Information flow has exploded in recent years. Today, with high speed internet that is truly high speed, WiFi and LTE, information, (commonly called data), now flows at a rate not imagined a decade ago. One way in which this data flow can very positively affect our lives is in helping us as households and us as a society use our resources more wisely.
A great example is also an important topic today, particularly in the western US; water. Clean and available water is so vital to everyday life, yet we can unintentionally be using more than we might want to or than we should. Just moving water from its source to our homes or businesses uses other resources – energy. This multiplies our need for wise use and conservation. When we store water, pump it, use it, drain it, treat it, reclaim it, we are expending electricity and other forms of energy in addition to the use of the water we pay for.
New technologies have been applied in recent years to do things like meter electricity and natural gas more efficiently. These technologies involve smart meters, digital radio links and internet Virtual Private Networks delivering meter data to data collection and processing centers for efficient and timely reporting of energy use. These technologies save time and money as well as providing the consumer with near real-time information about their use as well as alerting to possible over use, such as lights left on, thermostats set to low or water heaters heating water when the family is away.
Why not apply that same technology to water? In many places the water company is separate from the electric company; though the electric company may often also deliver natural gas. The electic smart meter and its companion smart gas meter deliver their data through 900 MHz digital short-range radio that “bubbles up” their data to neighborhood collecting points that, in turn, connect that collected data into a VPN over the Internet to the data center. An alliance between the electric utility and the local water utility to allow the water meter to pass its data through that same 900 MHz technology into the nearby electric or gas meter would allow that same efficiency and immediacy to be available for water users and the water utility’s billing system. The resulting efficiencies would thereby increase consumer awareness of their actual use and alert them to possible problems like leaky faucets or running toilets that waste water, and waste the energy that handles it.
Using technology and data flow in this way advances the “Smart City” concept and thereby helps reduce waste through better user-awareness. Reducing energy use in any manner is good for everyone, carbon footprint, cost, resource renewal and in every other way. With water being so precious and of such contention, aiding in its conservation is an all-around win. It is a very important Next Big Thing.