Wideco: Smart Digital Solutions Simplifying a Sustainable Future

LTE-M enabling remote asset management

For more than 35 years, Wideco Sweden AB has been a leading player in developing Leak Detection Systems for the district heating pipes industry and related underground areas. Now, they’re taking their decades of knowledge and experience and combining it with new IoT technology to not only better serve their current customer base but to also enhance their offering. For Wideco, adding LTE-M and NB-IoT to their range means continuing to evolve their business, offering customers around the globe solutions that save both money and time, while also boosting sustainability.

The history

Back in 1982, when Wideco was founded, there weren’t any smartphones, apps, or wireless connectivity to help monitor remote assets like district pipes – and there certainly wasn’t IoT as we know it today. Back then, Wideco used alarm units with red and green lights – if something went wrong, such as too much moisture in the pipe’s insulation or a leak, the red light would show. If everything was ok, it was the green light.

The challenge with this system was that it was entirely manual – you had to first go out into the field and install the systems, then you had to send people to check on them regularly. It was labor and time intensive and it wasn’t economical. So, when IoT arrived on the scene, Wideco saw the opportunity to enhance their offering.

Implementing IoT

Wideco’s IoT journey began with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), which was often unreliable, with frequent disconnects. But as connectivity evolved, so too did the Wideco solution.

“The advances in IoT technology have been a game changer for us,” explains Karl-Johan Wirfalk, CEO Wideco. “For the past decade or so we’ve been working with 2G and 3G, but with new LPWA protocols like LTE-M and NB-IoT becoming available, we see them as a compliment to what we already offer. The coverage and stability of LTE-M and NB-IoT are better for some applications, such as tracker sensors, and prices are coming down. Essentially, being able to offer a range of possibilities to our customers helps them implement the best IoT solution.”

Wideco has already implemented NB-IoT and LTE-M sensors into their IoT platform WISION, but because the technology around sensors is moving so quickly, with new sensors featuring new protocols coming onto the market all the time, the company instead sources them from a variety of partners, depending on the use case. Their own hardware is mainly focused on their core business – district heating and cooling – but as they move further to the smart city arena, Wideco wants to ensure they have the right sensors for the right job, whether that’s parking sensors, tracking solutions, or waste management. As a result, they work with partners and suppliers from around Europe to ensure they are able to offer the right quality sensor.

Technology around IoT sensors is moving quickly, with new sensors every day with new possibilities to create good applications – so we are finding them on the market in order to get the best options for our customers, no matter whether they are working with, for example, district heating, smart buildings, agriculture or water management

Anders Wiberg Business Developer Wideco

Swedish municipal energy group Jämtkraft in Östersund has been one of Wideco’s biggest district heating customers for many years. Currently, Jämtkraft has around 600 wireless devices working with the Wideco system to detect things like flooding and leakage in big pipes and underground chambers, but they were also interested in how they could use IoT sensors for other things.

“They’ve started using floating sensors to track water temperature at municipal bathing areas and lakes,” explains Anders. “This is a common and simple measurement that is easy to understand and it’s often a good place for municipalities to begin their IoT journey. Now, Jämtkraft is also testing door control sensors, so they will know if someone has broken into a cabinet out in the field or opened a door that should be closed, etc.  We’re seeing a lot of possibilities, particularly for our existing customers. Municipalities usually want to try LPWA technologies like NB-IoT and LTE-M, and for us, it’s a good way to help them understand how tracking various assets is beneficial and how to use our IoT platform WISION for visualization of data streams and also further integration to internal/external system of these using WISION Core AI / API.”

End-to-end solution

Being able to shift gears to serve the needs of customers well beyond district pipes is a good example of how IoT is maturing. Wideco, with the help of its partners, are able to help customers implement various IoT solutions with their end-to-end solution with a reliable platform that have been tested and used for more than 15 years.

Our cloud-based solution offers both hardware and software, as well as our web-based IoT platform WISION that analyzes data and allows customers to manage all of their units focusing on flexibility and scalability/performance.

Karl-Johan Wirfalk CEO Wideco

“We have one platform that is the engine of our system, that we have been building and expanding for more than fifteen years. It’s designed to work seamlessly, so whether a customer has 50 or 100,000 sensors with us, we can prepare those units and all the customer has to do is deploy them – they’re plug-and-play – and then log into the cloud to monitor them.”

And if the customer doesn’t want to monitor their deployment, Wideco can do that for them as a surveillance service, which includes not just monitoring but also data analyzation and monthly reports.

“Having an end-to-end solution – the software, the hardware, the platform – it’s key for many of our customers,” says Wirfalk. “But it’s also important to both us and our customers that we are flexible. We can act as the bridge, the smart supplier of the system, so you can work with our system, or you can work with your own software or even source your own sensors, with Wideco delivering the data. We’re not rigid in our offering, we’re flexible, so while we do offer a broad end-to-end solution, that is just one option for our customers – we able to provide which parts the customer wants and needs.”

Working with Tele2 IoT

Wideco has been working with Tele2 IoT for more than a decade, with Tele2 IoT being the main supplier of SIMs.

“We’ve tested others and sometimes our clients use their own SIM cards, but in general we use Tele2 IoT SIMs and connectivity, both in Sweden and abroad, where Tele2 IoT’s roaming solution is crucial, because we always need to have the best available network for what are often mission-critical applications. Tele2 IoT has been responsive, helpful, and has continually improved their solutions over the years, so everything works well, and we are very happy with the partnership.”

Wideco has tested Tele2 SIMs all over the world – South Korea, Qatar, Europe, the US, and has always been able to access the best available network. And while Wideco offers monitoring to its own customers, Wirfalk says that if they have trouble with a SIM going wild and crashing the system, this is where Tele2 IoT’s service is important, because an alert is always sent, allowing any problems to be quickly addressed.

“Having the new protocols LTE-M and NB-IoT from Tele2 IoT is bringing the coverage and stability some of our customers require,” says Wirfalk. “All LPWA technology is great for remote areas, has long battery life, and the costs are really coming down, which is also helpful. When combined with the growing LTE-M roaming list from Tele2 IoT, we believe this will help accelerate IoT adoption, particularly for municipalities.”

The future

Wideco is continually working to find new partners, developing innovative products in order to integrate and expand its offering in order to provide customers with the best possible IoT platform that really simplify the way to a sustainable future using smart connected solutions.

If you would like to learn more about LTE-M or Tele2 IoT’s managed connectivity, please get in touch.