Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Vodafone deploys NB-IoT to detect water leaks

Steve Rogerson
June 10, 2020



Vodafone has signed a ten-year deal with UK utility SES Water to use NB-IoT technology for detecting and preventing water leaks.
 
SES Water will 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 it by 2045.
 
In the UK alone, it is estimated that on average three billion litres of water are lost to leaks everyday – the equivalent of 1268 Olympic swimming pools. While 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 target to go further. The project, now underway across east Surrey, west Kent, West Sussex and south London, follows Vodafone’s smart water network pilot with South East Water last year.
 
“Internet of things technology can make a real difference to the health of our planet,” said Anne Sheehan, director of Vodafone Business in the UK. “We are thrilled to be innovating with SES Water, helping to provide a more accurate and efficient way of identifying and preventing leaks. With World Environment Day serving as a reminder of the importance of sustainability issues, we are delighted to share a great example of the pivotal role technology plays in preventing water wastage, and helping SES Water improve the service they provide their customers, while also meeting important regulatory and environmental standards.”
 
Vodafone and SES Water have been working over the past few months with partners to install digital water meters, sensors and acoustic loggers on underground mains water pipes. These were connected using Vodafone’s NB-IoT network, which operates within a narrow radio band frequency enabling wider coverage and deeper penetration than traditional networks, so is suitable for use underground or within buildings.
 
Data will be collected and transmitted across the system, and 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 insight into customer demand patterns so SES Water can help its customers better manage their water usage, help reduce their bills and be alerted to leakages on customers’ pipework before they can cause any damage.
 
“At SES Water, we already have industry-leading leakage levels, but we want to do more,” said Daniel Woodworth, SES Water’s network strategy manager. “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 on our mains or our customers’ pipes – as soon as they occur. 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.”