Internet of Things, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Utilities – by Enya Bain

The Internet, information and communication technology for utility management is growing rapidly and this blog provides a brief introduction.

The Internet of Thing (IoT) refers to connecting everyday items such as a pressure reducing valve to the Internet which allow these items to identify themselves with other devices. The goal of IoT is track or count data, to signal which elements such as a pump need replacing, repairing or whether the element is performing optimally or not. In the long-term this could reduce waste, loss and cost.

The Hixson Utility District (Tennessee) case shows how pressure monitoring and IoT can be used together effectively. Remote cellular pressure sensors were installed to monitor and gather pressure information. It was found that these pressure monitors saved personnel time and was able to provide a wider range of information of what was occurring in the system. Amongst other improvements, pressure monitoring allowed for abnormal pressures to be identified. A notification is automatically sent to staff, who can then identify and correct the issue. This proved to save large volumes of treated water and prevented property damage (Kauffman, 2019).

Examples of IoT products offered include Vipimo and Sensus. Vipimo is an IoT product offered by Upande Ltd. Vipimo enables users to get remote readings of various sensors straight from the utility to their phone or computer. Vipimo continuously monitors data and delivers alerts to the user when conditions seem abnormal. Vipimo has a track record in the agricultural industry; however there are examples where Vipimo has been implemented in water utilities (Anon., 2019). Sensus offers an IoT program called Smart Water which aims to give better operational and financial control over water networks. Smart Water measures the flow of water from storage to consumption by delivering reliable data through a smart utility network (Anon., 2019).

Control systems and connectivity are some aspects to consider when looking into the IoT for utilities. For example, the more common SCADA systems (supervisory control and data acquisition) refers to control systems used to monitor and control the infrastructure processes. The SCADA system is the system that coordinates processes in real time and allows any changes related to the alarm conditions and set points to be recorded and displayed (Anon., 2019). LPWAN (low-power wide-area network) is an IoT connectivity and works well in situations where devices need to send small data over a wide area while maintaining battery life over many years. LPWAN should be compared to other IoT connectivity options when choosing the connectivity type for the system (Leverage, 2019)

Information and communication technology (ICT) for the utility sector is technology that provides access to information, focusing on communication technology. ICT typically merges a telephone network with a computer network system using cabling, signal distribution and management. ICT has allowed utilities to become automated and more flexible within the physical infrastructure by ensuring that operations are efficient with increased regulation – this is done by data processing, data storage and security protections. ICT allows for quicker responses to unplanned circumstance and better coordination between different sectors of the utility system by allowing for an increased flow of relevant information. Examples of ICT implementation in utilities include smart metering, reworking supply chain to regulatory compliance and increased cyber security (Bungane, 2018).

References
Anon., 2019. SCADA Systems. [Online] Available at: http://www.scadasystems.net/
[Accessed 7 May 2019].

Anon., 2019. Sensus: a xylem brand. [Online] Available at: https://sensus.com/internet-of-things/smart-water/
[Accessed 7 May 2019].

Anon., 2019. Upande. [Online] Available at: http://vipimo.io/
[Accessed 7 May 2019].

Bungane, B., 2018. Utilities grasp ICT advantages. [Online] Available at: https://www.esi-africa.com/magazine-article/utilities-grasp-ict-advances/
[Accessed 29 May 2019].

Kauffman, C., 2019. Empowering: Pumps & Equipment. [Online] Available at: https://empoweringpumps.com/mueller-water-pro-cellular-pressure-monitoring-gives-hixson-utility-district-a-handle-on-water-management/
[Accessed 3 May 2019].

Leverage, 2019. LPWAN – The Benefits of LPWAN Technology vs. Other IoT Connectivity Options. [Online] Available at: https://www.iotforall.com/lpwan-benefits-vs-iot-connectivity-options/
[Accessed 8 May 2019].