/Wastewater industry. In line with the overall company theme of Connected Enterprise, they look to provide smart water solutions that accelerate the digital transformation of utilities and help them become integrated into connected, smart cities to support the sustainable use of water.

What drives the need for smart, data-driven initiatives in the water and wastewater markets?

There are many factors driving digital transformation in public water utilities. Those include population growth and movement that is adding pressure to meet increasing demand with existing assets; changing weather patterns and climate that is testing the resiliency of water systems; increased regulation making it challenging to monitor and meet reporting requirements in a timely manner; ageing infrastructure – the expected longevity for equipment operating in water and wastewater treatment plants is 10-20 years, and many of those systems are approaching end of life; and finally, the loss of institutional knowledge as nearly 1/3 of American water utility employees will be eligible to retire (as reported by the US EPA).

Many of these same issues are driving digital initiatives in private and industrial water and wastewater treatment providers, but their motivation is also driven out of necessity to increase operational efficiency and profitability.

What’s interesting is we see accelerated investments across hardware, software, and services, with software seeing the most dramatic increase. Many utility services including customer service, maintenance, and operations are supported by offerings that are delivered using SaaS models versus capital expenses, which also shift the annual budgets which were traditionally heavy with large capital investments but are now moving towards more balanced capital & operational expense budgets.

As the IoT proliferates into industrial environments, including public utilities like water and energy, cyberthreats are a major concern. Why should water utilities take cyberthreats seriously?

Cyberthreats are a global concern and not an exclusive issue for W/WW, but here in the US we’ve recently seen critical infrastructure, including water come under attack from cyber threats. A recent example is the February 2021 Oldsmar, Florida water treatment cyberattack.  As assets in the utility plant become connected, digital assets, it is imperative they are protected.

For water utilities there is threat for legacy systems, unpatched infrastructure, and a lack of skilled resources to properly manage cyber risk. The adversaries know these environments have many vulnerabilities and if attacked this can mean major consequences.

Rockwell has responded to these threats by offering Network services and aligning ourselves with strategic technology partnerships with industry leaders such as Claroty and SWAN Member Cisco to offer solutions to customers that provide a proactive approach to cybersecurity that goes beyond waiting to be the next company to be the victim of a cybersecurity attack.

Rockwell Automation is active in an array of projects and cross-sectoral industries. How is Rockwell addressing sustainability?

We believe sustainability should be focused on three things – a sustainable company, sustainable customers, and sustainable communities. We refer to this as our Net Zero vision. Our path to achieving this is by helping accelerate decarbonisation, digitisation and electrification for future generations.

In the focus area of customer sustainability, we are working with our customers to reduce energy, water, and materials usage. Two examples are increasing water reuse and material recycling.

As the water industry adopts new technologies to make operations smarter, what key areas and skills do you recommend for young professionals to develop and learn?

With the increased amounts of data being produced from intelligent devices, there is a shift in the need for young professionals to be able to make sense of all the data and to utilise it. There will be value in enabling the use of real-time, contextualised data for improved ability to predict, detect, and respond to system upsets. We will all benefit from young professionals acting as “citizen data scientists” that can also specialise in security.

Young professionals can also gain value from participating in the SWAN Forum’s activities, such as Tara Norton, W/WW Industry Program Manager at Rockwell who is active in the SWAN Americas Alliance and is obtaining access to the professionals developing the technology that is being leveraged to realise smarter, more secure, and more sustainable water infrastructure.