Trends of 5G to Manage Water Service Infrastructures
In a world where nearly 40% of the population have inaccessibility to clean water, technology can play a quintessential role in ensuring the sustainable management of water and its availability. Digital transformation can be an excellent opportunity to improve the maintenance and management of water infrastructures and services. Technology enables water utilities to optimize processes, streamline operating and maintenance costs in integrated water-cycle services and infrastructures. Collecting accurate asset data at water sites using remote sensors and IoT devices, practical utilization of collected data and models to improve operational efficiency, etc. are some of the advantages of digital transformation in the water infrastructure services. Some statistics suggest that the digital transformation is expected to grow 6.5% annually in the United States and Canada. Ever since its arrival, 5G is making its mark in terms of communications in all fields and applications. With the low latency and increased ability of 5G technology to connect millions of devices in an area, managers can enhance autonomous infrastructure operations while enabling remote driving. The 5G technology is providing new opportunities for water utilities to achieve greater water efficiency.
Here are some of the benefits of the expansion of 5G networks for the water infrastructure for end users.
Proactive Water Management
The impact of climate change can lead to severe droughts, which could significantly affect the water-intensive industries, such as semiconductors, cotton farming, livestock farming, oil & gas extraction action. Climate change and floods could cost USD17 trillion to the global economies by 2030. Traditional ways of monitoring water and control lacked automation could result in difficulty in predicting issues. The real-time data transfer and a fleet of high-precision IoT sensors can result in improved water management efficiency and faster recuperation of investments at reduced operating costs. The 5G-based Smart Water-control and Monitoring has been successfully installed at Baiyangdian Lake of Xiong’an in China by China Telecom and ZTE. The aim is to identify foreign objects on the water surface and eliminate it if they seem undesirable. Multidimensional data collected from connected water quality sensors is aggregate on an intelligent processing ZTE IoT platform, which provides prediction about pollution and scientific basis for preventive and proactive water management. Even the smart metering system are equipped with automated valves that respond by shutting in areas affected by floods, which can lead to contaminated water.
The application of NB-IoT technology, which uses the telephone operator’s network coverage and require sim card to operate, is already producing outstanding results in the water industry, mainly in the area of smart metering. Both the GSMA and 3GPP standards association are adopting NB-IoT as a part of 5G network, which will ensure it will have a long future. Some of the advantages that NB-IoT technology can provide are extended range, more penetration and coverage, and efficient battery management.
Manage Water Irrigation Systems
Agriculture is one of the most water-intensive sectors that consume around 70% of total water consumption, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Monitoring infrastructure and irrigation water consumption in agriculture are key elements to achieving efficient water resource management. The use of remote metering and smart irrigation will make more data available for analysis, whose integration is essential for decision-making. Since 5G is a much faster technology, it can work with millions of sensors per sq.km., which facilitates the coexistence of smart metering and the implementation of other intelligent devices. The technology will be quite beneficial across remote areas where obtaining data is relatively a difficult task. Digitally transforming irrigation distribution networks would facilitate real-time control of what is happening and detect leaks and fraud at early stages, which can lower the volume of non-revenue water and lower production costs while promoting sustainability in environment.
The sensors installed in the irrigation infrastructures can provide monitoring soil moisture and climate date, which when coupled with weather forecast, can be utilised for the calculation of optimal water needs for crops. The supervision will prevent any significant personal and material damage. In addition, sensors for infrastructure require stable communication and low latency, which can only be achieved by very fast data transmission process provided by 5G.
Boost Sustainability in Utilities Industry
Over the years, the customer and utility relationship has evolved with increased interest in sustainability. Hence, utilities and energy providers are tasked with delivering safe and reliable services while operating in extreme conditions like severe storms, record heat, historic droughts, etc. Grid and smart metering are the top of mind for forward-looking utility companies to reduce power outages, electrical spikes, reduce monthly energy bills for consumers and give access to gas, electric and water readouts through remote mobile devices. With 5G cloud native network, telecommunication operators can support this market by providing reliable connectivity. 5G will help in the advancement of smart grids for tele-protection, load balancing, and fast energy rerouting.
The 5G infrastructure will consume less energy to transfer data, which could help industries in meeting their sustainability goals. Besides, the utilities can meet government policies and regulations for renewable energy grids. The initial 5G releases are likely to improve positioning accuracy, which could facilitate pinpointing the exact location of devices, even in indoor environments.
5G promises to deliver a simple infrastructure with enhanced efficiency to improve coverage for low-power cellular devices, which could allow utilities to operate large smart meter and grid deployments at low costs. As grids are becoming smarter and allow two-way communication and energy distribution, the substations need to embrace automation and manage diverse power sources, including renewables.
Providing Remote Support through AR
Technology can play an essential role in the daily operation and management of the water grid by supporting technicians that are deployed in remote areas. Using 5G Network slice, technicians can deploy a high-capacity uplink/downlink through the use of AR/VR devices. The remote technician will connect the AR/VR glasses to the 5G slice, and the high upload and download speeds enable the remote experts to see in real time. The expert can then provide guidance through voice commands or by annotations, which could result in reduced response time for closure of the incident. High bandwidth can also result in the quick sharing of engineering drawings to remote technicians.
Another advantage of 5G for water management is enabling technicians to identify the location of underground pipes through AR/VR handset and associated software. This helps prevent digging in the wrong place or damaging some other utilities infrastructure, which can happen if technicians interpret the physical location of underground pipes in 2-D maps incorrectly.
In countries like Middle East where the water stress is pushing utilities to implement digital transformation due to inadequate water resources and extremely dry weather, the government and local authorities are promoting the national program frameworks to maximize efficiency in water management. The expansion of 5G networks can help monitor and control processes through the entire water cycles, from collection to discharging back into the environment. The optimal decision-making and streamlining management of utility operations could help simplify and speed up digital transformation.