Smart cities: IoT water management

By William Girling
The advancement of Industry 4.0, wherein networks of IoT equipment can be linked via cloud and optimised with AI, has unlocked many...

The advancement of Industry 4.0, wherein networks of IoT equipment can be linked via cloud and optimised with AI, has unlocked many possibilities.

Not least of these is the developing concept of the ‘smart city’ - an urban space where crucial utilities are made as cost/energy efficient as possible, to the benefit of consumers, the environment and businesses.

However, whilst conserving heat, integrating renewable sources of energy into structures and designing buildings to be as efficient as possible are the obvious signs of this new paradigm, perhaps a lesser considered application for IoT is its effect on water management.

Re-thinking water utilities

Japanese multinational Hitachi considers water conservation to be amongst the primary challenges for urban developers in the modern era. 

Citing research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which states that approximately 50% of the world’s population will live in ‘water-stressed’ areas by 2025, Hitachi is evangelical about the advantages of a ‘smart water’ model.

"Ageing water infrastructures, some of which have been in place for over a hundred years, need to be updated and upgraded with IoT technologies, allowing them to come online and communicate with other parts of the system and city,” said the company. 

A network of IoT sensors can collect data in real-time and relay it to an integrated source, where it can then be analysed by AI (artificial intelligence) or machine learning software to identify areas of optimisation potential.

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The sensor equipment could also detect faults and leaks in the pipe networks much easier, therefore allowing engineers the opportunity to effect repairs faster; an advantageous solution when current infrastructure loses billions of litres of water per day.

Enabling the change

Additionally, GSMA compiled a report illustrating the reasons for greater IoT integration with water utilities, including the end-to-end technical specifications for how it would be achieved.

The guide breaks down the ‘smart network’ into five categories: 

IoT devices: sensors, smart meters, cameras, alarms, etc.

Communication services: telephone and internet networks (note: the arrival of 5G, which is almost 1,000% faster than the best 4G network, will be crucial for optimising IoT and generating real-time data).

IoT services: device management, platform hosting and data acquisition.

Big data & analytics: data insights and predictive analytics.

Enterprise applications: leak detection, network optimisation, quality control and asset management. 

Forging this network, which may soon become the standard operating model for all utilities in the rise of smart cities, will be crucial to the future conservation of resources and ensuring that consumers have access to plentiful, affordable utilities.

For more information on energy digital topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Energy Digital Magazine.

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