LuminUltra CEO Pat Whalen took part in an interview with Water Online Radio while attending the Annual Conference & Exposition of the American Water Works Association (AWWA’s ACE17) in Philadelphia. The discussion touched on a number of interesting topics that we thought might be of interest to you. You’ll find the interview excerpted below.
Pat: I am the CEO of LuminUltra. We are on a mission to solve the way that the water sector looks at and solves microbiological problems in water.
Interviewer: Summarize for us how the industry currently collects, manages, monitors and analyzes their water data?
Pat: There are really two buckets: The first one is the more well-known one – integrated sensors that are usually tied into SCADA systems that also store the data. Then the second, the afterthought, is plain old fashioned pen and paper or pencil and napkin or whatever you can find to mark things down, and we’re not always entirely sure where that data ends up.
Interviewer: We live in a world right now that it is all about data. I mean, it may not have been the case 10 or 20 years ago, but in today’s society, no matter what profession you are in, what industry, it all comes down to data. When we are talking about data from a water industry standpoint, what tools does the industry need to adopt to properly use water data to plan for the future?
Pat: Simply put: the Cloud. In this industry, we have been very hesitant over the years to adopt Cloud technology for security or privacy reasons. Utilities are definitely right to be concerned about the integrity of their data because they are responsible for providing good, clean, quality water. But what they really have not yet understood is that the infrastructure has been built on platforms that are far more secure than anything that is on the market, whether it is the old relic server that is sitting in the basement of the water utility or email back and forth, email back and forth of Excel spreadsheets. That is the least secure form of data transmission we have available today and most people do not realize that. The answer to the question is to embrace the Cloud.
Interviewer: Still far too many organizations are not effectively using their data so, thinking about this industry, so what is LuminUltra doing to improve water data usage?
Pat: First, people have to understand what data to actually look at. We are all swimming in data every day, such as your financial data or your stock market data. We do not yet have all the best metrics within the water industry that we really need to look at. LuminUltra is doing a couple of things. First is education in the area of microbiology, which is our area of expertise. It is a relatively poorly understood subject matter within the industry. In response to that, we built what we call LuminUltra Academy which is a self-serve certification platform that people can go to and get the education they would need to be able to effectively deploy technology alongside their other chemical process and physical process data. Then, on the flip side of that, we built what is called LuminUltra Cloud which is actually our fifth generation software platform. We have been creating software that is designed to take in data for about 10 years.
If you are collecting data in the field or online, you want to send it to that platform and it is all built around an artificial intelligence-enabled decision support system that helps people understand what the data actually means. Because, at the end of the day, if I am an operator in the field, I need to be able to make decisions right now, very quickly to be able to minimize the cost of any kind of contamination I may have and, obviously, the most important thing is protect public health.
Interviewer: Looking back on the growth of the company over the past few years, would you be able to tell us about perhaps the most impactful installer or story or customer that you have had over the past couple of years?
Pat: Sure. If I think back to, I think, it was around 2014, we have traditionally done a lot of business in Louisiana specifically in the drinking water sector, a little bit and the wastewater sector as well. Louisiana is very unique in North America in that they have poor source water quality considering it all comes from the Mississippi River and they are at the bottom of it. You take that, you take the very high temperatures that you have in Louisiana. Typically, water comes out of the ground at 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. They have a lot of microbiological problems. So in 2014, they had an outbreak of what is called Naegleria fowleri which is also known by the name brain-eating amoeba. I think there were probably around four or five fatalities from this organism that found its way into the distribution system because of severe microbiological contamination. As a result, the Department of Health and Hospitals laid down an executive order that they needed to boost their chlorine residuals as high as they possibly could and then confirm that they have burned out all of the biofilm. They did not have a tool that would enable them to do that quickly. We were able to rapidly deploy our technology down there and help them to confirm, assess and address basically and then confirm when they had applied sufficient chlorination to correct the problem, remove this brain-eating amoeba and basically make sure that the water was safe for human consumption again. They were able to do all of that within a matter of a couple of weeks whereas with traditional technology, it could have taken three or four months.
Interviewer: There is a new generation of operators and the most important tool they may be using could be the Cloud. This might be the dawn of an exciting age in the water industry as far as you are concerned.
Pat: We are all getting data all of the time. It is very familiar to be able to take your phone out of your pocket or take your tablet out of your backpack and call up the data that you are looking for. We need to be able to take the data that we have gathered and put it on Cloud-based, Cloud-enabled platforms and most importantly of all, leverage the knowledge of retiring baby boomers. We’ve got to get the knowledge they have into those kinds of programs or into the training packages that the next generation does not make the same mistakes that others may have made in the past and also enable these platforms to interpret data along with that knowledge and make it available 24/7, 365.
Interviewer: If anyone has any questions, how can they contact you and learn more about LuminUltra?
Pat: Go to www.luminultra.com. You can also go on the Water Online website and go to the LuminUltra portal on there.