Traditionally “physical” communications layers within the water sector have included radio and mobile technologies, connecting SCADA and corporate systems. In more recent time private VPN’s and optical fibre networks have provided communications between sites.

WSAA says that the key issue with single vendor networks includes the lack of flexibility, potential stranded assets, vendor lock and lack of scalability. This leads to a roadblock in taking up new technologies.

We are now seeing the rise of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN). “Globally adopted LPWAN technologies have entered the smart water metering space as an alternative to the incumbent single-vendor networks where the wireless network, devices and often the head-end systems are offered by a single vendor with proprietary technology and limited or no interoperability.”

Whilst many of the offerings commenced with “smart” water meters, the technology is being rolled out across a range of IoT devices. Several LPWAN are operating across Australia, including Sigfox, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT. These are discussed in turn.

  • Sigfox commenced its roll out in 2009 and is now operating in 60 countries. They operate under “Thinxtra” in Australia, who has a target to cover 95% of the Australian population by the end of 2018.
  • LoRaWAN is based on an industry standard, able to be used by anyone. Major network providers in Australian included NNNCo Meshed and GeoWAN. Its roll out is not as advances as other technologies.
  • NB-IoTis the solution provided by the major Telcos such as Telstra, Vodafone and Optus and as such is expected to gain considerable investment over the next period. It will cover all capital cities in the short term with ongoing roll out to other areas. Sullings (2018) compares it with the 3G network, only with lower speeds, coverage and power consumption.

An emerging technology is low-power satellite communications that offer IoT devices the ability to transmit small packets of data to Nano-satellites with minimal power consumption. This especially has great potential in rural and remote areas of Australia, where other commercial solutions aren’t viable.

David Nixon has worked the water industry for over 30 years across a variety of utilities, engineering and business consultancies. David currently acts as director and advisor to a variety of organisations across Australia. david@nixonclarity.com

Credit: WSAA & R Sullings (https://www.rian.tv)