UK utility IoT network trial brings together 9 companies

 

Several companies in the digital water space are collaborating with water utility South East Water as part of a Narrowband Internet of Things trial.

Ambitious multi-stakeholder collaboration to combine data from its pressure and water quality monitors with the aim to reduce leakage levels

South East Water assembles multiple smart water layers

A UK water utility has embarked on an ambitious multi-stakeholder collaboration to combine data from its pressure and water quality monitors with the aim to reduce leakage levels.

South East Water, which supplies 2.2 million customers in Southern England, is conducting a trial on 2000 homes that will bring together different datasets for analysis. The initiative follows a full Narrowband Internet of Things (NBIoT) commercial agreement with telecommunications company, Vodafone UK.

Water industry collaboration

Nine companies in total will be involved on the collaboration, including: Vodafone UK, ATi and Syrinix, Xylem, Gutermann, Diehl, Sensus, ZTec and Honeywell.

South East Water said the collaboration with ATi and Syrinix is the first time data from both their pressure and water quality monitors have been combined into one data set for analysis.

The scope of the industry-wide collaboration is to test the latest cutting edge digital water meters, sensors, advanced analytics and telecommunications channels.

According to the utility, the data received at regular intervals from the digital meters and sensors could “revolutionise the way we look for and prevent leaks in the future, further reducing interruptions to supply, reducing the water we take from the environment”.

In a nutshell – the data will enable the company to predict and prevent pipeline failure before it happens.

Digitalisation of UK water utilities

Elsewhere in the UK efforts are underway from other utilities increasing the analysis of data and using new solutions to improve the efficiency of water supply.

Severn Trent has been using machine learning to help transform the way it approaches leakages in a new trial. Teaming up with French company Capgemini, the water utility has collected five billion records of flow and pressure data, to which it is applying advanced analytics.

Meanwhile United Utilities (UU) signed an eight-year framework agreement with Canadian start-up company, Emagin, to use artificial intelligence to adapt drinking water operations. This followed a 12-week demonstration in a District Metered Zone (DMA), in which UU estimates a 22 percent cost saving was generated.

Smart water network layers

Commenting on the South East Water trial, Dr Simon Earl, operations director said: “It represents a step change in the efficiency of providing this digital information as it doesn’t require the often prohibitive costs of installing new apparatus such as radio masts to transmit local data back to a central point.”

While the water utility has met its leakage target for more than 10 years, it anticipates this new development will help it meeting a commitment to reduce leakage levels by 15 percent by 2025.

Dr Mike Strahan, managing director Europe at ATi said the project is the “first time all the layers needed for a smart water network have been brought together”.

Meanwhile, one industry source welcomed the initiative but remains cautious on the IoT route.

“For domestic water meters this is a good idea – theoretically any IoT device is good as you are basically creating a secure mesh network for something that is very low in basic data requirements,” he said. “What the device pushes out is very low data transmissivity but from multiple devices.”

“However, when it comes to online process instrumentation then forget it – most devices are HART enabled. When we finally get around to using the HART capabilities, or even multiple process values (flow, level, temperature) in this case the IoT is not the solution to go for, as the data transmission rates that are needed are too high.”

Narrowband IoT

“Narrowband Internet of Things technology has the power to transform the utilities sector,” said Anne Sheehan, director of Vodafone Business. “It enables a more accurate and efficient method of identifying and preventing leaks, helping companies like South East Water meet important regulatory and environmental standards.”

NB-IoT is a low power wide area network (LPWAN) technology, developed to enable efficient communication, long battery life for mass distributed devices and lower costs for wide geographical footprints.

As a specification, NB-IoT was developed by 3GPP and was standardised as part of 3GPP Release 12 back in June 2016.

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