Going with the Flow: How IoT-Based Leak Detection Sensors Are Leading Water Conservation Efforts

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By Maryam Zafar | 1Q 2024 | IN-7194

Mounting water scarcity is a global problem in need of urgent attention. Leakages in water infrastructure further exacerbate the problem. To combat this, technology companies are offering Internet of Things (IoT)-based leak detection systems that alert maintenance teams of leakages in real time to prevent wastage.

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Telit Cinterion Partners with WaterSignal to Provide IoT Connectivity Solutions

NEWS


Water covers 70% of our planet; however, only 3% of that is fresh water that’s available for human consumption. Out of that 3%, over two-thirds is locked away in glaciers or otherwise unavailable for use, leaving less than 1% for our consumption. With a booming global population and climate change impacting water supplies around the world, water scarcity is a crucial challenge that needs solutions now. Technology companies such as WaterSignal offer Internet of Things (IoT) based solutions that track water usage in real time using sensors that can provide information on how the water is used. Alongside providing insights that can aid in water conservation efforts, the sensors’ ability to detect a water leak in real time can prevent extensive damage to the property, electrical systems, as well as health risks from the growth of mold. Time is of the essence with water leaks and real-time alerts have the potential to save both significant amounts of water and money.

Leading IoT device and platform provider Telit Cinterion recently announced its partnership with WaterSignal, a real-time water monitoring solution provider. WaterSignal’s leak detection systems employ the use of retrofit sensors on existing water meters to gain insights on water usage and send real-time alerts to maintenance teams when leaks are detected. Due to increases in power outages, WaterSignal looked toward Telit for cellular IoT connectivity services to enable true wireless adoption. Telit’s Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) modules allow the use of battery-powered WaterSignal sensors for data collection; the module use of Power Saving Mode (PSM) and extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX) means the battery life lasts much longer.

The Wave of Leak Detection Solution Providers

IMPACT


A number of vendors are offering similar IoT-based leak detection solutions. Monnit offers both wired and wireless sensors for leak detection. When the detection state changes, the sensor turns the radio on and sends data to a wireless gateway; the data are then backhauled to a monitoring application. The application or the cloud software can then send an alert out to maintenance teams immediately to inform them of the leak. Monnit offers various connectivity and power options depending on the customer’s needs, including wireless cellular and Wi-Fi sensors, as well as Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) sensors.

WINT Water Intelligence (also using Telit’s LPWA modules) has a similar early-warning leak detection system. Founded in 2011, the company raised US$35 million in its Series C funding round this year. The battery powered sensors send water usage insights to their software platform via cellular connection. In addition to sending a real-time alert, the software uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make suggestions that can help identify the source of the leaks. WINT sensors were deployed in the Empire State Building in New York to reduce the building’s environmental footprint and prevent water damage to the building. As a result of the WINT sensors, the building management found that they were able to reduce their annual water consumption by 7.5 million gallons and save over US$100,000 per year.

Earlier this year, Vodaphone announced it was partnering with U.K.-based LeakSafe to equip it with Vodaphone Business Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) connectivity for its leak detection solution. NB-IoT is designed to provide wider coverage and deeper in-building penetration than traditional networks, making it possible to use for underground applications. It also operates at low power, which means battery-powered wireless sensors can last much longer. This announcement is not the first of its kind for Vodaphone in the leak detection space—it announced a trial with South East Water in 2019 and a partnership with SES Water in 2020.

Strategic Partnerships Will Be Key

RECOMMENDATIONS


According to the U.K. Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat), water leaks accounted for the loss of 2.9 billion liters of water a day, or 1.06 trillion liters in 2021-2022. As water scarcity pushes governments and enterprises to adopt solutions that enable water conservation, the demand for IoT leak detection solutions is expected to increase.

Moving forward, partnerships between vendors in different segments of the IoT ecosystem will be important. This market is still young, and assembling the entire solution from the hardware to the software is challenging for companies entering the market. By joining strong partner ecosystems, they can leverage specialist knowledge at multiple levels and offer more enhanced solutions to their customers. Alongside being able to detect and alert users to the leak, integrating AI to understand the points of failure and predict future leaks will be important in improving the capability of future monitoring systems.

Earlier this month, Siemens announced its acquisition of Spain-based BuntPlanet to strengthen its AI portfolio in the water sector. This acquisition comes after a 4-year long licensing agreement that allowed Siemens to sell BuntPlanet’s leak detection software known as SIWA LeakPlus. The software platform uses AI to pre-locate leakages before they’re able to cause damage. Swedish water company VA SYD developed a leak detection solution based on the AI-powered SIWA LeakPlus software provided by Siemens, enabling it to detect leaks as small as 0.25 liters per second.

Strategic partnerships are significant in overcoming capability gaps, especially for smaller companies looking to scale. This is particularly important for expanding AI capabilities that will allow the solution to advance from simply detecting a leak to being able to predict it, saving precious water and money.

 

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