Preparing for smart cities infrastructure
Visibility, Control and Optimization of Utility Operations
• Maintain consistent water quality
• Reduce customer complaints
• Comply with U.S. EPA requirements
• Lower operational costs
• Preserve dissolved oxygen
• Maintain water quality
• Improve public health
• Reduce non-revenue water
• Minimize water main breaks
• Better manage pumps to reduce energy needs
Remote Meter Disconnect
• Minimize crew dispatches
• Manage delinquent accounts
• Property damage avoidance
• Seasonal water disconnects
Transmission Main Monitoring
• Identify leaks
• Mitigate failures
• Proactive repairs
• Reduce costs
Distribution Main Monitoring
• Identify leaks
• Reduce water loss
• Prioritize repairs
• Reduce costs
• Prioritize replacement
• Mitigate failures
• Optimize capital plans
Usage and Billing
• Measure water usage
• Conserve water
• Improve billing accuracy
Mueller Water Products’ companies offer flexible backhaul options for utilities, giving them the opportunity to migrate their data as they grow into full IoT‐enabled smart cities. In several cases, this flexibility allows water utilities to implement new technology at their own pace, enabling them to expand over time. Mueller’s offerings can transmit and collect data via a radio, cellular or the LoRa‐based Mi.Net® network. By offering these backhaul options, Mueller is able to accommodate utilities of all sizes at any point in their transition to smart cities technologies.
Radio frequency (RF) is the most basic of the backhaul options, ideal for smaller utilities with fewer end points and less extensive networks. Data travels from one point to another via the RF spectrum, and the data is secure.
For utilities interested in implementing IoT-based leak detection and pressure management solutions, cellular backhaul is a good option. As specific telecom carriers host cellular networks, there is no need for a utility to create its own fixed radio network. This enables utilities to quickly deploy technologies into the water network.
Utilities seeking an option with the most IoT capabilities should examine migrating to a LoRa-based network. Short for “low power, long range,” LoRa is an RF modulation technique that offers high-power transmissions and increased range over traditional systems. This option reduces the noise that can cause interference in basic RF transmissions, allowing for longer-range data retrieval. LoRa is an open-systems, interoperable network, which allows utilities to connect to any IoT-enabled devices.
Regardless of size, utilities all face similar challenges, with time, money and manpower often in short supply. Fortunately, new-generation technologies that allow for seamless communication between devices are making it easier for utility workers to collect data in near-real time without leaving their offices. This enhanced Internet of Things (IoT) technology approach helps provide a comprehensive overview of an entire water distribution system by allowing multiple devices to work in tandem, collecting actionable data to help proactively address concerns.
For more than 150 years, Mueller Systems, LLC and its affiliates have been providing water infrastructure solutions, including metering, to water utilities. The Mi.Net system is a LoRa‐based network technology that allows long‐range, fully twoway communications for smart cities applications. Utilities can gather hourly usage data from every meter in the network. The system includes Mueller Systems’ 420 RD M (Remote Disconnect Meters) and integrates seamlessly with the EchoShore®‐D X leak detection platform; it also can be combined with other IoT devices as needed by the utility. Data from equipment installed throughout the distribution system communicates across the Mi.Net network and can alert a utility of leaks, bursts, or other emergent conditions. With all this data at its fingertips, the utility is able to be proactive, instead of reactive. As an example, the ability to direct time and resources to the location of the leak is crucial. Instead of waiting to see a leak or for a customer to complain about a large bill, utilities are notified of leaks sooner rather than later and can take action immediately.
The unique differentiator of the Mi.Net system is its ability to enable IoT smart cities infrastructure. While traditional AMI networks are closed systems on proprietary networks that only allow communication between certain types or brands of equipment, the LoRa platform is an open architecture standard designed specifically for IoT applications. On this network, a utility can install any IoT device regardless of manufacturer or equipment type. This open network operates seamlessly on the open IS M band. IoT systems require open standards and open, unlicensed frequencies.
Utilities have a number of options for implementation. Most utilities desire a full change out of devices, but switching out thousands or even tens of thousands of meters at one time can be a challenge. The Mi.Net system’s network gives a utility the option to begin with a mobile system and eventually upgrade to a fixed network. Utilities can also choose which meters to connect to the network based on population or location. When fully implemented, the utility receives the full impact of the system. The Mi.Net system is ideal for utilities of any size. Whether connecting a network of 1,000 meters or 500,000 meters, the result is the same: an IoT‐based data solution that helps make a utility smarter.
The Mi.Net system employs LoRa technology. LoRa, short for “low power, long range,” is an RF modulation technique that offers high-power transmissions and increased range over traditional systems with lower battery usage. The technology offers a meter reading distance of beyond 2 miles, with a battery life of greater than 20 years. The secret behind this technology is a modulation scheme that reduces the RF noise that is inherent in any radio environment. By eliminating the noise, the reading distance increases, offering enhanced performance. Additionally, LoRa is an open-systems, interoperable network, which means utilities can connect to any IoT-enabled equipment regardless of manufacturer.
The Mi.Net technology enables more than just remote meter reading. When matched with the capabilities of the 420 RD M and paired with the EchoShore‐ DX leak detection platform, it provides a full leak detection solution. When the EchoShore‐D X acoustical technology detects a leak in a distribution system, the data generated is sent through the system and flagged. The acoustic units are then able to correlate the data to determine the location of the leak. Once the leak is confirmed, service can be shut off via the 420 Remote Disconnect Meter. This actionable data is vital in mitigating water loss in a distribution system, leading to cost savings for both the utility and the customer.
The automation of data collection and reporting is a key component to developing smart cities. Monitoring smart water infrastructure gives utilities the ability to not only identify leaking pipes before they cause issues, but also create significant operational efficiencies through optimized capital investments. Through early detection of leaks, utilities can better manage their water main assets and help avoid catastrophic consequences.
The EchoShore-DX leak detection platform from Echologics provides daily monitoring of a water distribution system. It looks for existing or emerging leaks using acoustical sensor nodes that are fitted onto a standard fire hydrant pumper nozzle cap. The nodes are intelligent with the ability to discern the presence of small leaks in their zones of deployment. They can also communicate with each other, as well as a central collection hub. Each node establishes an accurate acoustical baseline for its respective monitoring zone, ensuring detection of leaks that may develop in the future. With EchoShore-DX technology, data is collected via radio frequency (collector) or cellular networks, allowing for near real-time data analysis. The user interface (UI) is highly intuitive to use, providing high-level reports at the start of each day. The location and other relevant details of potential leaks are easily identified. The UI provides two-way communications, enabling simplified verification of points of interest by field personnel.
A key benefit of the EchoShore-DX technology is its interoperability with other Mueller Water Products, Inc. smart infrastructure systems. The data points collected and analyzed via EchoShore-DX nodes are managed through the same UI as Mi.Net® network technology, e.g., 420 Remote Disconnect Meters from Mueller Systems, LLC , and remote pressure monitors from Mueller Co. LLC . By combining these smart components, utilities can create a more complete Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA ) system for their water distribution systems. In addition to maximizing non-revenue water loss from non-surfacing leaks and reducing pipe repair costs, traditional resources used to hunt for leaks are no longer required. Field crews can be directed toward the highest priority leaks. The data provided by the system enables a utility to not only identify a leak, but also to monitor its progression and prioritize repair criticality.
The EchoShore-DX system is scalable and migratable, an ideal way to start a new technology deployment, typically in an area of concern. Targeted deployments can be done with cellular networks, so smaller utilities without full AMI capabilities can still experience the data benefits of EchoShore-DX technology. As the EchoShore-DX system is deployed to cover larger sections of a network, it can seamlessly transition to the radio frequency or LoRa network, giving each utility the flexibility and time to grow its use and management of data.
A utility’s data truly becomes useful when it provides an impetus to take action within the water distribution system. In a smart water utility network, DMA zones are remotely monitored and controlled, leading to more efficient personnel responses and greater awareness of activity occurring within the water delivery infrastructure. With devices such as the 420 RD M (Remote Disconnect Meter) from Mueller Systems, LLC , water utilities can better serve their customers with the data obtained from their Mi.Net® advanced network infrastructure. There are numerous use cases for utilities to better serve their customers by directly controlling valves at each customer site.
The 420 RD M contains a remote disconnect valve, which is integral to the 5/8-inch residential meter. Utilities can use this feature to directly manage their water services from the utility office. The unique quality of the 420 RD M is the integral valve that allows the utility to upgrade to remote disconnect by simply installing the meter into the existing standard 7.5-inch service. The RD M works seamlessly with Mueller Systems, LLC ’s Mi.Net advanced IoT network technology and receives prompts from the Mi.Net user interface when action is needed. When the utility customer service department notes a condition requiring valve activation, the system works as easily as clicking a mouse to disconnect or reconnect the water service as needed. Adding 420 RD Ms to any smart water network offers numerous benefits for water utilities. When reports come in via the Mi.Net system that indicate an unexpected excess flows at certain properties or areas, service representatives at the utility can follow up with owners to determine the source. This can be valuable in a number of scenarios, such as when vacationing homeowners are unaware a pipe has burst; shutting off their valves can save precious water resources costs as well as minimize property damage.
Another key benefit is the ability for utilities to cut down on labor and operational costs, as fewer trucks are needed to manually shut off or turn on water service in the field. With less crews and fewer vehicles making routine disconnects and reconnects, those resources can be redirected elsewhere where maintenance or other work is needed. This ultimately keeps employees out of any situation where they may encounter safety risks, including unknown states of plumbing, angry customers, or dangerous neighborhoods. Protecting employee safety is always the foremost concern of the utility.
It is very easy for utilities to realize the efficiencies and real cost savings of the 420 RD M. The most attractive business case option is for installing the 420 RD M into the Mi.Net IoT network infrastructure. The 420 RD M is easily installed into any existing or future Mi.Net network. The utility can choose to install the RD M in strategic areas with as few, or as many, RD Ms as needed. Of course, the most compelling business case for the RD Ms is to install them throughout the system. In many cases, the payback period for an AMI installation can be cut in half by purchasing the 420 RD M for all installations. For those utilities who want the benefit of smart utility infrastructure, but are not quite ready to make the jump, Mueller also offers the RD M Mobile option. This option allows for the utility to remotely connect/disconnect the 420 RD M from the street without having to gain access to the meter box in order to make the connection/disconnection.
Water distribution systems with areas of stagnation or insufficient demand must maintain minimum disinfectant residuals in their water lines in order to maintain quality. Periodic flushing of the pipelines is a common solution to controlling residuals within the distribution system, but the traditional method has been to deploy work crews to manually flush water at end points. For smart cities, automatic flushing systems provide the opportunity for utilities to automate and program their flushing schedules, lowering labor and operational costs as well as improving consistency of water quality.
Mueller Co.’s Hydro‐G uard® line of solutions flush distribution systems when water demands are low, or when residual levels are below pre‐determined levels. Several water quality conditions can be monitored, including chlorine, pH, temperature, turbidity and flow rate. With more monitoring at dead end points of a water distribution system, utilities can be more proactive in their flushing processes and rely less on documented complaints from customers regarding their quality, improving customer service. Utilities can also reap the benefits of saving time and money by not having to send field crews to disrupt traffic and manually flush fire hydrants, redirecting them elsewhere to more needed jobs. The Hydro‐G uard system is also available with pressure sensors, giving water utilities a real-time pressure monitoring solution throughout their distribution system. Using local cellular networks, sensors continually report data and alert the utility when high or low pressure thresholds are exceeded.
Aging water infrastructure has become a reality for many utilities, bringing additional challenges to those already facing water loss issues, scarce funding, an aging workforce and more. In other industries, “smart” Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are being utilized to streamline processes and increase efficiencies with great success. Such technologies are now becoming available for water utilities. Smart utilities manage their assets through the use of automated devices that enable the collection and analysis of data on usage, flow rates, conditions and more. This enables them to take intelligent action that can reduce costs and ultimately deliver the best service to their customers. This publication, the Smart Water Handbook, is brought to you by Mueller Water Products, a singlesource supplier for utilities bringing leading technologies to the industry on AMI, leak detection, remote shutoff, automated flushing, pressure management and more. Thanks to our partners and industry experts who shared their thoughts and insights on the following pages, we’ve defined what a smart water utility is and how smart technologies solve common challenges, as well as how utilities of any size can start implementing IoT technologies.