Improving water management is possible using IoT
Product Design Melbourne
Water security in Australia is threatened by a number of factors. These include climate change, rainfall variability, population growth, economic development, and drought.
Early in the century (by 2030) and under all emission scenarios, winter and spring rainfall is projected to decrease by up to around 15%.
Water utilities across Australia are faced with ageing infrastructure and limited capital. However there are many opportunities in the short term to maximise the performance, decrease total cost and extend the life of our assets.
The Australian Infrastructure Plan released in February 2016 suggested that the management of data and technology would play a role in helping operators to improve network efficiency and save costs. Sensors that can track water flow and waste are critical to monitoring usage and are the method used for value transactions relating to water use. Sensors are being used to manage networks in real-time for efficient management of the systems and improved response to customers’ needs.
The use of the data from the sensor network assists decision making to reduce system leakage. It allows for the optimisation and prioritisation of capital expenditure.
Water metering uses sensors to measure the flow of water in a network. At a macro level, flows are measured in real time and the data is used to manage the network. Real or near real time measurement data is not available at the moment to consumers. New water meter offerings that can provide this information are now available in the Australian market. The latest products offered by Water Group and (one of our partners) Edenworth use growing IoT networks to collect the metering data. These technologies have leap frogged the existing drive-by meter recording systems.
Internet of Things (IoT) networks have been designed specifically to wirelessly handle small amounts of data over long distances and with minimal power. IoT networks transmit and receive small packets of data generated from an IoT device. The device data is passed through to cloud servers that are then used to store and process the data as required.
This diagram from IoT network service Sigfox illustrates the basic networks common in the IoT space.
Because IoT networks are low power, devices can be battery powered for periods of between 5 and 15 years depending on the use cycle. Because the network operates at a frequency less than 1GHz, ranges extending to kilometres are possible depending on the environment.
The cost of the radios used in the devices are relatively low and will get lower as the production volumes grow. Currently water network operators are being told to expect a 2 to 3 year return on the investment in the metering systems.
A multitude of different networks
Don't be surprised to see companies offering the same metering solution on different IoT networks. The battle for this space in Australia mirrors that around the World. Device makers and suppliers continue to be network agnostic.
Network suppliers such as Sigfox, LoRa, Telstra and Silversprings Network continue their battle. Devices tend to be using modular type radios so that they can operate on different networks as required. As the dominant networks become clearer, the devices will be custom designed to reduce their cost.
The battles for the data space are where the money is. Network bandwidth is on a subscription basis. Storage and data analysis tools are available in the same model. Legacy data arrangements in place will be renegotiated or in some cases will result in the duplication of networks.
Other opportunities in IoT
Gas metering applications
Asset tracking (of high value items) for security, distribution and logistics applications
Farming stock management tracking and monitoring
Farming water supply level monitoring and alert systems
Weight or liquid (tank) monitoring and management
Water leakage by detecting liquid presence outside tanks and pressure variations along pipes
Waste management by detecting rubbish levels in containers to optimise rubbish collection routes
Air quality monitoring in buildings
Structural health by monitoring vibrations and material conditions in buildings and other structures
Your IoT needs
How can your business disrupt your market with IoT enabled products? How valuable are the insights into how your customers use your products?How can you use this technology to deliver greater value to your customers? These are the questions to consider.
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||Mark Bayly, 12 July 2017