How 5G will improve water management

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2020 has been a tough year. We all agree on that. However, no one doubts that the COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as the watershed moment in the digital transformation in society.

5G technology will affect the primary aspects of our lives. One of the most important, albeit maybe the least obvious, is the adaptation of 5G to the management of the water cycle and the way in which this technology can benefit the management of water resources.

The changes in the generations of technology in just a few years (we have gone through 2G, 3G, 4G…) have led to significant advances for many social and economic activities.

I have heard experts say that 5G is the next stage of the industrial revolution, or even the new space race, in that order. Be that as it may, this new technology represents a profound change in the way mobile networks are designed and approached. 4G networks overcame connectivity, network access and speed problems.

5G supports more complex, faster and better problem solving. From now on, networks will be ultra-flexible, they will enable us to connect more low complexity devices to the Net (IoT) or have more robust connections. They will also help us to process information very quickly.

Thanks to 5G we will see the development of smart cities, remote surgeries, autonomous driving vehicles, process automation and, naturally, a greater control over water management.

For a long time, specialists (I have been in the information systems and data analysis industry for many years) have been asking themselves: what use cases could be applied in the water sector thanks to 5G?

The versatility of 5G, together with the advances in other areas such as sensorization, presents scenarios with multiple possibilities, all of which are very positive.

Many of the applications and improvements that 5G will bring to water resource management will be related to any device that can be connected to a sensor and provide data that can be sent.

We will be able to connect thousands of devices (the technology can support up to 1,000 sensors per square kilometer) and will have robust and reliable connections, and specific functionalities for reducing battery consumption.

Vital infrastructure management companies, such as water utilities, will be able to apply the concept of “network slices” and have their “own” communications infrastructure, implementing solid pre-defined quality parameters, which can be very important when designing and managing use cases for these communications networks.

“Edge computing” will allow us to define algorithms for decision-making and use sensors to identify water leaks, predict water quality parameters or provide some autonomy to certain processes that will become more efficient over time, such as ML or AI.

We will be able to achieve greater energy efficiency and maintain infrastructures and sanitation systems with greater guarantees for success.

With 5G, operators can provide technical support remotely via augmented reality calls, thus bypassing the need to travel. And in the agricultural sector, for example, autonomous vehicles could be used for planting and harvesting.

A smart adaptation of 5G, with the clear objective of strengthening water infrastructures and guaranteeing safe access to drinking water and sanitation systems, will change the lives of many people in the short term.

The time has come to define use cases. 5G will allow us to have better control of water resources and to have more efficient water management.

Article by Chema Nebot, Head of Business Development at Idrica

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