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by Mark Halliwell, Marketing Manager, Taggle Systems

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it will transform our lives. Much of the hoopla suggests that all sorts of things will be connected– cars, fridges, washing machines, pets and more– with tiny devices collecting life-changing data at a cost of mere cents. That’s all very well, but just how life-changing will having a history of your cat’s sleeping patterns actually be?

To take the concept of IoT a bit more seriously, we need to think about it more in terms of what Taggle Systems likes to call the “internet of essential things”. That is, we need to consider how these new technologies can make a significant difference to communities around the country.

One area where the internet of essential things is starting to materialise is in utilities where the collection of data from simple devices like water, gas and electricity meters is becoming mainstream.

A couple of years ago, it was a brave utility engineer who proposed to use one of the new low-power wide-area (LPWAN) networks to collect meter data.

Now we see tenders and requests for proposals almost monthly with references to automatic meter reading, intelligent networks or smart cities, for which LPWANs are very well suited.

And it’s not just for meter reading. Data collected from pressure sensors in water pipes, for example, is helping to identify bursts and enabling the reduction of excessive pressure which often causes leaks.

Energy savings through reduced pumping are also achievable. Sewer overflow alerts help mitigate environmental problems and a greater density of rain gauges allows response crews to be better prepared in periods of heavy rainfall.

These are all essential to the better management of a water utility. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg, there will be many more to come.

Utility managers, engineers and accountants are starting to see that the aggregation of millions of bits of data, each of which is meaningless on its own, is changing the way they see their businesses and shaping new ways to operate networks more efficiently.

They also realise that the business case to justify their investment in this new technology and a successful outcome depends on the availability of a few critical factors:

  • Sensors with low-cost radios to send the data through
  • A reliable, low-cost receiver network which prepares the data to be delivered in a usable format
  • A software package which processes the data for reporting and visualisation.

Radios attached to sensors need to be robust, designed for and tested in Australia’s harsh conditions; and be able to operate for the life of the sensor without maintenance or change of battery.

With each one costing only tens of dollars, the high cost of having to visit more than a small percentage of the units over the life of the project will diminish the ROI.

LPWAN networks are best provided as a Network as a Service (NaaS), as the cost of establishing and maintaining a private network and associated data delivery platform becomes too expensive. NaaS is not a new concept – we’ve been using mobile phone networks for nearly thirty years.

While data collected through LPWAN networks can be used in existing software like GIS, billing and SCADA software, to provide new insights and more efficient processes, new software, often offered as Software as a Service (Saas) is becoming available for specific applications.

This partner content is brought to you by Taggle Systems. For more information, visit www.taggle.com.au.

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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