Smart cities and remote reading: How remote meter reading guides and accelerates progress towards a smart city

While AENOR’s Technical Standardisation Committee 178 is working on the definition of a smart city, the Endesa Educa service has proposed one that I believe to be particularly appropriate. The Endesa definition says that a smart city is one which implements information and communications technologies (ICT) with the aim of providing the city with an infrastructure that ensures sustainable economic, social and environmental development, a better quality of life for citizens, greater efficiency in the use of available resources, the active participation of citizens and harmony amongst all these elements.

The rapid progress towards the smart city is the result of the implementation of remote meter reading in a number of districts supplied by the Aguas de Valencia Group. En masse installation of meters with remote reading features, connected by a fixed communications network in around 25 small towns and a number of large towns, such as Gandía and Quart de Poblet, was completed in 2014. In other population centres, such as Valencia, Tortosa and Sagunto, the installation of these smart meters will be completed during 2015. There are now around half a million meters with remote reading capabilities installed and there is a commitment to install almost 650,000 prior to the end of next year.

Remote reading, in association with distributed data capture in the network and a decision-making system for maintenance work, provides spectacular results in terms of improving the ratio of non-revenue water and and water produced. Recently a public water utility reported striking results from a comparison carried out in two towns it supplies. In four years, the town in which remote reading had not been implemented recorded an improvement in network efficiency of 3%. In the same period and with almost the same initial values, the other town, where remote reading was implemented and network maintenance was managed in accordance with the data produced, registered increased network efficiency of 16%.

This result clearly demonstrates that:

  • Efficiency in the use of available resources increases, given that less water needs to be captured and pumped in order to supply the same quantity of water.
  • Environmental sustainability is improved due to the fact that stored water can be used for other purposes and raw water sources are protected.
  • Economic sustainability is improved because, although investment in remote reading equipment is necessary, the useful life of production and distribution infrastructure is prolonged and there is a reduction in operating costs, as electricity.
  • The total reduction in costs achieved through the implementation of remote reading contributes to sustainable social development by giving rise to lower water tariffs or the maintenance of water tariffs.

Article published in: FuturENVIRO November 2014