u-blox has announced that its NINA-B3 stand-alone Bluetooth low energy modules and SARA-R410M-02B LTE M/NB IoT and enhanced data rates for GSM evolution (EGPRS) cellular module for low power wide area applications are being used in a data logger (pulse counter) for a smart water metering solution that relies on mesh networking to simplify deployment. This trial should help demonstrate why the adoption of mesh-networked water meters in Australia can now be a reality.

The WaterLink SmartMESH water meter from WaterSynergy Group, an Australian company focusing on the management of water resources, uses mesh networking technology to connect a number of water meters to each other and to a cellular gateway. The mesh networking technology relies on hardware within the u-blox NINA-B3 module and a software stack developed by Wirepas, a company based in Finland providing wireless mesh network connectivity for massive IoT.

Many water meters are still read manually. Current efforts to connect water meters to the internet to simplify meter reading either use propriety RF protocols, or employ direct cellular connections as an alternative for more remote or isolated devices. The Wirepas Mesh software utilizes a decentralized architecture which improves robustness and efficiency throughout the network. This new and innovative mesh stack is highly scalable, low power and enables users to design devices that can form their own mesh networks. The resultant networks can access multiple gateways to ensure redundancy, and even automatically heal themselves if individual nodes, such as meters, routers, or gateways, drop out of service.

“The combination of scalable mesh IoT network software from Wirepas and robust hardware from u-blox is enabling us to simplify the installation of water meters (as an example, along with additional applications) and therefore cut the total cost of ownership for customers,” said George P Prencipe, director of WaterSynergy Group. “Field trials of our SmartMESH offering are already under way and we expect customer referrals once cost savings are realized.”

SmartMESH water meters are security sealed and, thanks to the efficiency of the Wirepas protocol as integrated within the NINA-B3 module, are expected to run for up to 15 years on the internal battery. The NINA-B3 modules use 2.4 GHz frequency and an innovative internal antenna to establish robust communications, even in the most challenging RF environments.

WaterSynergy Group also offers a SmartMESH Cellular Gateway, which can use either the NB-IoT or CAT-M1 low power cellular communications protocols to make a wireless connection to the internet for up to 100 SmartMESH modules. These protocols typically provide greater RF penetration than higher category 4G services, adding to the overall robustness of the SmartMESH offering. Wirepas Mesh routers are also ideal for difficult reception areas or even to bridge building to building applications.

Developing the SmartMESH product range demanded the integration of hardware, firmware and application software from multiple sources. Ray Keefe, director and owner of Successful Endeavors. In the field on the SmartMESH offering, Keefe said, “u-blox gave us great support as we developed this complex product. What made the job simpler was the robustness of the u-blox NINA-B3 module design and software support, and its easy integration with the Wirepas Mesh communications stack.” 

Jason Meilhon, senior business development manager at u-blox, added: “WaterSynergy’s SmartMESH data logger is a great demonstration of the advantages of meshed networking for connected devices. We expect that the use of mesh networking for IoT devices will grow exponentially in the next five years.”