Prof. Dr. Andrea Cominola

Smart Water Networks

Professor Dr. Andrea Cominola’s research concerns the so-called “water-smart society”, that is, a society characterized by its intelligent handling of water consumption and supply, especially in large conurbations. The Italian was born and raised in a small town near Milan. It was then only natural for him to enroll at the nearby Politecnico di Milano, where he studied environmental engineering. In 2017, for his doctoral studies at the same university, he shifted his focus to computer science applied to water management problems: as part of an EU project, he researched effective management strategies and advanced monitoring technologies to increase the reliability and efficiency of water supply and demand in large cities. “State-of-the art technology has today made it possible to install water meters that record water consumption very accurately. In order to evaluate and use this data you need comprehensive knowledge not only of data mining, but also of data reliability. Water supply companies cannot easily take decisions with millions of individual data records; they need data that is structured and grouped. By means of intelligent data-mining strategies, many new insights can be drawn from this data. On the one hand, these insights support and sharpen consumers’ awareness of water consumption. On the other hand, they provide water companies with strategies for increasing efficiency,” says Professor Cominola, explaining his previous research.

In October 2018, Andrea Cominola became Junior Professor for Smart Water Networks at the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF) and Technische Universität Berlin. His research focuses on the modeling and management of water and energy demand, the detection of leakages and cyber-physical anomalies, behavior modeling, data mining and machine learning.

“In the water and utilities sector, digitalization is gaining acceptance rather slowly. However, several pilot projects around the world have demonstrated the potential of smart water networks,” says Professor Cominola. He is convinced that global climate change, combined with a strong trend towards urbanization, will result in an increasing and changing demand for water. “This requires not just effective management strategies and advanced monitoring technologies to increase the reliability of water supply; it’s also about preventing water scarcity and crises, and promoting an efficient use of water resources, while reducing losses, stresses and gaps in supply.”

Professor Cominola’s research will therefore focus on developing novel tools to analyze decisions that combine intelligent water monitoring technologies and networks with advanced data analysis, machine learning, modeling techniques and optimization. “The goal is to provide water suppliers with tools that help them make decisions, while improving their real-time knowledge about water supply, facilitating the immediate identification of anomalies, and making operational and management decisions more efficient. The application of the tools we are going to develop needs to take into account the complex challenges of urban water systems, including automatic control, anomaly identification, demand management, water-energy nexus and multi-sectoral and multi-scale interactions between water and other urban components,” says the environmental engineer. (kj)