Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Water sees fastest smart meter growth as overall installed base heads for one billion

Steve Rogerson
December 15, 2015
Smart meter rollouts, led by energy and water utilities, will result in a global installed base of more than 1.1 billion smart meters within the next five years, according to ABI Research.
Smart electricity meters will constitute the largest share, occupying more than 72 per cent of the overall installed base of smart meters, but research suggests water meters are on track to witness the most overall growth.
"The global smart meter market for electricity and gas is reaching a degree of maturity, as utilities in most regions are either in advanced stages of rollouts or have laid out plans for phased deployment," said Adarsh Krishnan, senior analyst at ABI Research. "The focus is starting to shift towards modernising the aging water distribution network, offering substantial market opportunity for OEMs, utilities and end-users."
Itron, Landis+Gyr, Kamstrup, Diehl, Sensus and Arad, among others, offer end-to-end systems and continue to dominate the vendor landscape. Data findings suggest, however, that there is growing concern among water utilities, especially those in cities, as they attempt to manage limited fresh water resources efficiently while keeping up with the increasing demand due to rapid urbanisation.
"Smart water meters and data analytics are more critical components for water utilities," said Krishnan. "They can help improve distribution efficiency by reducing leakages and also serve to implement and monitor the effectiveness of water conservation programmes. The lack of regulatory framework or a government mandate in the water sector has resulted in a lack of shared vision to modernise the water network."
As smart water meters are battery powered devices, choosing the right connectivity system poses another unique challenge. Long battery life of more than ten years and signal propagation to reach meters that are often underground in pavements or driveways are critical to connect meters.
Wireless mesh networking and low-power-WAN (LPWAN) technologies are popular connectivity technology choices for smart water meters, with the latter gaining momentum. Cellular and non-cellular LPWAN technologies that operate in either the licensed or un-licensed portions of the spectrum band, such as LTE-M, NB-LTE, Sigfox, LoRa, Ingenu and FlexNet, are strong contenders to meet the connectivity requirements for smart water meters. According to ABI Research, the number of wireless WAN connections will surpass wireless mesh connections in smart meters by 2021 by as much as five per cent.
• According to a recent report from Navigant Research, global revenue for enhanced meter data management systems (MDMSs) and meter data analytics (MDA) is expected to grow from $401.1m in 2015 to $1.7bn in 2024.
“MDMSs help utilities turn meter data into valuable insights that improve the operation of the grid,” said Lauren Callaway, research analyst with Navigant Research. “Vendors of the technology have seen more utility companies prioritising a data architecture as a necessary implementation before deploying smart meters, whereas traditionally it has been seen as an afterthought to smart meters.”