A Victorian utility has begun testing a new technology aiming to improve the reliability, efficiency and safety of its sewer and water assets by extending the use of real-time monitoring.

South East Water has teamed up with global ICT providers to trial Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology on its network infrastructure on the Mornington Peninsula, Dandenong Ranges and Melbourne’s CBD.

Optus, Vodafone and Huawei have been selected as project partners for the testing due to their ability to deliver end-to-end NB-IoT solutions.

Standardised by 3GPP, NB-IoT is a low-cost narrowband radio technology that uses less power than other communications standards, enabling the connection of thousands of physical objects, such as hand-held devices, infrastructure, wearables and vehicles.

It provides the network connectivity that enables the embedded electronics, sensors and software in these devices to collect and exchange data regardless of their location, providing operators with detailed, real-time information on which to base decisions.

Initially, existing 3G technology will be replaced with NB-IoT technology to transmit real-time data on network performance, asset condition and fault management across South East Water’s Peninsula ECO sewer network.

The data will be used control wastewater flows from each property, and identify faults across the network.

To simulate different conditions and applications, testing will also be undertaken on similar sewer infrastructure in the Belgrave area of the Dandenong Ranges, and on a range of assets in Southbank.

The total test area will cover approximately 1,000 square kilometres.

In addition to sewer networks, the testing will see NB-IoT chipsets installed on manhole covers to alert operators to unauthorised sewer access, reducing the risk of accident and injury and damage to water assets.

The technology will also be installed in rainwater tank management systems, and used to transmit and receive data about storage levels and expected rainfall, which is used to optimise rainwater harvesting/stormwater runoff.

South East Water Corporate and Commercial General Manager Phil Johnson said “The emergence of lower powered, low cost networks with increased coverage has the potential to unlock enormous value for water utilities and their customers.

“Through this trial, we are building a platform for a more reliable and sustainable water supply, a safer place for our people to work, and more cost-effective services for our customers.”

The trial is expected to run for three months. 

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