26 Nov
by Upepo Technology and Esri Eastern Africa

Handwashing in Real Time: IoT Monitoring and Mapping of Water Consumption During the Covid-19 Pandemic

As the world confronts the Covid-19 pandemic that has spread globally with millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths globally with untold economic and social disruption, a ubiquitous and low-cost preventative measure to reduce contamination is to “regularly and thoroughly clean and wash your hands with soap and water”.

Consistent handwashing requires access to a portable water source that is preferably treated, has service continuity with regulated water quality -- that bundled together is a Himalayan and uphill task for Kenya’s 103 water utilities who collectively lose about 52% of their water to physical leaks and commercial losses. These physical losses alone contribute to the loss of two in five liters of water being produced in an environment where across these utilities, the average hours of supply have fallen to 13 hours per day in 2017/2018, a decline from 14 hours the previous year and way below the acceptable sector benchmark of 16 hours set by the country’s water services regulator, the Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB) in its performance benchmarks for the sector.

In October 2019, Safaricom PLC and Upepo Technology, a Kenyan technology firm, commenced a pilot project to provide the real time Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring of water consumption to automate water management at one of Kenya’s most successful water utilities, Embu Water and Sanitation Company (EWASCO). The objective of the pilot is to relay real time data on Safaircom’s Narrow Band (NB-IoT) network from IoT devices installed at 20 households to the Microsoft Azure Cloud with real-time mapping and analytics powered by Esri Eastern Africa’s ArcGIS Platform.

iframe 1 Above: Safaricom’s dashboard for EWASCO Providing IoT Device Data Management and Mapping displaying water consumption on Upepo ‘s Bahari IoT Platform and ESRI’s ARCGIS Geo-Event Server.

This real time data transfer from these devices across a 45 kilometer radius within Embu County are supported by a digital twin of the utility’s network by connecting the real-time information from the smart meters using the ArcGIS GeoEvent Server. This enables the utility to monitor, respond and analyze its data for more informed actionable decision-making

Such real time data is important in denoting changes in household water consumption impacting EWASCO operational and revenue performance, but also to enhancing the response of Kenya’s water sector to the Covid-19 pandemic. By utilizing IoT devices, the consortia of Safaricom, Upepo and ESRI are able to provide real time information on water consumption to EWASCO can be utilized to enhance its water utility operations. This unique combination of wide area connectivity, IoT device management and mapping of water utility operations when combined with demographic information on population, age, food security and other indicators can support and provide decision-makers with tools to respond to the pandemic.

The question that Safaricom, Upepo and its mapping partner ESRI jointly seek to answer in series of 3 Blog Posts is how real time IoT monitoring of water consumption during the Covid-19 pandemic can inform decision making in Kenya’s water sector to support the Government’s response to the pandemic. Further we seek to fully understand how real time monitoring of water consumption supports hygiene including hand washing to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 to millions in Kenya’s populace.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, data from the monitoring denote a rapid shift with consumption decreasing amongst commercial customers and increasing in domestic customers as consumption patterns change indicative of the handwashing and hygienic measures taking root in the various households under monitoring as commercial customers reduce consumption under pandemic restrictions

The IoT smart metering pilot project in Embu indicates that water consumption has fallen by about 64.75 percent with a major fall off seen across the board for commercial consumers.

To illustrate this significant drop in water consumption, the IoT smart metering pilot indicates that although commercial consumers are only 20 percent of Embu Water’s overall connections, the contribution of these consumers to overall water consumption is high by volume and subsequently to its revenue. Indeed, it is clear that water consumption correlates strongly to general economic activity with IoT smart metering providing a real time traffic light system to provide insights into economic activity in a disaggregated manner at the zonal level for water service providers (WSPs) and at the devolved level of the County Government in Kenya’s administrative system where data is needed for planning and execution of functions including water provision.

IoT Smart Metering of Water Consumption during the Covid-19 Pandemic

From this granular picture of water consumption, the spikes and lows in water consumption can be seen for each consumer category over the month of March 2020 during which various Government of Kenya policy announcements on Covid-19 were announced.

iframe 2: Analyzing IoT Metering Device Data During the Covid -19 Period Tracking Policy Announcements by the Government of Kenya

From the figure above, IoT smart metering provides the writers with the ability to pinpoint trends in overall water consumption and to further refine data on the water flow rates during the Covid 19 pandemic for the various categories of consumers to denote time of use trends for water and accumulated consumption.

Utilizing the Safaricom NB-IoT network, Upepo’s IoT platform and ESRI’s Geo-Event server as a combined offering, it now possible to effectively track consumption during the Covid-19 pandemic for various consumer categories in real time providing policymakers with a new toolkit to combat the pandemic.