Test & Measurement

Solving issues in an ageing infrastructure

3rd October 2017
Joe Bush

The Industrial Revolution put the UK at the forefront of technology as engineers such as Isambard Kingdom-Brunel pioneered advancements in transport, manufacturing and utilities. During the early part of the 19th century the open sewer that was the River Thames caused all manner of public health issues in what was an extremely densely populated city – these included a devastating cholera outbreak. As a consequence the Government resolved to create a modern sewerage system in 1856.

As pioneering as this was at the time, some of this 19th century infrastructure is still in place today among the UK’s water system. Back in 2010, analysis from The Independent on Sunday showed that despite significant investment, water losses due to leaks were increasing at an alarming rate.

The analysis showed that around 20% of the nation’s supply was being lost through leaking pipes – this could meet the daily needs of 21.5 million people. The UK’s water systems face significant challenges over the next few years in the form of climate change, a growing and increasingly affluent population, and an asset base that includes over 800,000km of sewer and water supply pipes with an estimated average age of 70 years - making fixing leaks an expensive process.

This is where smart water network technology can play a key role. Countries in the Far East such as China, where urbanisation is increasing rapidly, has been quick on the uptake of these types of systems. Smart water meters recorded shipments of 11.73 million units in 2015.

Sensor solutions from ams are playing a key role in the evolution of this market space. The company offers a complete ultrasonic water metering solution that combines silicon, firmware and calibration software to measure water flow.

The dynamic range of the ultrasonic water meters enable measurement of the lowest leakages of down to five to ten water drops per minute, and the low power consumption of the meters mean they can be powered with a single AA battery for up to 20 years.

Stéphane Curral, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Image Sensor Solutions, ams, commented: “There are key drivers in the smart metering market from global population increases, the need for energy saving, water conservation and theft protection.

“There will be a growth in smart water meters from 11 million units in 2017 to 46 million units in 2021. Our technology is replacing traditional mechanical flow meters with ultrasonic-based technology. This not only significantly increases the accuracy of the meters but it also brings very low power consumption.

“These systems are battery-based – utilities don’t want to have to be replacing batteries in a variety of locations every five years or so. So these two factors – accuracy and low power – is key for us to enable smart metering opportunities.

“We are doing a lot in China and it is an important market for us. This is a country that is not going to be installing basic equipment, they will gravitate straight to the ultrasonic smart meters and we have seen a great deal of potential in this market.”

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