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Connecting water quality sensors to the cloud


The objective of SDG #6 – Clean Water and Sanitation – is to improve water quality so that everyone has access to clean water by 2030. To assess whether the water you are drinking is safe or not, you need to know if it contain impurities, environmental toxins or dangerous microorganisms, and be able to detect any attempts to sabotage water quality (such as terrorism). Doing this requires fast and reliable methods to analyze water quality and understand if countermeasures are needed to protect human health and safety.

Our role
Ericsson has been involved in a number of water projects in recent years, such as the development of a water monitoring solution in rivers in the US, water access research projects with UN-Habitat within informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, and a project with Grundfos to develop water distribution systems. Now we are leading a smart city project in the City of Stockholm to develop an end-to-end solution for real-time monitoring of the water quality – from the source, through the distribution system and all the way to the end of the sewage system. The project runs under the umbrella of Digital Demo Stockholm, an innovation initiative that aims to help make Stockholm the world’s smartest city by 2040. The project is co-financed by Vinnova (the Swedish Innovation Agency) and our partners are the City of Stockholm, the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Water, Stockholm University and ABB.

The plan
This is a pure Internet of Things (IoT) project. We will use cellular networks to connect small sensors to the cloud for real-time data analysis. The results will be visible in any internet-connected device. It may sound simple, but we have identified a number of challenges. One is to find reliable sensors that can measure what we want them to measure. Another is ensuring connectivity under water and underground in the distribution system. We are determined to overcome these and other challenges, however, and provide a good solution that showcases what the IoT is all about.

The project is in three phases, where the first one is to connect the drinking water source of Stockholm – Lake Mälaren. The second phase is to connect the distribution system to detect microorganisms, and the third phase aims to find pollutants in the sewage and storm water system of the city. We intend to use narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) with the benefits of larger coverage and longer power life time of the sensors.

The benefits
Most cities and water utilities currently use manual sampling and laboratory detection methods to analyze water quality. Lead times from sampling to result are long, which can make any countermeasures inappropriate due to the time lag. A real-time monitoring solution can serve as an early warning system to ensure that appropriate measures can be deployed quickly.

This project is a great example for what IoT truly is and how existing NB-IoT technology (and the 5G technology of the future) can be used to bring us closer to achieving SDG #6: Clean water and sanitation. Watch this space!

Written by Daniel Paska

Daniel Paska is Ericsson's sustainability and corporate responsibility program manager for the Nordics and Central Asia. Daniel has been with the company since 2015, and previously worked with sustainability in governmental agencies, telecom and the finance industry.

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