Vodafone and South East Water trial NB-IoT to reduce water leaks
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
Credit: Philafrenzy/Wikimedia

Vodafone and South East Water are trialling the use of NB-IoT in conjunction with specialist equipment to quickly detect water leaks.

A pilot project is currently underway in Kent and will run for a year. The two companies working with partners develop and connect specialist digital water meters, sensors and acoustic loggers on underground mains water pipes via Vodafone’s NB-IoT network. Acoustic loggers detect the noise of escaping water within the network, allowing leaks to be detected and their precise location to be pinpointed. The resulting data will be analysed and monitored, alerting South East Water immediately if there’s a leak. The two companies claim that this is the first time that NB-IoT has been used in the UK as part of a smart water network.

NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) provides wide coverage and deep in-building/underground penetration, by transmitting on a very narrow frequency band. It operates at low power, allowing batteries within NB-IoT sensors to last up to 10 years on a single charge.

There is a need for innovation approaches within the water sector, as Ofwat, the industry regulator, is requiring that all water companies reduce their water leakage by 15 per cent by 2025 and the head of the Environmental Agency, Sir James Bevan, warned back in March that due to climate change and population growth in around 20-25 years, “unless we take action” English water demand will outstrip supply (as reported by the BBC).

The other partners in the trial include: Sensus – a Xylem brand, providing fixed network digital water meters; Visenti – a Xylem brand, providing software analytics; Arqiva, providing fixed network connectivity; Diehl and Honeywell, both providing NB-IoT digital water meters; Syrinix, providing bursts and pressure transient loggers; ATI, providing water quality sensors; Gutermann, providing noise correlating loggers; and Z-Tech supporting the deployment in the field.

Anne Sheehan, director, Vodafone Business, said: “This is a really exciting project. NB-IoT technology has the power to transform the utilities sector. It provides a more accurate way of identifying and preventing leaks, helping companies like South East Water meet important regulatory and environmental standards. It is a perfect example of how technology can be used to create a more sustainable future and manage what is an increasingly precious commodity.”

Dr Simon Earl, South East Water’s operations director, said: “This trial is likely to revolutionise how we detect and prevent water leaks. The solution has the potential to alert us to the smallest leak – in either our or our customers’ pipes – as soon as it occurs; and could even enable us to predict and prevent pipeline failure before it happens. This has the potential to reduce the water we take from the environment, further minimise interruptions to supply and increase the resilience of the service we provide to our customers.”


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