Connexin supports UK’s largest smart water network pilot with Yorkshire Water

Pilot saves 90,000 litres of lost water per day in the Hadfield region of West Sheffield
Low-powered LoRaWAN® IoT network is perfect for connecting a range of devices and supporting low powered communications
The collaboration demonstrates AMI as an investable business case for all utilities


The situation

Yorkshire Water provides water supply and water treatment services to five million customers across Yorkshire and the Humber everyday.

With nearly three billion litres of water being lost every day across the UK due to leakages and an industry target of 15 per cent reduction issued by Ofwat, Yorkshire Water wanted to find new, innovative ways to reduce leakages, further improving the essential water supply service they provides to customers.

Yorkshire Water understood the potential for operational transformation powered through intelligent data and set about building UK’s most advanced smart water network pilot in Hadfield, West Sheffield.

Partnering with 17 companies, including Connexin, the project would see the latest technology in digital water meters, sensors, advanced analytics and telecommunications channels implemented, allowing Yorkshire Water to prioritise repairs in real-time, enabling leaks to be fixed quickly and reduce water loss.

A key element of the project centred around smart metering, by being able to measure the water entering the system and the level of water exiting the system it is possible to prioritise areas within the network that are likely to be suffering from leakage.

One of the biggest challenges facing the majority of water utilities is connecting meters as they are generally underground, covered by a metal lid, both of which inhibit traditional radio communications.

Connexin played an important role in the project, providing the carrier-grade LoRaWAN® network to support Yorkshire Water’s implementation of 1,000 AMI water meters (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) which were programmed to communicate water usage at a granular level – in this case a reading was recorded every 15 minutes and transmitted over the LoRaWAN® solution every three hours.


Creating a fast, flexible and efficient network

To do this, Connexin worked with its partners in Amey and Sheffield City Council to deploy the network within the trial area. Public assets such as street lights are particularly effective for network deployments as they are the right height to allow the signal to travel over long distances while also being easily accessible should the network need to be maintained.

The network was deployed, followed by a number of subtle calibrations to optimise the transmissions and ensure that the data captured was able to be used by Yorkshire Water. Over time the percentage of devices transmitting at regular intervals increased and reached a point where 90 per cent of meters were consistently transmitting 90 per cent of their readings.


Innovation is an iterative process, powered through collaboration

Connexin understood that proving the technology was just part of the challenge, the real opportunity was in doing so in a manner that was scalable and sustainable. Through engagement with Yorkshire Water it became clear that a critical factor to consider for scalability in addition to retrieving the data, was preservation of battery life.

Connexin worked with Yorkshire Water to better understand how the data would be used operationally to challenge the specific data that would be collected and the frequency of readings and transmission.

This collaborative approach led to understanding more about the importance of night line data where meters would identify leakages more effectively during low usage periods, 15-minute readings and the makeup of each data packet that was sent by the meter. Once these factors were better understood, Connexin used its experience of working with LoRaWAN® technology to propose a new communications profile for the water meters.

The new profile would receive hourly data throughout the day and 15-minute data between 2am and 4am, thus maximising the best of both data sets. By minimising transmissions and only transmitting the data that is required the asset lifespan can be increased exponentially.


An investable business case

The cost challenge with smart infrastructure is both the cost of the equipment and the investment for engineering required to deploy it effectively. In the case of water meters the cost to change the meters can require a significant commercial investment, meaning any extension of the battery life not only saves on the hardware costs but also maintenance.

The result of the collaboration meant that the transmissions could be reduced from eight times per day to just over one transmission. This means that even when allowing for duplication of readings for redundancy purposes the meters are anticipated to deliver a battery life in excess of 15 years.


Smarter, greener and better value

Thanks to the implementation of the smart water network, Yorkshire Water was able to identify that 32 per cent of all leakage in West Sheffield could be traced back to just one per cent of properties, indicating that private supply pipes make up a large number of its leakage. This resulted in the prevention of 90,000 litres of water being lost each day and helping create a greener, more efficient network in the region.

Due to the initial success of the pilot, Yorkshire Water is now using its outputs to combine the data it is collecting with other sources such as acoustic and district flow measurements. This will help refine how this information is used to support a better understanding of the entire network performance.


Adam Smith, Clean Water Network Strategy Manager at Yorkshire Water said:

“Undertaking the UK’s largest smart water network trial could have been a daunting process but the close collaboration and the consultative approach we built with our partners, such as Connexin, made it a constructive, iterative process.

“Connexin’s knowledge and expertise of LoRa protocol alongside their inquisitive, challenging nature and passion for understanding our challenges and requirements provided us with the guidance we needed to ensure we chose the right solutions that have produced real, tangible benefits to both us as a company and by extension our customers. They have helped provide us with a platform to use smart technologies to continue to evolve and help influence investment decisions both now and going forward.”


Rob Bullock, Chief Sales Officer at Connexin said:

Innovation can only be delivered when you have a true collaboration between parties working together to create a solution to solve a shared problem. The economic challenge of delivering smart metering is considerable, especially for water utilities that are not classed as being water stressed.

“The engagement with Yorkshire Water has been the perfect example of a true partnership and represents a seminal point in the smart metering industry in the UK, entering LoRaWAN as a potentially attractive metering option for the water industry, both in the presence and absence of water resource challenges.

Together we have built a solution that delivers timely data, in a cost-effective manner and that minimises the battery drain.

The project demonstrates that this approach to AMI deployments could be scaled to both support a smart water network and provide the infrastructure needed for other LoRaWAN® IoT sensors deployed for other use cases.

Shared infrastructure across clean and waste water supports further important use cases across pollution events and carbon neutrality alongside other operational challenges that are faced by UK utilities”


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