Saving water thanks to NB-IoT technology

Published by Telefónica IoT Team Energy

Water is an indispensable resource for life. The access to and consumption of drinking water in our cities is a advancement that we enjoy thanks to a huge effort. On World Water Day, the UN recalls one of its prime objectives: to make drinking water accessible to everyone. For this to be possible, it is essential to have management measures that allow us to save water and distribute it more effectively. In order to reduce costs, increase efficiency and reduce errors, the European Commission is calling for an update of the measurement system by 2020. According to experts, by then the water market in Europe could reach a value of 13.4 billion euros. This comes in a scenario in which water-related solutions are developing rapidly. This also affects the end user, who can benefit from more accurate monitoring, reduced and fair prices and more convenience and ease in measurement.

Smart metering, the centrepiece of the puzzle

Each household has its own measurement of consumption. To get all this data, until now companies have had operators who regularly go check the numbers. This process is expensive and complex, plus it comes with measurement errors or measurements obtained from forecasts, which can inconvenience users. The European Commission advocates the need to modernise today’s systems with automated systems that allow for more efficient, precise measurements which would be more convenient for users and more business-effective.

Smart Metering is the technique to adopt to achieve this goal . Accurate, real-time information can be obtained thanks to new digital systems and the IoT. The new smart meters get records and send them to a central hub, where the information is processed. They can even control the information flow and receive instructions in certain cases. This means that they can remotely be switched off or on if a flaw is detected or if any other action is needed.

Getting information directly from home can bring a significant reduction in costs in both the middle and long term. It will also mean an improved service and will provide a network to prevent even greater losses. But first, a considerable investment is needed, and some of the technical problems associated with the technology needed have to be solved. These challenges include logistics, and even measurement itself. Luckily, the Internet of Things is here to provide solutions.

NB-IoT, the right solution

Thanks to LPWA technology, we have several solutions capable of solving even the most complex challenges. Narrow Band IoT technology, or NB-IoT, is particularly useful. It was developed to connect devices through cellular bands. The NB-IoT allows for connection at relatively short distances by transferring small amounts of data cheaply and efficiently. In addition, this type of technology is designed for long-life devices, minimising their cost of maintenance for this and other reasons.

It also offers solutions that are scalable in time and space, and enables appropriate security measures tailored to their needs to be implemented. NB-IoT technology is specially designed to cover hard-to-reach areas, such as the insides of houses, basements and underground car parks. In the case of water, this is a crucial advantage. And not only does it allow for more efficient and convenient remote monitoring; it also means that the entire measurement can be automated regardless of where the water access points or meters are located. The connectivity it offers ensures effective connection even in the most remote parts of the home, something that was unthinkable until just a few years ago.

The rise of smart metering

Thanks to LPWA networks, and especially NB-IoT technology, tracking initiatives, real-time monitoring and other similar solutions are providing incredible solutions to everyday problems. Some initiatives also include monitoring water networks. Examples of these projects are the ones developed by Telefónica in conjunction with Huawei and Kamstrup in Chile. This project uses NB-IoT technology to get home consumption values by telemetry. Thanks to Kamstrup's intelligent meters and the update of the NB-IoT network provided by Huawei, with the coordination Telefónica's R&D Centre in Chile, the first smart metered houses are already operating in the country. In short, more than 300 homes connected through NB-IoT are expected in this pilot test, which will reuse the 700 MHz LTE network.

With this example, Telefónica aims to demonstrate these networks’ vast potential to achieve a much more competent and efficient public utilities system. Yet it is not the only project involving this technology. There are case studies and implementation projects of this intelligent metering system in Finland as well. The UK is also famous for its broad service coverage, including electricity and gas. Water is a service that is a prime necessity,  and so many things, including health, hygiene and food, depend on immediate access to it. Projects like these are extremely valuable in our society, where the modern, smart city is beginning to develop to the max. And this development is largely due to the IoT.

Telefónica IoT Team