In Chile, narrowband IoT primes the pump for water metering

Telefónica, Huawei and Kamstrup are allying to monitor domestic water consumption

Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica, Chinese ICT superpower Huawei and Danish smart utility metering firm Kamstrup have made a breakthrough in Chile by deploying what they say is the first pilot project of its kind in Latin America with real user data running over low-power, wide area NarrowBand Internet of Things technology (NB-IoT) for a local residential water provider.

The telemetry solution will let clients monitor daily usage, provide accurate invoicing and help detect leaks or abnormal domestic water-supply incidents. That same data will also be useful for water network operation team information.

Because the Internet of Things will be ubiquitous, extending around the world to a smorgasbord of sensors, terminals, in-equipment chips and beyond, it will generate a vast amount of network traffic across millions of machines and components. The requirement therefore will be for forms of connectivity that sip at power and don’t call on vast hardware and battery resources.

Telefónica said it wanted to promote an “open and participatory ecosystem” and so is leaning on Kamstrup, which has its roots in 1940s Denmark, to provide the meters while Huawei manages and updates the 700MHz NB-IoT network that is based on the LTE 4G standard. Telefónica IoT division is providing the know-how and the company is a veteran of the smart metering sector. Plans call for the pilot to be extended to more than 300 meters.

Why Chile? Telefónica global chief technology officer Enrique Blanco said:

“We chose Chile due to our presence and resources there. Telefónica Chile’s R&D Centre is a joint initiative between Telefónica and the Chilean government to foster an open and participatory Internet of Things ecosystem. This Centre is focused on the development of new connectivity technologies, especially low power networks [that are] so important to the expansion of the IoT ecosystem.”

Does the company see countries with aging or suboptimal comms networks as having the potential to leapfrog to the newer technologies?

“In some countries the optimal comms network bands to deploy these technologies are not available, or still not being auctioned,” Blanco said. “In these cases the launch of new technologies will be delayed or high- frequency bands will be used in first instance even though [we are] aware that these are not the optimal conditions to do so.”

As more IoT projects come on tap it’s likely that the ability to rollout, support and secure networks will be critical to their success. In Chile this combination of a Spanish telco, Chinese infrastructure provider and Danish meter supplier might provide clues to the future success of this still-infant market.


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