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Environmental IoT & M2M Iridium Utilities & Renewables

May 3, 2023

Harnessing the Power of Massive IoT: Game-Changer for the Water Sector

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes connecting any device to other connected devices and the internet, or other communications networks. This allows all devices to collect and share data about their environment and how they are used. Comparatively, Massive IoT, is simply IoT on a massive scale; multitudes of sensors, connectivity and data processing to create new solutions. Many businesses have already adopted Massive IoT technology, citing reduced costs and wastage, and improved operational efficiency among the benefits.

Given its obvious applications to the Water industry – including smart metering and remote equipment monitoring – it’s unsurprising that sensors in the water and wastewater treatment industries are forecast to grow to $2 billion by 2030. But why is this so important?

Water is a finite, essential resource. Just last year, following 20 years of megadrought many communities in the western United States (US) faced water stress and some, water crisis. The relatively well documented “American water crisis” details multiple challenges to ensuring citizens have access to clean, safe and affordable water; and importantly, that’s today. According to research by Colorado State University, of the 204 freshwater basins in the United States, nearly half won’t be able to meet the monthly water demand by 2071.

Technology advances have a history of providing the solutions we need, and thankfully, there are many ways Massive IoT is already and will continue to optimize operations for the Water and Wastewater treatment industries.

Factors driving Massive IoT adoption in the Water industry

In the Water sector, sensors are extensively employed to monitor water quality, manage smart meters, and optimize distribution. Traditionally, SCADA systems have been utilized to monitor infrastructure such as pumps and reservoirs. However, the last segment of the pipeline, responsible for delivering water to customers’ premises, has often remained a mystery to suppliers. To fill this information gap, Water companies have heavily relied on customer feedback, such as reports of leaks or faults via phone calls.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) estimated that average household’s leaks account for almost 10,000 gallons of water each year and 10% of all homes in the United States have leaks wasting 90+ gallons per day. To even contemplate meeting increases in demand (US population projected to reach 298 million by 2052) while navigating challenges such as urbanization and aging infrastructure, suppliers must look across their entire networks, to ensure these are as efficient as possible.

As Jat Brainch, Chief Commercial and Product Officer at Inmarsat puts it – “you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and automation and digitalization of the data capture process to collect granular, real-time results, is becoming increasingly essential”. In short, to be able to get a better handle on water management, companies need data, delivered consistently and reliably to inform decisions.

Moreover, with growing pressure to reduce environmental impact – improving water optimization and wastewater treatment so water can safely be recycled – IoT technologies could prove invaluable.


5 ways Massive IoT can benefit Water and Wastewater companies


  1. Smart water management
  2. Water quality and safety monitoring
  3. Improved customer engagement
  4. Environmental monitoring and reporting
  5. Equipment management and maintenance
Pressurised water pipes

1. Smart water management

By leveraging IoT technologies like sensors, geospatial mapping, and big data analytics, companies can effectively strategize, build, allocate, and oversee water resources. Real-time monitoring and predictive analytics empower transparent pipeline management, water conservation, leak detection, and streamlined service planning, ensuring optimal resource distribution and utilization.

2. Water quality and safety monitoring

Each day, millions of Americans rely on over 150,000 public water systems for drinking water, while U.S. wastewater treatment facilities process around 34 billion gallons of wastewater. Monitoring water quality is vital to uphold suitable standards at every step of the water cycle, including collection, treatment, and distribution.

Though there are no-discharge zones and it is illegal to discharge insufficiently treated or raw sewage within three miles from shore, incidents aren’t uncommon. Each year an estimated 3.5 million Americans get sick after swimming, fishing or boating in water they thought was safe. And just a few years ago, Rickey George, director of the Ector County Environmental Enforcement unit said – “We do see a lot of raw sewage being dumped… It’s actually becoming one of our most primary complaints”.

With real-time monitoring systems, sensors can transmit valuable data on pH level, dissolved oxygen level, and turbidity. This data helps identify contamination sources faster and prevent further spread, ensuring suitable water quality standards can be better maintained.

Photo of severn trent smart meter

3. Improved customer engagement

Utilizing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technology, water companies can collect and analyze real-time data on water consumption. This enables them to promptly alert customers about network damage, leaks, and adjust pricing based on insights. Such transparency empowers customers to make informed choices, fostering improved satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately reducing water consumption. It ensures American customers are actively involved in water conservation efforts and experience enhanced service quality.

4. Environmental monitoring and reporting

When systems become blocked or overflow, it leads to severe consequences like flooding, erosion, turbidity, and infrastructure damage. Monitoring water usage poses challenges, especially in remote locations with limited accessibility. Additionally, blocked or damaged pipes and heavy rainfall further exacerbate the risk of flooding and equipment damage.

To combat these issues, companies can integrate data from sensors within Powered Telemetry Modules (PTM). This allows for monitoring and predicting events like flooding, erosion, and infrastructure damage. By employing various monitoring tools, proactive measures can be taken to prevent and mitigate damage in high-risk areas. This approach ensures the safety and well-being of Americans and protects vital infrastructure from potential harm.

Engineers planning work

5. Equipment management and maintenance

Through remote monitoring and advanced analytics, deviations in asset performance can be swiftly detected, enabling companies to proactively troubleshoot and resolve issues before they escalate into damage or disruption. Predictive maintenance software notifies technicians about necessary repairs, leading to reduced maintenance costs and averting larger repairs or outages. This proactive approach ensures operational efficiency, cost savings, and uninterrupted service for consumers.

Challenges to Massive IoT deployment success: Cost, cybersecurity and connectivity

The water infrastructure is extensive, and the substantial cost of modernization and installing new hardware poses a significant challenge when deploying IoT solutions at scale. Moreover, businesses in the Water and Wastewater sector often face the complexities of legacy systems and aging infrastructure, requiring customization to integrate new devices seamlessly.

However, there is a silver lining as IoT sensors, especially battery-powered ones, have become more cost-effective. Providers don’t need to deploy sensors across every pipeline in a network to reap benefits. Even a relatively small number of smart meters can bring about positive changes. Increased data and operational visibility empower water companies to make informed decisions and reduce maintenance costs.

Next, cybersecurity. While Water companies prioritize minimizing the collection of customer data, the increased volume and transmission of data pose challenges in safeguarding it from malicious actors.

In 2021, a cyberattack targeted the water supply in Oldsmar, Florida, aiming to manipulate sodium hydroxide levels. Fortunately, a vigilant plant operator detected the attack and timely action prevented any harm. However, this incident highlights the vulnerabilities present in national infrastructure.

To tackle this challenge, companies and organizations must prioritize security across all layers of the technology stack. This comprehensive approach is vital for the successful deployment of IoT solutions and ensuring the integrity of water systems.

Finally, connectivity. It is essential to emphasize the critical role of reliable and consistent data in effectively responding to surges, peaks, and troughs. The speed and intelligence of your decisions rely on the quality of the available data. Considering that water company networks often cover vast areas, it is probable that some parts of your network lack terrestrial coverage. While only 15% of the Earth’s surface is supported by cellular networks, satellite networks (and thus, satellite IoT) like Iridium provide coverage across all locations, including the poles.

Furthermore, a recent study revealed that 75% of decision-makers faced challenges deploying their IoT projects due to connectivity issues. Thus, it is crucial for companies to prioritize connectivity options early in IoT planning and adopt a strategy that consistently supports all network assets.

In addition, it is imperative for companies in the Water and Wastewater industries to incorporate alternate connectivity options for backup and backhaul in their connectivity strategies. This ensures that any issues with terrestrial networks, caused by extreme weather or natural disasters, do not adversely impact IoT applications by causing long delays or data gaps.

In summary, the advantages of Massive IoT are enormous. By harnessing the power of smart devices and data analytics through Massive IoT and AI, we can establish a more resilient, optimized, and secure water network that safeguards the environment today and in the future.

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