Working towards a smarter water industry

Smart meters are helping water companies around the UK to improve the services they provide for customers.

By collecting and presenting valuable data in near real-time, smart meters allow for more accurate billing and greater transparency around day-to-day usage – and everyone involved is benefiting.

The smart water journey doesn’t stop here, however.

With our communications infrastructure as the foundation, we’re working to create an even more efficient and productive water industry that benefits not only from meters, but from sensors and other connected technologies too.

To gauge the significance of this shift, it helps to think about where the industry has come from, where it is now, and what’s going to happen next.

Traditional water networks and meters

You’re most likely familiar with the basic function of traditional water network already. A meter is attached to a building’s supply point and measures water flow to the property. The data collected is kept isolated from the wider network, meaning readings must be taken manually and in person – either by the supplier or the customer.

The main challenge for the water companies here comes with always being a step behind: data is constantly being generated but the process of harvesting it, turning it into something useful and then acting on it is slow – it can take weeks or even months.

As a result, the industry is always relying on outdated information or in some cases even estimates. This impacts customers, who are less likely to be billed accurately for their consumption and often struggle to keep track of the water they’re using throughout the year.

Where we are now

By introducing smart meters to their existing infrastructure, water companies are vastly improving the services they provide for customers. The same water moves through the water network, but both the provider and the customer have a much clearer and more accurate view of just how much.

Thanks to Arqiva’s communications network, and more specifically our private dedicated spectrum Long-Range Radio technology, the data water companies and their customers need can be moved quickly and securely from point to point. It means insight is promptly available, without any need for manual retrieval – and more importantly, it’s always accurate and relevant.
The result is improved billing processes, less waste – as consumers can see what they’re using – and a better overall service.

Where we’re heading

The infrastructure that facilitates smart metering – namely Arqiva’s dedicated and secure communications network - can be used in so many ways to improve productivity and service quality in the water industry; we’re certainly not ready to settle.

As well as smart meters, water companies are in the position to start implementing connected devices that collect all kinds of useful information. Sensors can be used to detect leaks in specific properties before they cause damage, for example. Similar equipment can be used to monitor water quality and temperatures, helping to eradicate costly contamination issues and floods caused by frozen pipes.

In short, the smart water grid is fast becoming more intelligent. Technologies like Long-Range Radio make it possible to retrieve data from typically hard-to-reach places with complete reliability and security – something cellular and some existing IOT solutions struggle with. With the continuing development of sensors by equipment suppliers, and our resilient communications network in place, water companies have everything they need to start making some massive strides forward.

Improvements worth making

There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’ve no doubt that all of the effort is worthwhile. 

The demand for water in the UK is expected to grow by 800 million litres per day by 2020, and so much is still going to waste: it’s estimated that around 25 per cent of water is lost before reaching homes and businesses.

By giving utilities companies a much clearer view of the water consumption in individual properties, our smart metering network is helping to eradicate the issues that cause this problem, all while improving the relationships between suppliers and their customers. The results speak for themselves too, just ask our partners.

1