people hired
thanks to the induced employment
generated by Hera in 2017
million euro
Investments in innovation and
digitalization. 13 projects in smart city,
circular economy and 4.0 utilities
of reused soil
in projects implemented in 2016
and 2017

Investments in innovation and digitalization

Of the Euro 200 million that the Hera Group invested in “shared value” (see the paragraph on Shared value in the Sustainability, Strategy and Shared Value chapter), Euro 78 million were dedicated to the dissemination of innovation and digitalization in the areas: circular economy, smart city, utility 4.0, customer experience. Specifically, in order of size, the Group invested approximately Euro 31 million in smart cities, Euro 27 million in data analytics and business intelligence, Euro 11 million in Utilities 4.0, Euro 7 million in circular economy and Euro 2 million in customer experience.

The main projects and the related scope of the activities are listed below. For some, a brief description is also given in this paragraph, for others, see other chapters.

Innovazione areas: Main projects Current phase of project Phase completion Territory of implementation
Smart city Smart drop-off point Prototype 2018 All
Sensors for environmental quality Implementation 2018 All
Coordination of excavation works in the city Implementation 2018 All
Dashboard for municipalities – Dashboard for smart cities Implementation 2018 All
City energy map Implementation 2018 All
Circular economy
Hera biomethane from waste Implementation End 2018 Bologna
Biorefinery 2.0 to produce biomethane from pruning material Test 2018 All
Recovery of anaerobic digestion process for biogas recovery Design 2017 Modena
Ultrasonic sludge hydrolysis system Test 2018 Forlì
Greenhouses for the drying of treatment sludge Conception 2018 Ferrara
Utility 4.0 Smart Hera Ongoing initiatives Ongoing initiatives All
Senseable Dep sewage treatment plants trend dashboard Installation 2017 Forlì
Customer experience Customer experience project Various initiatives 2018 All

Smart drop-off point

The aim of the project is to gather together in a single point a number of services for the city, to optimize energy, environmental, economic, and IT resources. The services provided include urban waste collection with user identification, environmental quality monitoring, video surveillance, telecommunication services and electrical charging.

The technologies required for these services are grouped in a Smart totem, which is scalable depending on needs.

The main innovative aspects of the project are:

  • urban quality, by creating a single point that gathers leading city services;
  • monitoring of the main environmental parameters to control urban quality;
  • communication, through Wi-Fi hotspots, data concentrators and other telecommunication equipment;
  • sustainable transport, by developing a city network of charging stations for vehicles and bicycles.
  • security, using a video surveillance and video analysis system;
  • a high aesthetic standard of the basic drop-off points for waste collection.

After the first indoor prototype in made 2016, the outdoor prototype was built in 2017, consisting of a technological totem and two waste containers. This step was decisive for validating the technological choices and the construction details that were preparatory to ensure proper operation. The Wi-Fi, video surveillance, air quality monitoring, electric recharging for cars and waste disposal services are activated through user recognition and opening and closing of the container opening. This prototype will be upgraded in 2018 to a pre-industrial configuration for field testing in a normal operating configuration.

Environmental sensors

The project stems from the aim to develop a network to monitor the main parameters that measure the environmental quality of the city’s air.

The environmental sensors are integrated in a station and are able to detect the air parameters in the external environment. The main parameters measured are atmospheric particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10), ozone, nitric dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, temperature and humidity. The station was developed by CNR-Ibimet with the aim to create a device that could support the environmental analyses carried out by control bodies and established by regulation currently in force. The stations are provided with a computer, data acquisition and transmission board and power system supplied by photovoltaic panels or fixed network. The data detected and subsequently transmitted may be viewed in real time and may also displayed in the municipal dashboard platform.

We installed the first 7 control units in the Ferrara area at the beginning of 2017. The data collected were processed and analysed to understand the quality and availability of the data. An additional monitoring network was set up in November 2017. In this case, 6 control units have been installed and data collection is currently under way. Processing the data will help to understand how much each source (residential, traffic) affects the city’s air pollution.

Excavation coordination system for network businesses

The Underground Facility Management (UFM) project applies a Business Process Management system to the integrated management of work-sites. The system is a real platform for document management and coordination of the Group’s excavation work. It will increase the efficiency of measures implemented in local areas and reduce the number of excavations, with positive effects on the city’s traffic and on the environment. The project draws upon technologies developed by Consorzio Futuro in Ricerca of Ferrara. These technologies had already been applied to several Italian and foreign public administrations and will be supplemented by the current management systems used by Hera Group.

In 2017 we developed the platform and implemented it experimentally, attaining positive results in terms of efficiency of the business processes it addresses.

This system, which we tested at the end of 2017, will be operational from 2018.

Dashboards for municipalities

The dashboard for municipalities provides an analysis of the city. It is an IT platform that integrates various systems such as the smart drop-off point, energy maps, environmental sensors, video analysis and excavation coordination. The smart city challenge involves not only installing sensors throughout the area but also developing integrated data collection and processing systems using a big-data approach. The platform displays the information recorded in the field by the many sensors and links them to create value-added synoptic views.

The tool may be used by public administrations as a management and analysis dashboard for the local community and to provide information to residents.

The dashboard was designed in 2017, will be released in 2018 and will include the following services: environmental sensors, totems and smart waste, energy maps, environmental passport and transportation analysis.

City energy maps

Energy maps are tools that are useful to assess energy consumption over time and to carry out predictive analysis of future trends. These maps link gas, district heating, electricity, water consumption and TARI waste tax amounts. The analysis extracts added-value information such as: calculating the building’s consumption class, assessing the consistency between water consumption and the number of declared residents, and analysing electricity consumption to obtain information about the type of plant and the fuel used for heating.

This tool may be used within the Group to analyse consumption distribution and to identify households that use polluting heating sources such as wood and pellets. Energy maps may also be useful to public administrations to gain more detailed knowledge of their local community, to identify any violations of current regulations and to promote virtuous, energy-saving behaviours.

The project is currently being implemented within the Municipal Dashboard and will be released in 2018.

Greenhouses for drying treatment sludge

The project is part of a study to research treatment sludge recovery systems. In particular, a feasibility study measures the environmental and economic aspects of the treatment of de-watered sludge from the treatment plants, in a greenhouse, in which the combined action of solar energy, mechanical energy and, where possible, thermal energy from geothermal energy is used, to promote and accelerate the natural process of water evaporation from the sludge. The aim of this process is to reduce the amount of sludge to be sent for disposal.

Senseable Dep: Sewage treatment process monitoring dashboard

The project aims to create a platform to monitor treatment processes by using simplified dashboards that show just a few indices to summarize the “state of health” of the treatment process from the biological, hydraulic and energy points of view.

During 2017, probes were installed in various sections of the Forlì treatment plant and a platform was created to log the measurement signals, process the data and display indices in simplified dashboards for process control and verification. The Water Business Unit and HERAtech’s Remote Control department collaborated to develop the system. We will evaluate extending the platform to other Group wastewater treatment plants during 2018.