This article originally appeared in WWD May 2020 issue as “Digitizing to Survive?”
Utility companies are at the forefront of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, with smart metering serving as a primary application. According to a report by analyst firm ABI Research, utilities installed 700 million smart meters in 2018, and this installed base is expected to double and reach 1.34 billion meters by 2023.
The shift to more digital technologies did not happen overnight. Traditional utility operations are labor intensive and utilize subjective measurement by field personnel. In areas that are in dense urban environments, indoors or even underground, implementing a smart metering solution can be difficult for many wireless technologies.
Over the last decade, a number of utility service providers have adopted automated meter reading (AMR) solutions that leverage hands on data collection methods using short-range data transferring capabilities of connected meters. The market demand for increased efficiency is pushing data collection beyond these systems to fixed network connectivity via advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) based on the IoT.
When switching from ARM to AMI, public network operators are better suited for the transition because they can match utility requirements by providing a unified price of connectivity in the whole territory. Water is a public service, so it cannot be charged depending on the location or available connectivity. Public networks have to align with utility requirements and provide coverage with proper gateway spacing to ensure good redundancy and sensitivity for radio coverage.
Implementing smart metering infrastructure allows utility companies to collect data faster and more efficiently. IHS Markit forecasts almost 50 million smart water meters will ship globally in 2023, a number roughly four times what was forecasted in 2017.
Industry leaders are helping water utilities stay responsive, lean and resourceful by deploying smart metering systems to replace outdated, labor-intensive processes. Solutions leveraging non-cellular low-power wide-area networking technologies are expected to represent 20% of all smart meters deployed by 2026, according to ABI Research. The following are a few key market drivers and benefits of this type of deployment.
- Remote Metering. Increases operational efficiency by wirelessly measuring usage data in dense urban environments, indoors and underground without the need to check each device manually, eliminating manual meter reading errors.
- Leak Detection. Measures water pressure and flow through piping networks to detect faulty points instantly.
- Customer Service. Increases engagement by allowing customers to visualize and predict their own consumption and detect water leaks and fraud.
- Remote Pump Monitoring. By wirelessly monitoring pressure and usage data, remote monitoring systems reduce energy bills by up to 25% of the water production cost.
Read more:: Digitizing to Survive?: Smart Water Metering