A smart water meter is a device that wirelessly communicates with a local or wide area network, enabling remote location monitoring and leak detection, which results in minimal water wastage.
The development of a smart meter is progressively eradicating the traditional methods of evaluating water consumption and is proving to be among the best innovations for conserving water and saving money.
- The smart water meter along with an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system, can remotely track in real time: water consumption and flow and pressure anomalies, while also identifying vacancies and tampering. The most important solution stemming from smart water meters is the reduction of losses caused by leaks.
- Smart water meters favor dynamic water billing, which eliminates the need for manual supervision every month in each household. It supports real-time, web-based metering which helps authorities automatically generate bills and send them to consumers within a specified time.
- Smart water meters aid in the detection of inefficiencies and patterns in consumption. Smart water meters collect data that can be monitored so that users can understand their regular habits, and pinpoint where they’re wasting water. This results in enabling users to take the necessary steps to change their water-usage habits.
- Collected data from smart water meters allows operational teams to analyze the efficiency of the water usage coming from a particular meter and therefore optimize delivery based on usage patterns. These patterns can aid in the creation of use-cases, thus allowing utilities to prepare for specific zones or grids.
Why is there a need for smart water meters?
There are many reasons for needing smart water meters. Here are some of the key reasons:
- Smart water meters offer an accurate way of measuring water usage and because of their advanced technology, they can easily be integrated into smart cities, homes, and eco-friendly businesses, as they offer remote monitoring and operation.
- Smart water meters can remove the burden of manual readings and monitoring, thus allowing for real time updates which can result in water savings, cost savings, increased revenue, and customer satisfaction.
- By using data from smart water meters, municipalities or utility companies can track how much water is used in each household, and can optimize delivery. In addition, smart water meters can be consolidated with other utility bills, simplifying bill payment processes.
- Many homeowners have silent leaks they don’t even notice or think are too inconsequential to deal with. But a simple toilet leak can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water every month if it goes unnoticed. Smart water meter users are able to pinpoint leaks immediately because their meters can provide them with up-to-the-minute data. This can save them significant costs on their water bills.
How do smart water meters work?
Smart water meters use wireless connections so readings are taken remotely and provide data 24/7. They are considered smart because they collect water consumption data with a timestamp and securely share the data with a water supplier or municipality through an automated control system. It’s possible to use a one-way communication to the utility (Automated Meter Reading, AMR) or a two-way communication between the utility and the consumer (Advanced Metering Infrastructure, AMI).
Smart meters are programmed to detect leaks. Thanks to the meters’ acute sensitivity, they are able to accurately detect even the smallest leak. If a smart meter doesn’t drop to 0 in a time frame defined by the algorithm they follow, the utility company or homeowner is notified about a potential water leak.
Smart water meter vs. regular water meter
Here are some key differences between smart water meters and regular dial-type water meters:
- Smart water meters transmit data to a central database, while regular water meters do not. This allows businesses and homeowners to access their water usage data easily and in real time.
- Smart water meters assist in controlling usage which maximizes efficiency thus directly affecting cost. Users are also able to analyze their previous usage data and adjust their consumption accordingly to minimize waste.
- Smart water meters use remote access, which, compared to the manual readings used for regular water meters, reduces staff costs, human errors, and valuable time.
Types of water meter sensors and their advantages
Dial-type water meters have been used from as early as the 1800’s. They mechanically measure and record water flow via a rotating piston or impeller.
There are two main types of dial-type water meters:
- Positive Displacement Meters (PD Meters): PD meters are mainly used in residential and small commercial settings. When the flow is low to medium, they are extremely accurate. This type of mechanical water meter has a measuring element that is displaced in direct proportion to the volume of water that passes through.
- Velocity flow meters: Velocity flow meters are used to measure the rate and speed of the water through the meter. These mechanical water meters convert the flow rate to volume to assist in determining consumption.
Ultrasonic water meters measure the fluid’s speed using ultrasonic sound waves.
This is a huge technological innovation that allows property owners and managers to capture correct data in real time. In addition, these meters require little maintenance and have long lifespans due to the lack of internal mechanical components that wear out.
There are two types of ultrasonic meters:
- Transit time meters: Transit time meters work based on the premise that sound travels slower when it is traveling against the flow of water and faster when traveling with the flow.
- Doppler meters: Doppler meters use the frequency of an ultrasonic beam to calculate the flow rate of a liquid. The flow meter sends an ultrasonic signal, and the signal is reflected by the bubbles and particles in the water, which causes the frequency of the signal to shift. The flow meter measures this frequency shift.
Electromagnetic water meters use electromagnetic waves to measure the flow speed or the volume of the water. Electromagnetic sensors measure volumetric flow with high accuracy. Maintenance and repair costs are decreased because there are no moving parts.
A magnetic field is used to create and channel liquid down a pipe in these water meters. A voltage signal is created when liquid flows across a magnetic field. The faster the flow of water, the greater the voltage; this translates into a meter reading.
LoRa + LoRaWaN protocols in smart water meters
LoRa technology has two parts: LoRa (Long Range), the proprietary physical layer, and LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), the upper layer. The LoRaWAN allows battery operated IoT sensors to connect with the Internet in local, regional and global networks.
LoRa is a patented technology that enables digital wireless communications at specific radio waves for low-power, long-range transmissions. In essence, LoRa sensors can attach to existing water meters in order to collect water consumption data and transmit it wirelessly to the available LoRaWAN network.
LoRaWaN connectivity in smart water meters is specifically designed for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. LoRaWAN supports bi-directional communication. In addition to sending data from the sensor to the network, the network can also send the device a message or a call to action.
NB-IoT protocol for water meters
NB-IoT is a wireless communication technology that is similar to LoRa, the main difference being its frequency range. NB-IoT is specifically designed to be user-friendly and integrate with a broad spectrum of internet-based applications. One benefit of NB-IoT is that it uses very little power, which makes it ideal for smart water meters. Additionally, NB-IoT has a wide coverage area, which is important for smart water meters that need to transmit data over long distances.
NB-IoT is very reliable, which is critical for smart water meters that need to provide accurate data. NB-IoT has a non-proprietary approach, being that their products are in line with global ISO standards. They’re able to work with many vendors and brands which not only make them a preferred option as a tool in the smart water meter industry .
How does a smart water meter work?
A smart water meter works by tracking water usage through technology, which provide accurate measurements. Smart water meters use wireless technology, so readings are taken remotely and can provide frequent and accurate data 24/7. This means that users can go online to see their exact water consumption. This gives them greater control of their water use and their bills.
Are there any disadvantages of smart water meters?
Here are two potential disadvantages to using smart water meters:
- Low mobile signal affects performance: Some smart water meters communicate through mobile networks. If the area has a low mobile signal, this could affect data transfer to the service provider.
- Not yet supported by all service providers: As of now, not all utility companies and municipalities, the world-over, are able to support smart water meters.
Is it cheaper to have a smart water meter?
A smart meter won’t automatically save you money, but it will bring you awareness of your water usage, which, in turn, can save you money.
Smart water meters enable you to analyze your previous usage data and adjust your current usage in order to minimize waste. If you’re proactive, you can conserve and reduce your water usage, directly reducing your overall costs.
Because smart water meters alert you immediately to leakages, therein lies the potential to reduce your water bills drastically in the event of a small or large leakage.
How do smart water meters get power?
Smart water meters typically use batteries as their power source. However, some smart water meters can be connected to the electrical grid. Additionally, some smart water meters can be solar powered. The type of power source that a smart water meter uses depends on the specific model of smart water meter.