Assuring availability and security in Smart Water Networks

Arqiva’s end-to-end approach to security, availability and disaster recovery protects investments and ensures water companies and their customers can face their smart future with confidence.

Security, resilience and effective disaster recovery are crucial requirements of all data networks. But when the data is used to inform everything from customer billing through to long-term demand management and leakage reduction initiatives, it takes on a new level of importance. 

As a UK Critical National Infrastructure provider, Arqiva is an old hand at applying the newest physical and cyber security measures, assuring resilience and establishing disaster recovery procedures across its UK-wide Smart Water network.

Addressing real-world resilience

Arqiva handles millions of readings from water meters every day. The scale and sophistication of our operation is such that we understand and take measures to ensure seamless data delivery. 

For example, having installed a new base station for a client serving a rural area, the cellular backhaul unfortunately became unavailable for several days. The base station continued to receive meter readings but was unable to transmit. Because the Arqiva-designed solution can store up to two-months of meter data in the tower memory, once connectivity was restored the saved data was simply transmitted without loss. 

It’s this ability to anticipate and solve potential issues before they become problems that characterises Arqiva’s approach – providing resilience at application, device and network level. 

Delivering macro-diversity

Our radio planners design the network so that meters fall into the coverage area of at least two base stations . That way, if a site is off-air there is always at least another one to pick up the readings. We call this, macro-diversity. 

Driving resilience from endpoint to Regional Network Interface

Meters have inbuilt data resilience too – storing data in our smart endpoints before being transmitted to the base station. Crucially, the memory isn’t cleared after transmission, and continues to store further meter readings. The oldest reading is cleared when the memory becomes full as the newest meter reading is added. On the next transmission, all the readings in the memory are sent to the base station, including the ones that were included in the previous meter sample period. 

This way, if there’s a problem with one of the data transmissions – maybe a heavy goods vehicle parks over the meter pit blocking the signal – the data is not lost but gets transmitted on the next cycle. Because meter readings are stored in the smart endpoint not every transmission needs to get through to successfully deliver a full day of data. 

As we have seen with the earlier deployment example, the base stations also store data to mitigate loss in the event of unavailable backhaul. Added to this, The Head End System at the Regional Network Interface (RNI) retains meter reading data for at least 90 days. These RNI databases are also fully backed up and copies mirrored off-site on a routine basis, as part of our standard IT procedures. 

Assuring data security

It’s not only a question of availability, of course. Security is crucial and embedded by deign throughout our Smart Water solution. The whole environment is protected end-to-end with industry-proven security solutions and applications. 

The RF (wireless) layer data is secured through AES 256 encryption keys. The backhaul carrier pipe is IPSec secure VPN with PKI authentication. All the individual elements are assessed regularly for security vulnerability, and our network is monitored 24/7 for network and physical security. 

The result is a fully protected, resilient and available network capable of delivering data without loss – all to drive business decisions and the smart water strategies of water companies across the UK. 

To find out more about our network security, resilience and disaster recovery services, get in touch on telecoms.feedback@arqiva.com or call +44 (0)1962 823 434.

And read our guide to transforming your water business' smart metering efforts here.

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