Kenya’s telecommunications giant, Safaricom PLC, partnered with Upepo Technology to provide real-time Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring of water consumption in EWASCO.
The combination of Safaricom’s NB-IoT Network, ultrasonic metering, and real-time data transfer was the culmination of a pilot project that was tailored towards revolutionizing the use and supply of water by the use of the internet.
The objective of the project was to relay real-time data using Safaricom’s Narrow Band network from the devices at the 20 households to the Microsoft Azure Cloud with real-time mapping and analytics powered by Esri Eastern Africa’s ArcGIS Platform.
Such real-time data is important in denoting changes in household water consumption which has an impact on Ewasco operational and revenue performance but also to enhance the response of Kenya’s water sector to the Covid-19 pandemic.
By utilizing IoT devices, the consortia of Safaricom, Upepo, and ESRI can provide real-time information on water consumption to Ewasco that can be utilized to enhance its water utility operations.
Wide area connectivity, IoT device management and mapping of water utility operations, when combined with demographic information on population, age, food security, and other indicators, can support and provide decision-makers with tools to respond to the pandemic.
EWASCO was selected for the study for a reason: it is one of the most successful water utilities in Kenya, evidenced by the growth it has experienced over the past seven years, during which it has increased its connections from 17,000 in 2013 to 32,000 today, according to data from the Water Services Regulatory Board.
It is also one of a few water-utility companies that have a county-wide mandate, as it serves Embu County from one geographic corner to another. In comparison, a county like Kiambu has nine water service providers, which would make a similar project difficult to implement.
It also helped that the management of Ewasco was happy to collaborate on the project and Safaricom’s Narrow Band network was available across Embu County.
The aim, said Kevin Kihara, the Managing Director at Upepo Technology Ltd, is to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data on water consumption at the household, zonal, distribution, and abstraction level for water metering across the county.
“Each device is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system and is able to interoperate within the existing internet infrastructure to identify water consumption across Embu County,” said Kevin.
In Kenya, the business of supplying water is fraught with issues, the main one being the massive amounts of water that are pumped into the mains but do not reach the intended consumers.
Today, evidence of this tight supply scenario between availability and demand of water is seen in most urban areas of Kenya in which frequent and endemic water shortages have become a normal aspect of life.
Indeed, the near normal for most urban inhabitants of towns in Kenya is informal with water bowsers, cart pushers, and donkey deliveries competing closely with formal utilities strangled by inefficiencies and hobbled by an aging infrastructure and persistent water losses.
Kenya’s 103 water utility companies collectively lose more than half of their water (52 percent) to physical leaks and commercial losses, according to the Water Services Regulatory Board. This is the equivalent of two of every five liters that the water service providers have treated and pumped into the mains and is known as Non-Revenue Water (NRW).
Depending on a water provider’s infrastructure and the area it serves, the companies lose between 30 and 75 percent of the water they pump into their mains, losing between KSh7.8 billion and KSh27.3 billion in the process, according to the regulator.
For more on how the Internet of Things (IoT) is working in tracking and enhancing water usage, follow the link here.