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course, a Boston-based water solutions provider, has acquired Synauta to accelerate the use of digital twins in the water treatment industry. The acquisitions combine Gradiant’s expertise in water treatment digitization and optimization with Synauta’s hands-on machine learning expertise for the water industry.
Gradiant emerged from MIT as a provider of end-to-end water solutions to improve the design, operation and optimization of industrial water treatment assets. Over the past decade, it has raised more than $200 million, scaled up to approximately 400 employees, and built dozens of water treatment plants worldwide.
In recent years, Gradiant has integrated this experience into a digital dual platform that keeps all water treatment procurement, safety and maintenance data in one place to help companies build more efficient water treatment systems. For example, motion and IR sensors analyze equipment data to optimize maintenance, allowing teams to schedule maintenance when needed rather than on a schedule. This extends the time between maintenance and extends the life of the equipment.
Focus on industry
The company focuses on high-quality water treatment for business customers and desalination plants. The global water industry spends about $1.5 trillion a year and corporate water treatment accounts for about 45% of that. This includes applications such as delivering ultra-clear water on the one hand and then treating for reuse or disposal on the other. The technology is used by companies involved in semiconductor chip manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, tanneries and mining. Customers include Micron, Glaxo Smith Kline, Pfizer, Rio Tinto and Coca-Cola.
Synauta’s proprietary machine learning AI algorithms are deployed worldwide in municipal and industrial desalination plants. Synauta’s technologies reduce operating costs by determining optimal operating conditions and maintenance programs based on real-time process data and are trusted by leading customers such as Singapore’s PUB, Veolia, Aqualia, Engie and GHD.
Prakash Govindan, COO of Gradiant, told VentureBeat, “By acquiring Synauta with their data and water expertise, we will be able to capitalize on their years of experience and algorithms learned from work on hundreds of factories around the world.”
Driving efficiency with digital water
Govindan said digital water analysis and control play a vital role in refining ultrapure water needed for next-generation computer chips. While water treatment engineers used to be comfortable measuring contaminants in parts per billion, newer chip manufacturing processes measure contaminants in parts per quadrillion, that is, a thousand trillion.
Digital water features several ways to quantify water treatment infrastructure to improve efficiency and bring digital transformation to the water industry. It is one of the fastest growing segments of the global water industry.
Emerging research predicts digital water will grow from $7.96 billion in 2020 to $19.43 billion in 2028. This market includes various IoT sensors, data aggregation and analytics to improve water infrastructure development. Other companies in the digital water segment include Bentley Systems, Innovyze, Schneider Electrics, Atonix Digital, Plutoshift, Assetic, Copperleaf Technologies and Xenius.
Govindan said these other players are focusing more generally on industrial data aggregation and analysis, rather than water in particular. In contrast, Gradiant focuses centrally on water, enabling them to identify many more opportunities to optimize the water treatment process at scale. Some Gradiant customers reduce the amount of power and chemicals used to process water by 20-25%.
In addition, Gradient’s tools integrate and automate many aspects of procurement, maintenance and safety for water treatment systems. This provides a richer context for digital twins and more refined data for training better AI and machine learning algorithms.
Support for climate change
Later, Govindan expects this technology to play a growing role in the water desalination market. This could be important in the wake of climate change.
The cost of desalination has fallen to about a tenth of its cost over the past 40 years, thanks to advances in filter membranes and digital technology. Some systems produce desalinated water at about thirty cents per thousand liters. As a result, desalination has gradually expanded from energy-rich desert countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE to Singapore, Sydney and China.
There are even discussions about expanding its use in California and other drought-stricken states. Govindan said: “The great thing is that desalination is independent of the drought, so the water will always be there. And with digital water in the mix, you can produce better water at a reasonable price.”
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