“On Saturday, he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon.
That night he had a stomach ache”
Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Smart Water Networks Forum

Since its inception more than 10 years ago, the Smart Water Networks Forum (“SWAN”) has evolved impressively (see www.swan-forum.com).

In its early days, the few utility managers attending certainly found themselves in unaccustomed territory.

Spied coming into a lunch area, oblivious to their own attractiveness, swarming tech suppliers would queue up before them for precious “catch-ups”, practicing elevator pitches for dazzling solutions and earnestly offering best friend status for life.

 

 

 

But what a valuable focus for technology...

...in the water sector those SWAN conferences provided. And, swerving offers of “integration” from the IWA en route, SWAN is today truly a global incarnation providing one of the leading annual conferences on the circuit (with a much healthier balance of utilities and supply chain!) and with copious additional sub-groups and resources in support.

Which brings me to this year’s 11th annual conference, hosted wholly online, and the conundrum it presented.

A conundrum because, certainly for the first time for me, this was truly a global conference.

With session timings spanning California’s PST to Brisbane’s AEST, every region was able to participate in its own real time – and how well that worked too with recordings available for everyone to catch up over cornflakes on the action from their night before.

 

 

 

 

Certainly, for the sessions I attended,

the quality was uniformly high in terms of panel presentations and panel chairs as well. The conference platform was similarly excellent (as well as the music choices as attendees waited for sessions to start).

So why the long face and mumbled Dickensian quotes of best of times and worst of times?

Well simply as, scrolling through the long list of attendees, I realised not just how few I knew but how inevitably absent was the opportunity to redress that by chatting to people during breaks, over lunch and at dinner.

Breakout sessions aside, how globally connected yet how locally isolated everyone truly was.

 

 

How that positive inclusion of multiple time zones..

..can be captured whilst addressing the inherent loneliness of online is something I will leave to the conference specialists.

In the hope, the COVID-19 vaccinating continues positively and at pace, however, how wonderful it will be for the current imposition of online and isolation to metamorphose into the voluntary options we used to feast on so heartily

(even if we did sometimes get stomach ache!).

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