BT uses LPWAN IoT to connect smart water network

(Image credit: Shutterstock) (Image credit: shutterstock)

BT’s Internet of Things (IoT) ambitions have been boosted by a new pilot programme with Northumbrian Water.

The utility company wants to use the IoT to monitor its water network so it can identify efficiencies and potential issues to better serve customers.

The pilot will see 150 sensors deployed in Sunderland, tracking data such as water, flow, pressure and quality. This will help spot leakages and even allow for predictive maintenance – lowering costs and speeding up operations.

BT smart water

Data from the sensors will be collected via BT’s Low Power Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN), allowing Northumbrian Water to analyse the information and gain insight into its network.

“The idea first came out of our Innovation Festival and the innovative technology that BT uses made them a great choice of partner for developing and delivering our Smart Water pilot project,” explained Nigel Watson, Group Information Services Director for Northumbrian Water.

“We’re keen to understand whether it can be rolled out across our entire North East network to deliver benefits for all of our customers.”

“It represents a real step forwards towards the Smart Water network of the future transforming the level of insight we have into our network’s operations and driving improvements.”

Utility networks are seen as an ideal use case for LPWAN networks because they cover long distances and have relatively low data requirements.

Crucially, LPWAN networks consume low levels of power, extending the battery life of sensors. This is essential for utilities as it isn’t cost effective to send an engineer out to change a battery and any operational gains would be offset.

Mobile IoT network standards such as Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M will play a crucial role in delivering the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications promised by 5G. The GSMA predicts that by 2025 there will be 3.1 billion cellular IoT connections, including 1.8 billion on LPWAN

“It’s a great example of how the Internet of Things can be used to deliver a better experience to customers,” added Chris Sims, Managing Director, Strategy Market and Digital at BT. “And with 5G on the horizon, which will provide benefits such as lower latency, higher speeds and greater reliability, we’re thrilled to work with one of the most innovative water companies in the UK to fully realise the transformational benefits of IoT.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.