Swiss company Gutermann and Deutsche Telekom have announced they are networking infrastructures to detect water supply to detect leaks in the lines.
Gutermann is a company dedicated to tackling the worldwide problem of water loss in urban water infrastructure, which specialises in leak detection and solutions. Partnering with telecommunications companies Deutsche Telekom, who’s 5G network is believed to give access to 94% of the overall population in Germany, will be using the network infrastructure to help to quickly detect and precisely locate leaks in the pipelines.
This comes through the installation of so-called noise loggers, attached magnetically to the metal pipes or mounted on shut-off valves, in the pipe networks that occur at regular intervals. The robust devices then measure sounds in their environment and send the noise profiles to the Cloud where an analysis software automatically filters out background noises that only show up on individual sensors. These profiles are then compared with each other, and if there is a leak, the noise profiles of neighbouring sensors are identical.
Due to the pipe shafts being underground, deep penetration is use to enable such radio connectivity. Using a sensor network paired with an energy-efficient NB-IoT mobile communications standard, data transmission of the acoustic sounds can reliably be sent to the Cloud; a radio module including a Deutsche Telekom SIM card is integrated into the loggers for this purpose. This eliminates the need for above-ground signal amplifier and therefore, its installation can go ahead without additional bureaucratic hurdles for the companies using the system, and their customers won’t need to have additional devices on lampposts or other infrastructure around their neighbourhood.
The announcement comes as record, weeks-long heatwaves settled over Southern Europe. In a climate-changing world, water is becoming an increasingly valuable resource. Yet, due to a chronic lack of investment, countries, many of whose public water is in private hands, are experiencing high losses worldwide.
The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in 2020 estimated these losses amount to up to 10% in the German drinking water supply network alone. Causes include leaks due to material fatigue or bursting as a result of pipeline pressure.
In the UK, a fair amount of the water system relies on Victorian infrastructure. This has lead to leakages which have in some cases lasted for over a year, and has even seen spilled over into rivers and the sea. And in Italy, a country that regularly sees temperatures of over 30 °, a country that only last month declared a drought, is estimated to lose 30% or more of water is due to leakage.
Yet IoT’s presence in the monitoring of water is on the up. Already, companies are using IoT systems to detect and warn of potential floods and Scottish Water recently announced their plans to use IoT technology to gather data about its water in the highlands, a major source of water, to better supervise the country’s network.