Q&A

Predicting Future Pandemics Through Wastewater

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The Water Online editorial staff sat down recently for a brief chat with Endress+Hauser CEO Matthias Altendorf, and Flow Product Manager Adam Booth, to discuss the challenges currently facing the water industry, as well as solutions that Endress+Hauser provide. Below is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length.

Water Online: What's the biggest challenge that you see in the water industry today?

Matthias Altendorf: The biggest challenge at the moment is the security aspects of the digitalization. People would like to use the advantages of the digitalization on one hand side, but they have to deal with the security aspect on the other hand. That's one of the challenges we have in the industry to gain productivity.

If we do this smart in the States, we can make sure that the water security goes for centuries to come. Therefore, you have to have a continuous investment to do that. Besides that, today modern technology would allow you to predict pandemics in the wastewater.

We have done measurements, in the wastewater, and we can tell you two, three weeks in advanced, if something will come in the public space based on the analytics of the waters. That makes a lot of sense to invest in the water and the bill will come, might not be as big as originally thought, but it will come.

Water Online: What role do you see technology and innovation playing in advancing the water industry and helping to solve some of the current market challenges?

Matthias Altendorf: On one hand side, this is an industry which has to have high safety and security standards, which normally goes against a lot of innovation and changes in agility. On the other hand, we have to use the means to gain productivity in the industry by digitalization, because we might have less people working in water plants or less people want to work in water plants around the world, to gain the productivity inside the water or the throughput of the capital we invested, and this is what modern technology and innovation can do.

Water Online: Tell us a little about yourselves and Endress.

Matthias Altendorf: Okay. Matthias Altendorf, CEO of the Endress+Hauser group. Endress+Hauser is a family-owned business that has around 15,000 employees around the world and more than 3 billion dollars sales. Water and wastewater is one of the core industries we are serving around the world.

Since more than 60 years serving. This industry company has been established since 1953. Our headquarters for the USA is in Greenwood, Indiana where we also manufacturer 75 to 80 percent of what we’re selling in the United States. It's all locally manufactured and it's a Swiss-based company, Swiss ownership, and the family.

Adam Booth: I'm Adam Booth and I'm one of our flow product managers for Endress+Hauser. I'm based out of our headquarters in Greenwood, Indiana. I’ve been with the company now for a little over five years, started right out of college.

Water Online: What are the industry challenges that Endress+Hauser and your solutions are designed to address?

Matthias Altendorf: All industries have something in common, which is the carbon footprint reduction. We try to help our customers, what we're doing to help them to overcome this challenge. Besides that, global supply chains at the moment are maybe a little bit unstable.

Then you have transparency and logistics issues, which are the moments that we try to help our customers there. At the end of the day, we try to help our customers that they can run more efficiently the plants they are operating in and the measurement helps to do that.

Water Online: Endress+Hauser is a global company for manufacturing process control instrumentation, along with providing solutions and services. What's the company vision, looking ahead, specifically for water and wastewater industry in a couple of years?

Matthias Altendorf: For our strategy on the next decade, from the environmental point of view we have two major pillars to build on. First thing is we have to make sure that we reduce the carbon footprint, with all the aspects around that, in order to have a sustainable environment. On the other hand, we have to make sure that the people have enough fresh water.

Only four percent of the water worldwide is accessible for fresh water. All the technology we put in place has to help customers and society to make sure that they have access to fresh water. That’s a very important point, no matter wherever you are in the world.

Water Online: It seems like the whole world is moving into the Digital Age with most things, cell phones, tablets, or cloud-based technology. What steps is Endress+Hauser taking to ensure that its products meet this trend in water and wastewater?

Matthias Altendorf: We have started this digital journey 30 years ago already when we started with the first digital bus systems and implemented that, but the real accelerator came with two major elements. First, the mobility of the devices, that we can take the computer wherever you want, with our mobile phone or a tablet, and therefore we have access to it.

The second thing, with the telecommunication industry setting standards – whether it's Ethernet, IP addresses, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi – those types of standards, which are today in the telecommunication industry, in which we know everybody from private life, would have come into the devices.

Our devices speak now. Wi-Fi, they speak… Bluetooth, they speak… Ethernet… We are ready to connect to the world. We just have to overcome the security aspects of both worlds.

Water Online: Endress+Hauser manufactures products in many countries around the world. In your US headquarters in Greenwood, does manufacturing locally present any challenges to meet the demands of the US market?

Matthias Altendorf: No, not really. When we manufacture in the States, we have great people. We have a labor force. At the end of the day, we have engineers, we have R and D here, and we have product experts. It’s not a specific challenge at the end of the day.

We just have to invest and that's what we continuously do. We’ve invested in recent years totaling more than 150 million into the US or North American market. We believe in this market and, therefore, that's all that it needs.

Water Online: You guys introduced a new magnetic flowmeter sensor last year, which requires no upstream and downstream straight pipe requirements. What's unique about the design to allow it to be installed without the normal upstream and downstream piping?

Adam Booth: This new electromagnetic flowmeter sensor utilizes multiple measuring electrodes. What that allows us to do is, if you do have an obstruction upstream or downstream, like an elbow, a bend T-fitting, expansion, or reduction, that's going to disturb the flow profile.

Traditional electromagnetic flowmeters require five times the pipe diameters upstream of the device and two pipe diameters downstream of the device. When engineers are designing new plants or replacing other technology, they must take that into account. With our new sensor design, we're able to eliminate the need for that extra piping to get a consistent flow profile.

The main thing to take away here is it's not a brand-new sensor for us. It's simply just a new sensor option. It's our tried and true sensor that we've had in the market for decades, simply a new option. It’s available from line sizes, one inch all the way to 120 inch.

Water Online: With the new center design, what are the benefits of the customers using the sensor versus a more traditional electrical sensor?

Adam Booth: It's eliminating that extra piping cost. When you think about those five pipe diameters upstream and two pipe diameters downstream, if you're on a smaller line size, that might only be 20 inches, 28 inches, but as soon as you move into a 30 inch or 36 inch line, that's a lot of extra piping that's required and a lot of extra installation costs;

When you start designing new plants that’s where that comes into play. But, if you are displacing other technology, a mechanical meter or something like that where you simply just don't have that extra space, this can drop right in regardless of the upstream or downstream obstruction.

Water Online: Is there anything else that you guys want to talk about before we finish up today?

Adam Booth: I do want to speak to what Matt mentioned earlier about the security that we have to overcome because our devices, not just Endress+Hauser’s, but everyone's devices are becoming more technologically advanced. We're packing more and more features into all of our devices.

Everyone wants to be able to connect to devices, easier commission devices, and easier troubleshooting of devices. Something that we've done that's unique is, with our connectivity options, we've added extra layers of security in those options.

The users and customers can customize and decide how secure they want our devices to be depending on their requirements. That's something unique that we've done to take into a fact to the security of our devices and the data for our customers.

Matthias Altendorf: Yeah. It’s something which is up to date for the timing and the COVID-19 situation. We created a complete workflow, which you can put in every water or wastewater facility to see how the COVID situation is currently. That would have the big advantage that you don't have to test the population. You can test at the water side, which is the influx of the water, and then you can go up the stream.

It’s two, three weeks ahead of it. That’s what we have tried now in Tokyo in Japan and some European large water facilities, nothing. This will come also in the States.

Because we knew already in the wastewater that there is, for example, in Tokyo pandemic. Even so, the public authorities didn't know it because they have not started to have individual testing of the individuals. It’s very costly to test individuals.

If two, three weeks ahead, you can put medicine in place to prevent the pandemic much better, that the spreading is reduced. This is not just for COVID. This is available, at the end of the day, for flu or whatever other diseases might be spread because humans come together.

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