Common Information Model

International Electrotechnical Commission

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has published and identified over 100 standards deemed relevant to smart grids, of which the Common Information Model, IEC 61970 and IEC 61968, forms the core semantic model. This set of standards formalises a UML-based semantic model of smart grids, from a utility perspective. The standards aim to provide a common language for energy management systems and distribution management systems in the power sector. Since their initial proposal, the standards have also been expressed in Resource Description Format (RDF). This has set a clear precedent for smart water networks, which feature several similarities to power networks from technological and business process perspectives.

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Hydrologic Ontology for Discovery

Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. – Hydrologic Information System (CUAHSI-HIS)

This ontology aims to aid the discovery of hydrologic time series data. The ontology primarily consists of a controlled vocabulary, and hierarchical categorisation of hydrologic measurement terms. This serves as a significant step towards a semantic model for the water domain as it provides a comprehensive set of measured phenomena and properties, grouped through abstraction. It doesn’t however, include any descriptions of water utility networks themselves, so further work is required.

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CityGML Utility ADE

Open Geospatial Consortium

The CityGML Utility Network Application Domain Extension (ADE) extends the core CityGML classes to include concepts relevant to the geospatial and semantic description of water networks. This includes water network concepts such as pipes and manholes. The model describes some simple properties of flowing water and possible pipe materials. Again, this serves as a relevant foundational step, but is not comprehensive or semantically expressive enough to serve as a semantic model for the water sector. Also, the work is marked as still under development, and has been inactive for several years.

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Water Innovation Thesaurus

EIP Water

This ‘simple knowledge organisation system’ (SKOS) ontology identifies 548 terms used in describing water research and innovation, which could be used to ‘tag’ projects or initiatives. The expressivity of the artefact is limited to conceptual relationships such as ‘broader’, or ‘related to’. This is a useful tool for gathering more accepted language usage and term descriptions for building a rich semantic model of water networks.

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Water Data Transfer Format

Australian Bureau of Meteorology

This XML-based model is used by Australian Organisations to transfer water data measurements to the relevant governing body. The model contributed to the development of the later WaterML2 model, and so considers similar aspects. The standard is therefore primarily used for formatting hydrologic time-series data, rather than describing water networks in a semantically rich manner. This serves as important context for the agenda.

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Generic Ontology for Water Supply Distribution Chain

WatERP Project

This ontology was developed in the context of an EU FP7 research project to support software aiming to balance demand and supply in a water value chain. It identifies 25 classes of objects (both physical and societal) involved in the supply chain, relationships between them, 8 data property definitions, and a number of axiomatic restrictions over the use of the language. Whilst a relatively simple ontology, this serves as another critical step towards a semantic model built by the water industry, for the water industry. Specifically, this ontology is valuable as it was built with smart water networks in mind, whereas previous ontologies primarily regarded traditional utility networks.

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INSPIRE Data Specification on Utility and Government Services

European Commission

The EC directive towards a common Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE) is a mandate to create standard models and specifications for sharing geospatial data across Europe. This involved many themes, of which Utility Networks form one theme. This data model identifies a generic network model, and its manifestation in the water sector. This identifies an enumeration of ‘appurtenances’ (nodes such as pump stations), and allows for basic descriptions of some aspects of water utility network data, such as water type and delivery type. This model resembles the CityGMLUtilityNetwork ADE, and shares the same lack of breadth and depth to serve as sufficient for the modelling of smart water networks, although it serves as a significant benchmark and milestone.

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Open Geospatial Consortium

Arguably the definitive standard in water semantics to date, this model is a markup language for hydrologic time series data as an extension of XML. This provides a format for exchanging structured data in a standardised manner regarding water observations. The model does not describe the objects in the water domain and is not intended to support smart water applications, as it sits at a low level of expressivity and primarily enables the exchange of data, rather than the comprehension and use of data through common meaning.

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Industry Foundation Classes


The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) are an ISO adopted standard for exchanging building data between software in the architecture, engineering and construction fields, with a primary emphasis on the construction phase of a building’s lifecycle. The model provides a comprehensive set of concepts for describing geospatial and semantic aspects of buildings. This serves as a highly significant case study of the application of semantic technologies to a sector, as Building Information Modelling (BIM), based on IFC, are revolutionising construction globally. The model itself is of some relevance in modelling the physical aspects of a water utility network, as it describes concepts such as pipes and materials. However, the model is currently based on the STEP-EXPRESS language, which is arguably not well suited for modern applications, and it lacks detail regarding many water network aspects and aspects relevant at the operational lifecycle stage.

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Water Value Chain Ontology

WISDOM Project

The WISDOM EU FP7 project has developed a comprehensive domain ontology for the modelling of smart water value chains, in terms of their physical, societal, and cyber-sensory aspects. The model primarily considers the network-level properties of man-made artefacts from the abstraction of water to the discharge of waste water. The model includes 492 entities, as well as a comprehensive set of SWRL rules, and is formalised in OWL. Conceptually, the model sits between the previously developed models and extends this by aligning them with the semantic sensor network ontology of W3C.

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Semantic Water Information Model


This ontology describes the assets, devices, and components in a smart water network, and enables their management through an Internet of Things approach, by describing their arrangement, properties, and the services and functions which they offer. Conceptually, this model forms an extension of the WISDOM model to provide a greater level of detail of description regarding water network assets. Importantly, this model has emerged from 30+ years of expertise with a water utility, so marks another significant step towards a semantic model ‘by the water sector, for the water sector.

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