interview  | 

Business data which optimises decision making

SUEZ Spain runs COVID-19 City Sentinel, a global solution for monitoring the virus in wastewater

Tags: 'Business Intelligence' 'Digital professions' 'Work in Barcelona'


Reading Time: 3 minutes

We spoke with Ana Casas, Director of the Product Development and Digitalisation at SUEZ Spain. This division of the company is tasked with developing and implementing digital services and solutions in the water management cycle and environmental health which deliver added value to customers.

Your business intelligence model has turned the COVID-19 City Sentinel solution into positive outcomes for the public. How would you define what business intelligence is and what it provides?

Business intelligence doesn’t just analyse data: it unlocks their value and leverages them to craft services which generate business.

One of the key standout factors in the digital revolution is making efficient decisions based on valid information. The explanation of business intelligence which I think dovetails best with the environment is that it is the business strategy which turns data into information, and information into knowledge, in a smart way so as to enhance decision-making, maximise value and make the business more competitive.

Here at SUEZ Spain, we manage 1,069 municipalities which involves over 67,000 km of supply networks and over 35,000 km of sewerage system, all with a high degree of sensorisation, through 30 digitally-operated facilities and over 6,000,000 connected IoT objects, all of which translates into around 15 terabytes of data generated and managed every day.

How have you harnessed the power of business intelligence to drive the COVID-19 City Sentinel solution? What sets it apart from other digital resources?

The insight afforded by business intelligence delivers data management which can pre-empt problems with efficient solutions.

Our Business Intelligence team brought meaning to the large amount of data we received during development. Nonetheless, the project was the outcome of working together with other professional disciplines: world-class innovation experts, lab analysis and sewage network specialists, epidemiologists and virologists. This has enabled us to make the transition from corrective or preventive management to predictive management, which in turn allows us to plan ahead based on the three advantages of our business intelligence tools: the ability to analyse and process internal and external information from a range of data sources; greater in-depth analysis, and therefore greater ability to draw conclusions and make predictions; and guidance for the end user inasmuch as we offer an intuitive and easy-to-use service.

Our standout feature is anchored in data analytics and in our wide-ranging experience and knowledge in advanced sewerage network operation. This means that we are better able to understand and interpret data from this additional perspective.


Can you tell us about some of the solutions COVID-19 City Sentinel provides when designing effective strategies for monitoring, prevention, etc. of the pandemic?

City Sentinel essentially analyses the concentration of Covid-19 in the wastewater of 70 Spanish municipalities, monitoring over 12 million people, in order to track the behaviour of the outbreaks. As we say in my team: “water doesn’t lie”. It is an aggregated and non-intrusive datum that captures the whole population and provides extremely valuable information for health decision-making as an indicator of the start of an outbreak or a shift in trend. In today’s pandemic scenario, COVID-19 City Sentinel is an integral and optimum solution for public managers which will help them to take effective strategic decisions in health management.

What is the biggest challenge the development of City Sentinel has posed for you?

Without a doubt it has been the rollout in record time to deliver value right from the outset. Business intelligence professional profiles have been crucial in this process along with the Agile and Scrum philosophy as work procedures with an iterative and incremental approach to development. Over the next few months, the challenge for City Sentinel will be to keep the platform up and running, in other words, to adapt it in real time to users and the evolution of the pandemic.

Based on the experience you have built up in wastewater monitoring, how do you see the future of City Sentinel in other areas of health or demographic tracking?

In the near future, City Sentinel’s digital technology could be used to monitor the incidence of many other diseases. And even more than that: in wastewater we can measure a number of parameters (such as drug or pharmaceutical concentration) which provide information about the habits of population groups (health habits, consumption, etc.). However, this approach will also call for the public’s trust to ensure that they see these social indicators as useful for everyone.

What advice do you give to professionals who want to train in business intelligence?

Many of the job opportunities in the new digital sector professions, including business intelligence, point towards the conversion of raw data into key indicators in order to make decisions which can save corporations a lot of money or, as we are seeing every day, save lives. In short, this type of technology’s applications may have a quick and highly significant impact on our society, especially in a time of health and climate crisis and against the background of the green reconstruction we are seeing.