Smart water covers the urban water supply system, urban drainage system, water production, wastewater treatment, water environment system, and water conservancy system. Only urban water supply services in China are considered in this document.
In smart water, the biggest concerns are automatic meter reading and pipeline leakage and loss reduction in the water supply system. Smart water meters occupy the global market revenue of more than 4 billion USD, and about 22 million smart water meters were sold globally in 2015. The number of smart water meters newly produced in China reaches 12.99 million in 2015. The compound growth rate in the next five years is expected to reach 20%. The total number of water meters (flowmeters) in China is about 7 million, and most of them are unintelligent.
Smart water business can be implemented in the following modes:
Water meter data is converged on the collector and then on the concentrator. Data backhaul is implemented in wired or wireless mode. Wireless backhaul uses the CJ/T 188-2004 protocol. This protocol is so open that product implementation variesdepending on vendors. Water meters, collectors, and concentrators provided by different vendors are of poor compatibility and therefore cannot be interconnected. As a result, water meters provided by different vendors cannot be replaced with each other. Wired backhaul uses M-Bus which has high assembly costs. One concentrator can be connected to only more than 100 water meters. The water meter network must be commissioned at the assembly site, which is complicated and requires long project duration.
LoRa is generally used. Water meter data is converged on the collector. Data backhaul is implemented in wireless mode. In LoRa, layers above the MAC layer use proprietary protocols. Protocols customized by different vendors are incompatible, complicating equipment maintenance and replacement.
GPRS is used. Power consumption is high, and interference is strong.
NB-IoT Enables Smart Water
NB-IoT modules are integrated into water meters through cooperation with meter vendors. Operators help water supply companies maintain wireless networks. NB-IoT uses the 3GPP protocol which is a standard communications protocol, enabling water meters provided by different vendors to be compatible. Customers can use water meters provided by any vendor during maintenance and replacement.
Flattened networks are maintained by operators, saving water supply companies' network maintenance costs.
Compared with GPRS, NB-IoT consumes less power and provides a stronger signal level. One battery pack can be used for six years without battery replacement. The stronger signal level ensures that a building is free from coverage holes.
A unified IoT platform eliminates differences among protocols used by different water meters. Water affair app vendors can use the unified interface on the platform to develop apps. This prevents app vendors developing different apps for different water meters.
Huawei and China Telecom jointly provide Shenzhen Water Group with the NB-IoT and IoT management platform solution, covering smart water meters and region-based metering (pipeline leakage and loss management). With low power consumption, low costs, and wide coverage, the NB-IoT solution provides Shenzhen Water Group with a new technical platform and more reliable, smart water affair processing functions. Shenzhen is taken as an example to promote smart water which subsequently applies to water affairs all over China.