AU 2023: The year AI took center stage for Autodesk water solutions

8 min read

Autodesk University, the annual three-day Design and Make conference, kicked off in Las Vegas on November 13, bringing together over 12,000 designers, engineers, builders, and creators. The event focused on the next iterations in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operations; Manufacturing; and Media and Entertainment industries.

One of the key themes at AU 2023 was the advancement of AI in Autodesk software. In his Day One keynote address,President and CEO Andrew Anagnost highlighted the company’s commitment to delivering innovative solutions by announcing Autodesk AI, technology that unlocks creativity, helps solve problems, and eliminates non-productive work across the industries that design and make the world around us.

Autodesk University this year marked a significant focus on the water industry and solutions. This was evident in the core narrative of the AEC keynote and industry forum, highlighting Autodesk’s unique attention to water as a valuable resource.

Advancing AI in AEC and water: unlocking creativity and efficiency

In the AEC Industry ForumAmy Bunszel discussed how AI is being leveraged to support improved workflows, informed decisions, and better project outcomes for AEC teams. The focus areas for advancing Autodesk AI are analysis, augmentation, and automation. AI technology can provide immediate insights, enhance exploration and experimentation, and automate tedious tasks.

Amy Bunszel highlighted the AI and ML additions to our water software.

In the water industry, Autodesk showcased the integration of AI in its software, including some exciting new product enhancements and industry collaborations. Most notably, we announced the availability of the Machine Learning Deluge Tool in InfoDrainage. This tool enables AEC professionals to generate responsive flood maps with nearly instant feedback about flooding hotspots, helping to answer questions like: Where should I put the retention pond and what is the ideal footprint to capture the overland flows?

Where before, an engineer had to place a pond or swale in the design software and then run a computational simulation to see the outcome, the ML Deluge Tool can show the outcome in seconds. This will create an interactive experience where customers can get instant feedback on flood maps in real time, and the final design can be exported to Civil 3D.

Exploring a VAPAR + Info360 Asset integration.

Additionally, we announced that Autodesk is exploring the integration of VAPAR AI image technology into Info360 Asset for sewer asset inspections, automating the identification of problematic issues in pipes. More information will be shared soon on how VAPAR technology and how it can be used to save operators hours of watching tedious sewer line inspection videos while significantly reducing capital expenditure costs.

Read more about the exciting advancements in AI for the AEC industry in Amy Bunszel’s blog post.

Cloud enhancements to water distribution enables potentially life-saving outcomes

In addition to the exciting progress in AI, Autodesk has also delivered powerful cloud-enabled workflows to the water industry. Of particular focus at AU was the availability of cloud-based fire flow simulations in InfoWater Pro.

We heard in the AEC Industry Forum how water flow is a particular concern in firefighting. If there’s not enough pressure, homes and lives are at stake. With this enhancement, InfoWater Pro provides powerful flow simulation for utilities to quickly assess if a hydraulic system will have enough water to put out fires. 

The engineering team Denver Water is using the cloud computing power of InfoWater Pro to cut their fire flow simulation run time from 90 minutes to just 5 minutes. This enables Denver Water to plan maintenance and network additions better and restore service faster.

AU serves as a hub for water industry collaboration and learning

Water-related activities at AU drew significant attention, with over 1,300 attendees enrolled in more than 22 water-related sessions, providing attendees with a breadth of knowledge and insights into the importance of smart water management. The AEC exposition hall served as a hub for customers to gather and learn more about Autodesk’s commitment to the water industry. Our booth helped facilitate meaningful conversations through one-on-one interactions and product demonstrations.

The AU Water booth was very busy during AU2023.

The AEC exposition hall served as a hub for customers to gather and learn more about Autodesk’s commitment to the water industry. Our booth helped facilitate meaningful conversations through one-on-one interactions and product demonstrations.

Attendees joined a wide variety of educational classes and technical sessions related to water topics. Some highlights include:

Attendance was shoulder-to-shoulder at some sessions. Watch them at your leisure.

Theater Talks: how 3 water professionals are building the future of water

One key area of focus at the AU theater this year was on the future of water management and the crucial role of technology in creating resilient and sustainable infrastructure. The inspiring talk emphasized how water management encompasses more than just delivering fresh water and disposing of wastewater; it also involves watershed management and addressing the challenges posed by rainstorms.

The session brought together industry-leading professionals with global expertise in water systems and programs to share insights on how technology can help us prepare for climate change, address water scarcity, improve water quality, and ensure equitable access to this vital resource.

We first heard from Sheila Thomas-Ambat, the public services director at the City of Fayetteville, North Carolina, who shared the flood resiliency program that is being fully executed based on a $17M watershed plan built using hydraulic models. She spoke about the importance of data and how to properly lean on technology to drive equitable community plans.

Next, Vice President at Kimley-Horn and Associates Sarah Williamson took the stage. Sarah shared an inspiring story of the redevelopment of an old Florida phosphate mine into the Streamsong Resort using sustainable water management practices and optimizing economic growth. Her talk showed us that sustainability is not a blocker to achieve economic land development goals. When planned carefully, the two can be achieved in parallel. 

Andy Smith from Anglian Water highlighting smart innovations.

And finally, Andy Smith, the Head of Smart Water at Anglian Water, discussed his current role driving digital transformation within the water sector with the aim of creating the water utility of the future. Andy demonstrated the power in collaboration, whether it’s with a technology partner like Autodesk to help drive the creation of innovative digital solutions or with global organizations that are directly impacting people’s lives. He shared three projects that brought together utilities, technology vendors, industry organizations, and nonprofits to deliver safe drinking water and sanitation services not only to their own communities, but to the developing nation of Nepal.

One of these projects was the Wing AI project where Anglian Water is working directly with Autodesk to develop machine learning models to improve operational forecasting of their water treatment facility, resulting in £126K so far in energy savings and chemical and carbon reductions.

The session explored groundbreaking solutions and innovative approaches, ranging from the use of AI in water treatment operations to sustainable strategies in land development and comprehensive city-wide watershed planning. The audience was encouraged to listen for specific calls to action from each speaker and consider how they could apply the shared achievements in their own work and life.

Mapping our future together at AU

AU was not only a place for customers to learn and network, but also presented opportunities to provide interactive feedback and collaborate with the Autodesk team directly.

Several executive-level members from leading organizations in the water industry met in person at AU to establish an Autodesk Water Executive Council. The meeting focused on industry challenges, the role of digital transformation, and how Autodesk’s solutions address pressing needs. The session included presentations from Dan Lohmeyer, Autodesk’s VP of AEC design and solutions, and Transcend, highlighting their partnership and the value of generative design.

This year’s AU also saw significant developments and enhancements in our water portfolio. These advancements drew attention as we moved towards enabling AI and cloud-based experiences for our customers. This shift will enhance workflows from planning to operation and maintenance, providing a more efficient and effective way to manage water resources.

On this note, water roadmap discussions also gave customers an inside look at Autodesk’s product strategy and development plans. The roadmap showcased Autodesk’s commitment to delivering value across the water lifecycle management, from planning to design, build, operate, and maintenance. Strategic partnerships with EsriTranscendVAPAR, and others were emphasized, highlighting the commitment to delivering a cohesive ecosystem of solutions to better solve our customer’s problems.

Looking ahead: delivering value and enhancing water products

As AU 2023 came to a close, Autodesk reiterated its commitment to delivering value to customers and enhancing water products. We strongly emphasized our role as a strategic partner in the water industry, investing in AI, cloud capabilities, and integrated technology to drive innovation and efficiency. Exciting times lie ahead as Autodesk continues to empower AEC professionals and drive digital transformation in the water industry – and AU is the place to learn all about it.

Watch these sessions on the AU website

The Autodesk University website is a great resource for some of the best sessions presented at AU events every year. In addition to the ones featured above, we encourage you to dig into these water-related sessions any time you like: 

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