Sogedo logo, a water utility provider in France

Introduction

The SIGFOX network, which is operated in Ireland by VT Networks, has significant applications in utility monitoring, including the rollout of smart metering. The European Union (EU) aims to have 80% of electricity customers in member nations on smart metering systems by 2020. 

Many utility companies have also identified the additional benefits of smart metering, including real-time leak detection, efficient billing and more. In July 2014, Sogedo, the fourth largest water utility in France, partnered with SIGFOX, Connit and Smarteo to install smart meters in Pays de Gex, a region in eastern France. Between August and December 2015, 3,000 Connit meters were installed by the integrator, Smarteo. SIGFOX was an ideal connectivity solution, in part because of its high signal penetration, allowing both indoor and underground meters. By the end of 2016, Sogedo plans to implement 20,000 units.

The introduction of these smart meters will eliminate the need for physical readings, introducing cost efficiencies into the system, and will also lead to more accurate and efficient invoicing. Local authorities also want to promote water conservation to customers by providing usage data to engage customers through an app, while instant leak detection prevents waste.

 

The Challenge

  • Sub-metering multi-unit buildings to provide accurate billing

  • Promote water conservation and provide leak alerts

  • Potential future wide-scale rollout

 

Hydroko IoT water meter used for remote reading of utility meters

Solution

There are a variety of smart meters that operate on VT’s network. For example, meters manufactured by Arad and Hydroko send two updates per day through VT’s SIGFOX network, and the data is then process through data management middleware, such as WayLay.

In order to provide metering of individual units within a building, the hardware can be installed on the main water pipe under the kitchen sink of each unit. Beyond the meters themselves, no site-specific infrastructure is needed to connect to the SIGFOX network. The modules can have a battery life of up to 16 years, resulting in low levels of required maintenance.

Why SIGFOX?

 Cost Effective

Hardware can be retrofitted into the existing system, and operating on the SIGFOX network allows for cost-effective connection of a large number of meters. The devices don’t require any additional infrastructure to connect to the SIGFOX network.

Strong Indoor Network Signal

The SIGFOX network operates on a low-frequency radio wave, which allows for excellent indoor penetration, ensuring that meters throughout the building are able to connect and send their messages efficiently.

Secure & Reliable

Each message can be traced back to its module using the unique key embedded into each unit. The smart meters will also frequency hop when broadcasting, always sending their message on a different frequency and uniquely scrambling each message.

Meter Agnostic Network

SIGFOX is a meter agnostic network, which means that utility companies don’t have to commit to one brand of meter for the entirety of a large-scale roll out. 

 

A woman lying in bed using a laptop

Benefits

The information gathered through the smart metering systems can increase customer engagement and promote water conservation. Through a monthly email, SMS or web app, users can receive day-to-day consumption information, allowing them to adjust their habits to use less water/power or take advantage of off-peak pricing.

The meters also provide instant leak notification, and warn users when sensors are nearing zero degrees celsius, which would put pipes at risk of freezing. This option could be available to both end users and property managers.

Utility companies can remotely reduce water pressure and provide prepaid meters, which warn user when they are nearing their budget and need to top up.

To lower maintenance, the meters report when the 16-year battery is low, if there are issues with signal strength, and whether there has been tampering.

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