The Internet of Things has progressed rapidly in the last decade, providing numerous benefits for consumers, industries, and even government organizations. As a consumer, it can be difficult to break through the noise to see the most important benefits of IoT, especially when the spotlight is often focused on entertainment and convenience services. One benefit of IoT that is sometimes underrepresented, is the ability for new technologies to increase the efficiency and reduce costs of utility services.
Data from the Open & Agile Smart Cities initiative in Europe estimates that gross savings in a moderately sized smart city could be as much as 15% for water, 25% for waste management, and 50% for electrical lighting. Although these estimates might seem generous, they do reflect the optimism of other developed markets. As an example, data from the New Jersey Institute of Technology suggests that smart energy sensors could save the United States up to $1.2 billion dollars per year in the largest cities.
A Proven Case Study
The figures are exciting, but how exactly do they directly impact consumers? To answer this, we can look at how smart water sensors have benefitted residents in the city of Dubuque in Iowa, U.S.
In 2009, the city developed programs to introduce IoT connected sensors to consumer utility lines. Rather than traditional metering systems, residents and businesses were connected to smart meters that could automatically report data back to utility providers, allowing for real time usage monitoring and reporting. With the new meters, residents were better able to monitor their real time water usage and costs, which allowed for a 7% reduction in total water usage. The same system allowed for speedy detection of water leaks and flow problems, which were proactively monitored by the utility company. Because consumers had immediate access to their usage statistics, they could also identify leaks, faucets, or appliances in their homes that could be contributing to water waste. Considered a huge success, a similar system was adopted in the Australian city of Townsville, with similar positive results.
Considering this example of how IoT sensors have benefitted water utilities, it becomes easy to see how comparable systems could benefit electric and gas utilities. The savings aren’t just found from reducing usage and detecting leaks or faults, but also by reducing the cost of actually monitoring utility usage. Machine generated data can be interpreted by computers, eliminating the need for manual data interpretation. Meter reading at the service termination point also becomes unnecessary.
Wider Benefits that Integrate with Smart City Concepts
Using smart meters connected to the Internet of Things is clearly the future of utility metering, but there are still benefits beyond what has been discussed. With a smart city that proactively collects and interprets data, there are possibilities to improve utility infrastructure, identify trends, and plan utilities for new developments based on existing data.
Overall, the potential cost savings and benefits will far outweigh any investment that is made to modernize existing utility networks. Any city of significant size should be able to clearly measure the benefits of IoT, and the adoption rate of new technologies will serve the interests of both service providers, and the end of line consumers.
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