SES Water turns on IoT tap to reduce leaks

Vodafone announces 10-year deal with utility firm to provide internet of things solution to revolutionise how water leaks are prevented and detected

Following a pilot project with SES Water in 2019, Vodafone has inked a 10-year deal with the utility company which it says will “revolutionise” how water leaks are detected and prevented.

SES Water supplies water to about 730,000 people in east Surrey and parts of West Sussex, west Kent and south London. Its supply area is 835km2, extending from Morden and South Croydon in the north to Gatwick Airport in the south and from Cobham, Leatherhead and Dorking in the west to Edenbridge and Bough Beech in the east. Groundwater supplies provide 85% of its water, with 15% extracted from one reservoir at Bough Beech, near Edenbridge

Although SES Water has one of the lowest leakage records in the UK and has met its reduction target for the past 21 years, the company has set itself a challenging target to go further. In the UK alone, it is estimated that an average of three billion litres of water are lost to leaks every day – the equivalent of 1,268 Olympic swimming pools.

With the South East Water smart water network pilot, which began in July 2019, now completed and the project now under way across east Surrey, west Kent, West Sussex and south London, Vodafone and SES Water have been working over the past few months with partners to install specialist digital water meters, sensors and acoustic loggers on underground mains water pipes. These were then connected using Vodafone’s narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network.

NB-IoT operates at low power, so specially designed batteries within IoT devices in the field, such as sensors, can last up to 10 years. This, combined with good coverage indoors and underground, ensures that NB-IoT systems are more sustainable, as well as being less expensive to install and run than current alternatives. Operating within a very narrow radio band frequency, enabling wider coverage and deeper penetration than traditional networks, they are regarded as ideal for use underground or within buildings.

SES Water will now use Vodafone’s NB-IoT technology to create an intelligent water distribution network that aims to cut leakage by 15% over the next five years and pave the way for more than halving leakage by 2045.

Data will be collected and transmitted across the system, and advanced analytics will be used to monitor readings and alert SES Water immediately in the event of a leak, low pressure or other network abnormalities. Acoustic loggers “listen” for escaping water within the network to determine when leaks have occurred and to assist in pinpointing the precise location.

Readings from smart meters will provide valuable insight into customer demand patterns, so that SES Water can help customers to better manage their water usage, help reduce their bills and be alerted to leakage occurring on customers’ pipework before it can cause any damage.

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“This collaborative project has been worked on for a number of months and will help us revolutionise how we detect and prevent water leaks – either our mains or our customers’ pipes – as soon as it occurs,” said Daniel Woodworth, SES Water’s network strategy manager. “In the future, it could even enable us to predict and prevent pipeline failure before it happens.

“It will put our operational teams in a position of knowledge, not only enabling us to reduce the water we take from the natural environment, but also further minimising interruptions to supply, and in doing so provide a gold standard service for our customers for many years to come.”

Vodafone UK business director Anne Sheehan added: “IoT technology can make a real difference to the health of our planet. We are delighted to share a great example of the pivotal role technology plays in preventing water wastage, and helping SES Water to improve the service they provide to their customers, while also meeting important regulatory and environmental standards.”

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