Deutsche Telekom NB-IoT aids water leak detection

  • August 2, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

Deutsche Telekom is helping Swiss leak detection company Gutermann with IoT-based networking infrastructure for water supplies.

The combination identifies leaks using acoustic signals, early, precisely and with little installation effort. Data transmission from the pipe shafts uses the NB-IoT machine and sensor network, which is particularly suitable thanks to its deep penetration.

Water is becoming an increasingly valuable resource. But public water supply pipelines are experiencing high losses worldwide. According to data published by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation & Nuclear Safety in 2020, these losses amount to up to ten per cent of the German drinking water supply network. Causes include leaks due to material fatigue or bursting as a result of pipeline pressure. It is essential to locate the leakage points precisely, repair the damage quickly, and keep water leakage down.

Acoustic leak detection offered by Gutermann in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom helps detect and precisely locate leaks quickly in the pipelines. For this, Gutermann installs noise loggers in the pipe networks at regular intervals. Simultaneously, the devices measure sounds in their environment and send the noise profiles to the cloud.

Analysis software automatically filters out background noises that only show up on individual sensors. The noise profiles of the devices are then compared with each other. If there is a leak, the noise profiles of neighbouring sensors are identical.

For such radio connectivity of loggers in underground pipe shafts, deep penetration is essential. The energy-efficient NB-IoT mobile communications standard reliably sends the acoustic data to the cloud. A radio module including a Deutsche Telekom SIM card is integrated into the loggers for this purpose. The loggers adhere magnetically to the metal pipes or are mounted on shut-off valves. Additional devices such as an above-ground signal amplifier are not necessary. For the leakage specialist and its public water supply customers, this means minimal installation effort without bureaucratic hurdles. Permits are not needed to mount additional devices on lampposts or other infrastructure.

“Thanks to NB-IoT, which is available in more and more country networks of Deutsche Telekom and its partners, our solution can be used worldwide,” said Gutermann CEO Uri Gutermann. “Deutsche Telekom supports us not only with the infrastructure, but also with dedicated contacts who advise us on international projects. That is enormously important for us as a small but global player that is active in over 100 countries, because we can’t build relationships with local telecom providers in all these countries. Other benefits of NB-IoT: the cost per measuring point has dropped; we only need one device; no more repeaters; and we don’t have any installation costs. This has made it much more economical to roll out on a large scale.”

Dennis Nikles, CEO of Deutsche Telekom IoT, added: “Connecting water pipe networks for acoustic leak detection shows the full potential of NB-IoT. No other standard would allow such reliable penetration from underground shafts. In times of climate change, the application thus makes an important contribution to greater sustainability in water management and to the security of supply of clean drinking water for cities and communities.”