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IOT, cloud computing used to roll out e-water services

By , ITWeb
Africa , 16 Sep 2020

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IOT connectivity solutions provider Eseye have harnessed their technologies to support eWATER Services, a company which is making use of mobile technology to deliver reliable access to affordable clean water to some of the world’s poorest populations in Gambia, Tanzania and Ghana.

eWATER Services’ solution, eWaterPay, is a pre-payment water dispenser harnessing IOT, NFC technology, mobile money and cloud-based data analytics.

The technology behind the company ensures water collection revenue is tracked for transparency to ensure all stakeholders contributing to the operations and maintenance of a water system can be held accountable.

Alison Wedgwood, CEO of eWATER Services, says 40% of Africa’s population does not have access to clean water right now in 2020.

“So this is a problem that we are trying to address. We have designed a prepaid smart meter – eWaterPay. With this solution, we have created a tag that users buy water credits on. With this tag, users go out to the meter and buy credits, then go to a water tap where they touch the tap using the tag and water is dispensed while credit is deducted from the tag through the tap,” Wedgwood says.

She adds the company has also deployed an IOT solution which they put inside water tanks and transmits the information to a dashboard. Using this, eWATER Services can know the tank’s water levels in real time.

“The information then goes into the AWS cloud and that enables us to track every cent of the money that is spent by the consumers. We can also track every litre of water that is dispensed on every single meter. We also get the information on the tag users and how much water people are accessing,” she adds.

To pay for the water, the communities either use mobile money or cash.

Tokenised security

The eWATER Services system has an Eseye AnyNet Secure SIM smart card embedded within it. This ensures payment data is securely sent – through AWS encrypted IOTcommunications – to an eWaterPay ledger.

Replacing the need for a password with tokenised security adds another level of safeguarding. This guarantees the money is accurately collected in a timely manner, realising the necessary revenues to cover the cost of 24/7 operation and maintenance of the system.

Alongside payments, live data from across the water system is collected from connected IOT sensors including the taps, and transmitted via Eseye’s managed connectivity network to provide real time monitoring of usage and performance. Ensuring this is safely stored, so it can be analysed, is vital to identifying the need for maintenance and guaranteeing device reliability.

This protects individuals’ ability to get water throughout the day, removing the risk of “pump rush” experienced in old-fashioned systems where the pump was only turned on for a couple of hours each day.

This is particularly valuable in the current, COVID-19 climate where social distancing is vital to population health, and access to clean water is critical to mitigate the risks of transmission.

“Absolutely key to this project is the data – getting back the information through the cloud and that’s where using Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure is integral,” Wedgwood says.

She explains that data is quite vital for the operation because the big problem in the water sector in Africa is understanding what is happening on the ground.

“We have got some villages that are very remote and getting there to know what’s happening is quite a challenge. However, with the power of cloud computing, the data is always coming and we always know what is happening in those communities. If there is a problem, we can then commit to sending someone there. The biggest problem has been the $15 billion of funding going into water programmes across Africa each year but you don’t have any kind of data on the projects.”

Cloud infrastructure

Orlando Scott-Cowley, principle BD, WWPS Solutions Architecture at AWS, says AWS is bringing the cloud infrastructure for the IOTdevices and Eseye is one of the companies in its partner network which provides connectivity between AWS and the devices.

“In this case, we have IOT-enabled taps and pumps which allow access to water but these also produce a lot of data,” Scott-Cowley says.

“Around the world, there are now billions of devices, and in this case, taps and pumps in Africa. Remember these are small devices with a tiny CPU [central processing unit]. So the cloud, in this case, becomes disproportionately important to these devices – it’s effectively where the processing is done and the analytics is collected.”

According to Scott-Cowley, most IOT applications that have been built over the past few years have been built using AWS to supplement them.

“We have services like AWS IOT and AWS Greengrass that give developers the ability to decide how the IOT device works, how it behaves, and how it processes the data,” he says.

According to Scott-Cowley, the cloud also removes latency issues in regards to the processing of the data, and gives the customer a centralised location for data processing and data collection.

Paul Marshall, Eseye's Chief Customer Officer and Co-Founder, comments that his company’s role is to provide managed connectivity to eWATER Services.

“We provide managed connectivity to devices around the world and this is also vital to eWATER Services who are looking to deploy their solution in multiple countries,” says Marshall.

Currently, eWATER Services is present in 30 villages across Gambia, Tanzania and Ghana and Wedgwood says plans are afoot to spread the project to 85 villages in the next few months.

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