Intelligent Stopcocks & Automated Meters in flooding control

By Matthew Margetts
Matthew Margetts, Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies, highlights the role of automated meter readers in controlling floods

Matthew Margetts is Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies. His background includes working for blue-chip companies such as AppNexus, AOL/ Verizon, and Microsoft in the UK, Far East and Australia. 

Almost all buildings in the UK are connected to the mains water supply, coming directly to each property, which is turned on and off by a stopcock. With a normal mains water pump gushing out 1,000 litres of water per hour, the effects of a burst pipe or leak can be catastrophic. However, these incidents are not uncommon. Every year, 1 in 8 homes in the UK are likely to suffer a burst pipe or water leak. 

In fact, water damage leaks cost UK insurers more than burglary or fire

For most UK properties, the only buffer from potential flooding in the case of a burst water pipe is a manual stopcock, which is left open until an emergency. This leaves the properties vulnerable to internal flooding if there is a breach in the internal water system, as the stopcock requires a person to physically attend the site and turn it. Buildings are especially susceptible in winter, when plummeting temperatures cause water to freeze in the pipes, leading to a burst pipe.

Problems inherent with manual stopcocks include

  • Location Stopcocks are usually located out of sight or in hard-to-reach places that aren’t easily accessible in an emergency. 
  • Operation Since stopcocks are rarely used, they are susceptible to seizing up or requiring a lot of force to activate.  

Today’s solution: an intelligent stopcock 

The goal of smart cities and smart buildings is to make the places we live become safer, smarter and sustainable. Intelligent stopcocks are control products that ensure that water can be turned on and off remotely, instantly and easily—helping to achieve these objectives.

How it works

Valves and sensors will detect if there is a flood risk and isolate the water supply in instances such as:

  • Abnormal constant water flow
  • If the temperature drops and there is a risk of freezing 
  • If there has been no water flow for a significant amount of time 

Using only water pressure, smart stopcocks will instantly stop the mains water supply, either automatically or manually at the touch of a button from any connected device. Battery-operated and wireless, the unit sends real-time data via a secure network. 

The benefits include 24/7 protection against flood damage and water wastage (whether you are in the building or not), as well as greater control of the water supply.

When it comes to water, smart technology doesn’t stop with the stopcock. With buildings protected from potential flooding, users can look to then optimise their everyday water usage with automated meter readers (AMRs)

In a changing global landscape, the age of manual meter reading is coming to an end. Automated meter readers are installed on an existing meter, turning it into a smart communication device that sends information in real time to a personalised dashboard. AMRs are retro-fit, battery-powered, wireless, sim-free and low-cost, making them the obvious choice for managing water utilities. 

Water suppliers, utilities companies, town councils, facility managers and homeowners stand to benefit from deeper data insights that are easy to read and even easier to access.

Like a smart stopcock, the AMR wirelessly communicates via an Internet of Things (IoT) network, synchronising water consumption data with the cloud in real time. Operators will be able to view all of the consumption data via a centralised management dashboard, at any time, from anywhere. This helps to: 

  • Save time with automated, accurate meter reading
  • Detect leaks or wastage
  • Visualise consumption control patterns
  • Predict energy consumption 
  • Get a real-time overview of consumption habits and optimise them accordingly 

Water is one of the earth’s most precious resources

According to the Environment Agency, the UK could see water shortages by 2050 if action is not taken to conserve supplies. The organisation urges consumers to be more water aware, dramatically reduce water leakage and wastage, and use water wisely.

The good news is that as the situation becomes more urgent, the technology to mitigate it becomes more widely adopted. Working towards a smarter, sustainable future, simple technology such as water stopcocks and AMRs are an intelligent starting point for organisations planning the cities of the future. 


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