As consumers we’re used to smart metering for fuel; in most places individual gas and electricity monitoring is available and we understand that savings can be made on both our bills and the environment. But what about other things? Isn’t it time we brought IoT, near real-time metering technology, to the water industry?

KCOM is doing just that with one of its Ofwat regulated customers and AWS. The project centres on a proof of concept (PoC) to create a compelling offering for major commercial water users to evaluate the value, cost and risk of deploying this technology.

Changes in the regulation of the water sector mean that commercial water customers can now buy their water service from any supplier in the UK, regardless of their location. As a result, companies in the water sector must work harder to win new business and protect existing customers from competitors.

Monitoring water usage, to help customers decrease their expenditure while reducing waste and water consumption overall are common aims across the water sector. It’s possible with a KCOM-created infrastructure-in-the-cloud that connects directly with metering hardware using LoRa technology.

Thanks to our great relationship with AWS, the team there agreed to help fund the PoC, so KCOM could invest the time needed to create a top-notch approach to the challenge. We kicked the project off in November 2017.

The project will deploy metering devices in the first instance, with a view to rolling out en masse should the customer decide to proceed with the idea after the PoC.

The devices read pulses from water meters in bother commercial and residential properties. They send readings to 3G enabled LoRa Gateways, which then forward that data to AWS. As water and electricity aren’t natural bedfellows, the metering devices must be battery powered. A large part of the PoC is to measure the usable range of the devices and battery life. Currently, the batteries we’re using last 10 hours on full power. We need them to last 10 years, so we are working hard on developing the devices’ built-in sleep states, so that the batteries get a rest during metering intervals. The PoC also seeks to assess whether the devices can cope with adverse weather conditions.

As well as writing the device code, the KCOM team is deploying an AWS hosted analytics platform to make full use of the collected data and providing AWS infrastructure support throughout the PoC.

Proving that our ideas, and the ideas of our customers, can or can’t work is something that we excel at, whether that’s through a traditional PoC or a full blown Centre of Excellence like the one we created for Bupa’s customer experience centre. Monitoring and analysing customer behaviour is the first step to improving products and services for that audience. Our work with AWS gives us the scale we need to create these IoT projects and deal with the resulting (‘Big’) data.

Internet of Things, Cloud