Taggle driving innovation and choice with digital water metering

As temperatures soar and the land becomes parched, Taggle Systems innovates and adapts, looking for ways to best save our most valuable resource, water, with digital water metering.

As temperatures soar and the land becomes parched, Taggle Systems innovates and adapts, looking for ways to best save our most valuable resource, water, with digital water metering.

Taggle has built an ecosystem of technologies, partners and solutions to deliver water-saving outcomes to councils and water utilities by offering an end-to-end solution for digital water metering.

Collecting and delivering data requires hardware, networks, software, integration and support services, to which Taggle continues to expand its capabilities, adopt new technologies, invest in R&D and build partnerships.

Adopting Telstra NB-IoT

“As part of our expanding capabilities, we have partnered with Telstra to provide NB-IoT connectivity,” David Peters, CEO of Taggle, said.

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a communications standard with wireless IoT protocol that uses low-power, wide-area network (WAN) technology. NB-IoT allows IoT devices to operate and communicate via telecommunications networks.

“Telstra has the widest NB-IoT network coverage in Australia, which our customers can now tap into,” said Peters. “Our adoption of NB-IoT has unlocked additional options for our customers. They can now deploy digital meters very quickly and at scale without needing to build a network if one already exists, which is a great solution for urban rollouts.”

“We can very quickly get meters installed and projects up and running without having to install a network, which can take time, particularly in urban environments.”

Taggle can also support regional and rural areas and black spots in urban areas that might not have NB-IoT coverage with the Taggle Byron network and Myriota satellite network. The adoption of multiple radio technologies has given Taggle ubiquitous coverage across Australia.

The flexibility to choose between various radio technologies to suit different environments and applications gives Taggle customers unrivalled choices and service options.

Expanding the range of meters

“An ancillary benefit of NB-IoT is the growing range of IoT meters entering the market, which we are looking to include in Taggle’s offering,” he said. “Australia has traditionally installed mechanical meters that use mechanical movement to measure water flow through the meter. However, most NB-IoT meters are static, using ultrasonic waves or electromagnetism to measure water flow.”

By understanding the preferences of different clients, Taggle will expand its offering of mechanical and static meters. Peters pointed out that static meters can be fantastic for tracking non-potable water or places with significant turbidity.

“We currently have static meters installed for several councils, including Murray River Council raw water schemes,” he said. “In raw water, there’s a lot of turbidity, so it’s better to have a static meter than something moving physically. It risks getting clogged or broken by things travelling through the pipe.”

Large utilities embrace the choice

Ultimately, providing different meters and networks is about providing choices to customers. Taggle has recently won pilot programs for three large urban utilities around Australia that are testing Taggle’s new NB-IoT offerings.

“These three projects are a great start on our NB-IoT journey,” Peters said. “We have ample experience with deployments and are learning the nuisances of the different technologies with these pilots. So far, the pilots are all running smoothly, and all the meters already deployed are operating as we had hoped.”

Taggle has positioned itself as an end-to-end supplier, incorporating hardware, software, networks, installation, and management.

“Our clients are happy to have us coordinate everything,” said Peters. “If there is a problem at any project step, we manage it. We now provide more options, but Taggle still delivers all the components and ensures the solution works at every stage. We’ve always offered an end-to-end solution and find this works well for our customers. If they want to incorporate other devices, networks or software, we can include that as our ecosystem is open, and we can integrate with other business applications.”

Peters acknowledges that some customers may want to utilise technologies from different providers. “If they want to incorporate other devices, networks or software, we can accommodate that as our ecosystem is open and interoperable, we can integrate with other business applications,” Peters said. “For example, some customers use other meters and networks, and others export their data to SCADA and GIS systems.

“We’ve been doing this for over 13 years now,” he said. “We’ll continue offering our end-to-end solutions while building more partnerships to support that ecosystem. We’ve got the devices, the networks, the software and the integration, the project management and installation processes working together smoothly.”

The market breakdown

When it comes to water meters, it can be hard to envisage how large the market is in Australia. Peters broke it down.

“There are about 11 million water meters in Australia,” he said. “About 700,000 digital water meters have been installed nationwide, and Taggle has rolled out about 300,000. That leaves a little over 10 million water meters in the country yet to be converted. 80 per cent of them are in urban areas, representing about 8 million meters. I would expect that by the end of 2035, every water meter in the country will be digital. Taggle plans to be managing a good portion of those.”

Peters and Taggle are anticipating significant growth in the near to medium term. 2023 was Taggle’s best year yet in terms of installations, revenue, and profitability, with 2024 continuing to grow.

Finding leaks through data

When considering digital water metering, it is easy to get caught up in a technology debate as each method has pros and cons. However, what is essential is the outcomes. Find leaks, save lost water, manage the network, and improve customer relationships.

It’s well established that a large portion of treated water is lost to leaks, and the goal is to eliminate as many leaks as possible. “Councils and water utilities often lose 30 to 40 per cent of the water treated through leaks,” he said. “These leaks either occur behind the meter on a residential or commercial property or within the water network.”

Aqualus Water, Taggle’s meter data management software, has many tools to identify, locate and notify customers if there is a leak on their property.

From the water meter data, the software can quickly identify and alert to large leaks that might go unnoticed for some time. Councils and utilities can also target smaller leaks right down below 10 litres per hour. When water resources are scarce, these small leaks add up to significant water losses. Identifying and fixing these leaks will save the property owners money, prevent the utility from paying for costly leak rebates and billing disputes, and reduce the demand for stretched water supplies.

Network leaks present a slightly different problem. They result in lost water and revenue as the water never makes it to the end user. Quantifying and narrowing down leak locations can be done using district-metered areas (DMAs). Monitoring DMAs tracks the difference between the water that goes into the DMA and the water used by all the properties.

“Once water utilities and councils have identified what DMAs or areas within DMAs have the largest leaks, teams can roll out to conduct more localised leak detections. They can identify the precise location of those leaks and fix them. It’s a way of optimising limited resources to produce the best outcome.”

“When a mains break occurs, the data highlights them quickly, and staff can address them before too much water is lost or before the break gets any worse,” Peters said. “Leaks in the network can account for 20 to 30 per cent of all water produced, so there are some huge water savings that can be made in water management.”

Community access to the data

Taggle’s solution includes a customer portal to inform residents and businesses of their water consumption. Property owners, tenants and agents can sign up to the portal to access leak and high consumption alerts via SMS and email, as well as weekly and monthly email reports, which send a summary including a graph of usage and leaks identified by the system. The set-and-forget design allows people to get information when required without logging in regularly.

Directing these notifications to consumers means they are more likely to act immediately. Peters spoke about how some residents have detected leaks of thousands of litres per hour only once the digital meter was installed.

“This has happened on properties where the leak is heading into sandy or rocky soil,” he said. “They had no idea they had these large leaks, so they are saving money by taking action and fixing the leak. Equally, the council or water utility saves money because they will not have to process and deliver as much water, leaving more for the environment.”

It’s important to remember that water that leaves the treatment plant has many associated costs. It’s been collected, costly chemicals and energy used to treat it, moved and stored. Delivering water is expensive for any water utility, so preventing losses can have a significant impact.

“Detecting leaks and fixing them is a core benefit of digital metering, no matter what technology is used to achieve it,” he said.

Automation and accuracy

A vital part of the Taggle ecosystem is integrating billing and business systems. With digital water meters, customers can be billed accurately, and data can flow between Aqualus Water and the utility’s billing system.

Setting up these integrations can be challenging with many variables across different platforms. However, data can flow seamlessly once in place, improving workflow and minimising errors.

“A great thing about councils and utilities is that they are not competing and are very willing to share their experiences and processes,” said Peters. “Once we have developed the integration for a particular piece of software, and even version of the software, as they can vary greatly even from the same provider, our customers are willing to share the learnings and best practices with other utilities about to embark on the same integration. Taggle also hosts User Group events and webinars to encourage knowledge sharing between our customers.”

Reporting and regulation

The data from digital water metering can be of high value when it comes to regulatory reporting and transparency for shareholders. Water utilities must report against non-revenue water. Aqualus Water can assist in populating those reports.

The data can also be used in planning and forecasting. For example, the data can be a part of developing new subdivisions. The water utility can calculate the likely highs and lows of a water system for a specific population size and the possible usage profile for that population. These data-driven decisions can save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in infrastructure costs.

Looking to the future

Digital water metering is a proven technology with more choices available than ever. Taggle encourages its future customers to be aware of the array of options. It is an opportunity to start conversations, talk to those who have already gone down the path and learn from their experience. The benefits are significant and well worth the investment.

For more information, visit https://taggle.com/

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