The United Nations estimates that roughly two billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. Alarmingly, almost half the world’s population experiences sever water shortages during the year, a situation which is expected to worsen as a result of climate change and population growth.
Environmental challenges, geopolitical issues and economic pressures mean that companies need to create solutions that maximize resources in a way that is practical, cost-effective and user-friendly. That’s why public and private organizations around the world are endeavouring to turn urban areas into smart cities. Sometimes also referred to as ‘digital cities,’ ‘intelligent cities’ and ‘wireless cities’, this strategy requires the deployment of solutions to gather data from citizens, cars and other devices as a means to effectively manage resources. Read the following use case to learn how our engineers have helped telecommunications and utility companies achieve that goal.
Combining embedded and IoT technologies to achieve a digital transformation
In order to not only respond to changing market forces and customer needs, but anticipate them, a company is effectively putting their Internet of Things (IoT) plan into action by partnering with digital transformation specialists and engineers like us. In this way, they can deliver top-quality IoT and embedded devices, including smart metering solutions, to their utility partners.
The problem our embedded services experts needed to solve
This company came to our embedded engineers with a problem connected with uncontrolled water loses and the inability to track them on time and anticipate their occurrence. Since the log readings from water meters spread all over the city caused logistics issues, a centralized telemetry method to frequently obtain data from all meters was required. The idea was to monitor the main water meters, which are usually installed in manholes two to eight meters underground. Unfortunately, they are covered with default metal hatches which affects radio signals. Moreover, there was also no possibility to introduce electricity. Any solution would need to integrate with the existing water meters as the overall good condition of the entire infrastructure meant that it would stay in operation for at least 10 years.
The smart solution our embedded software specialists developed
Our embedded engineers started by conducting a feasibility study and a workshop, during which our experts proposed possible solutions. After discussions and a technology feasibility study of available radio solutions on the market, the decision was made to utilize new (at that time) 4.5G IoT technology (NB-IoT) due to its enhanced signal penetration and power optimization schemes. This enabled the retrofitting of IoT gateways and the use of battery-based devices capable of transmitting data wirelessly – even from the harsh and difficult environment of manholes with metal hatches. Importantly, industry standard protocols were utilized to retrieve water usage and maintenance data from different meter types.
During the prototyping and testing phases, our engineers paid special attention to performance and power consumption which affected battery lifetimes the most. Based on the testing conducted with simulators and real prototype devices, the decision was made to optimize the way the IoT gateway device would communicate. Instead of aggregating and analyzing data on the device and sending it to the cloud, raw received data, using CoAP, was sent to an EDGE service for decoding, which resulted in a 10x reduction in the amount of data sent by the NB-IoT link. Another advantage of such an approach was the simplification of support, maintenance and interoperability, because any changes, updates in the decoding algorithm could be updated on the EDGE server remotely, instead of sending maintenance squad onsite every time a new type of meter was about to be connected.
The scope of support provided by our embedded specialists:
- Conducting a workshop to decide on the right technologies to address all business requirements.
- Identifying a reference device that could read data from various meters and then efficiently send it over the air.
- Verifying the required reference device changes to enable integration with the existing telemetry network.
- Making changes to the communication process and protocols to facilitate an ultra-low power consumption transmission (CoAP-based).
- Empowering the communication cycle (every 1 hour) with the ability to store readings locally, in case there is a break in transmission (up to a few days)
- Establishing an edge service where data frames were decoded and sent to the cloud, thereby enabling the deployment of the system on meters from different manufacturers implementing proprietary protocol variants.
Smart meter solution process flow:
- Reducing the power consumption of the gateways by ~30%
- Achieving a data size reduction of transmission data from ~2 KB to 200B per reading
- Increasing battery life by up to 10 years
- Enhancing the meter solution’s compatibility and maintainability
An embedded solution that gets results
A successful proof of concept (PoC) phase resulted in our embedded experts customizing a solution and delivering highly satisfying results, in terms of data density and accuracy. Consequently, a utility provider started installing the smart metering solution in the one of the biggest cities in the Middle East. Since the beginning of the project to this day, a couple thousand water meters have already been connected with the smart metering solution our embedded engineers helped design and build.
Companies from around the world and across sectors are increasingly turning to embedded software teams to implement emerging technologies like IoT, AI and cloud to increase operational efficiency, attract users and generate new revenue streams. This rising demand helps explain why the global embedded software market size is on the rise – according to Global Market Insights, the embedded market size in 2022 exceeded $15 billion USD. Moreover, analysts forecast a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 9% between 2023 and 2032.
Want to know if our embedded team can undertake such a project with your organization? Get in touch by filling out the form below and our experts will contact you to discuss your company’s needs and explore how we can help you meet your goals.
About the authorJakub Górski
Business Development & Consulting Manager
Jakub has specialized in audio and embedded software for over 5 years. He has extensive knowledge of connectivity standards, standards organizations and various certification programs due to years of close collaboration with global organizations responsible for the development and scaling of emerging technologies such as FiRa Consortium, AVNU Alliance, LoRa Alliance, Car Connectivity Consortium and Bluetooth SIG.