Analysis: Chile invests in water resource management


We analyse programmes deployed by Essbio, one of the largest water distribution company in Chile, as of Q4 2016.

Formed in 1990 to provide water, wastewater and sewage services, to date Essbio serves some 2.5 million residents in surrounding areas of the Chilean capital, Santiago.

As a result of  a protracted drought over the past seven years, the demand for smart water has increased in the Latin American country. Rainfall and snowfall accumulation which are the major sources of water lowered resulting in decreases in dam levels.

In addition, rapid increases in the population, and in use of water in the commercial and industrial sectors has driven the increase in water demand and in shortages of water.

Essbio trials smart water solutions

This, in turn, has pushed both Essbio and the Chilean government to seek for digital technologies and innovative business models to improve management of water distribution systems. Since 2016, Essbio has engaged in a number of deals with technology providers in testing their solutions to improve its business.

Through the use of digital technologies, Essbio is confident it will help consumers improve their water efficiency by having access to real-time water consumption data.

In October 2016, the water distributor signed an agreement with Israel-based technology firm Takadu to test the company’s cloud-based leakage solution in optimising its operations through improved management of water network.

The smart water technology was deployed to monitor some 2,400km of distribution pipeline. The two parties agreed to deploy the solution to monitor Essbio’s 10,000km of the pipeline if the pilot is successful.

Takadu claims its technology will help Essbio to detect faulty assets, leaks, bursts, monitor water pressure levels and quality, and a range of operational faults within its distribution network.

The technology provides Essbio with real-time data on the performance of its water distribution assets to reduce water loss and operational expenses, improve customer service and improve the lifespan of water distribution assets.

Gonzalo Reyes, Essbio’s planning & engineering director, said: “With this TaKaDu program, we are hoping to have online information about the behaviour of our drinking water network, which will allow us to reduce reaction time to solve leakage problems, improve service and reduce water loss.”

Research and development of smart water solutions

Since 2016, Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica, Chinese IoT technology company Huawei and the Chilean government partnered to deploy a narrow-band IoT network for use by utility companies and cities to provide two-way communication for IoT devices including smart meters and smart water applications.

This year, the three extended their partnership through the establishment of an NB-IoT research and development centre in Chile.

According to the Internet of Business, the laboratory will bring together the expertise of Telefonica, Huawei and other smart water and smart grid solution providers in improving Chile’s water and energy sectors through the development of new and improvements to existing technologies.

The lab will implement programmes for start-ups, will focus on collaborative design and testing of new solutions in partnership with local and international utilities including Essbio and solution providers.

“Telefonica NB-IoT Open Lab is an IoT space that aims at building a complete ecosystem of partners, manufacturers, technicians, developers and designers to bring the best solutions to market around Mobile IoT networks. Chile NB-IoT Open Lab will accelerate the development of IoT commercial solutions and ensure they are supported by a broad ecosystem,” said Vicente Muñoz, chief IoT officer at Telefonica.

And in June this year, Essbio announced its partnership with Danish firm Kamstrup in deploying an advanced smart meter pilot programme.

The pilot includes the deployment of some 6,000 Ultrasonic smart water meters developed by Kamstrup to help customers of Essbio improve management of how they consume water.

The smart water meters will also help the utility to accurately bill its customers, improve revenue collection in order to raise enough funds to fund its operations.

The Kamstrup smart water meters have been approved by the Department of Scientific and Technological Research of Catholic University of Chile and SUBTEL to meet the country’s metering and telecommunication standards, respectively.

Ramón López Farías, sales manager for Latin America at Kamstrup, added: “This easy-to-use solution will provide highly accurate readings while reducing the amount of time its employees spend reading meters, all without having to disturb customers.”

Customer service, company reputation and relevance

Majority of programmes being deployed by Essbio are in line with the company’s strategy developed in 2006 to improve customer satisfaction by achieving its sustainability goals.

In putting its strategy in practice, Essbio has become one of the most relevant companies in the growth of the Chilean economy, reported Diario Conceptions.

A survey conducted by the Reputation Institute to understand the reputation of some 116 companies in Chile indicated that Essbio is one of the most highly ranked companies due to the services it offers its customers. The survey included some 5,000 Chileans.

Claudio Santelices, Customer and CSR Manager of Essbio, said: “We are very pleased with this recognition, however, we are aware that the challenges for service companies are increasing daily, before clients and communities more demanding, for which we must reinforce our operational, service and relationship plans.”