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INTELLIGENT WATER SOLUTIONS
testing narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), a low-powered, low-cost
communications technology that significantly extends the use of
real-time monitoring of assets. This, in turn, helps to improve the
reliability, efficiency and safety of water and sewer assets.
NB-IoT uses less power than other communications standards,
enabling thousands of physical objects – devices, infrastructure,
wearables and vehicles – to be connected with less energy use.
This technology could revolutionise utility networks because it is
designed to cheaply power connected devices for long stretches
of time in remote locations.
Working with global ICT providers Optus, Vodafone and Huawei
as project partners, the new infrastructure has been trialled on
the Mornington Peninsula, as well as in the Melbourne CBD and
Dandenong Ranges. The use of NB-IoT means that data can
be exchanged regardless of location, giving detailed, real-time
information on performance, faults and asset condition across
the water network. This data can be used to control wastewater
flows from each property and identify faults across the network.
Initially rolled out on the Mornington Peninsula, the technology
is also being tested under different conditions in other locations
across a total test area of 1000 square kilometres, including the
Dandenong Ranges and the Southbank area in Melbourne’s CBD.
A key advantage is the technology’s cost-effectiveness. Where the
3G technology (designed for voice and data transmission) costs up
to $100 per unit, NB-IoT chipsets can cost less than $5 each. In
addition, these chipsets can be used with existing communications
infrastructure, which can be adapted by simply updating the software,
rather than requiring new towers or transmitters to be installed.
IoT technology has been deployed in a number of ways in SEW’s
network. One of the major problems for sewage networks is
rainwater ingress. When rainwater infiltrates the sewage treatment
plants, it ends up being treated as sewage, and therefore means
that the treatment plants are functioning less efficiently and are
more costly. Using ultrasonics, SEW can scan a sewer to get a
flow measure. As soon as rainfall comes through the system, the
data is automatically analysed to help pinpoint where the rainwater
is infiltrating the network. This method, which more accurately and
more efficiently measures rainfall ingress, is a huge step forward
that will bring about substantial financial benefits.
As well as tracking data on the sewer network, SEW is conducting
extensive testing of between 50–100 cases per day in a broad
range of scenarios, including water meters, manhole covers, fire
hydrant sensors, areas surrounding power stations, bodies of
water, basements and even buried sensors. An important function
of the sensors used on manhole covers, asset entry points and car
parks, for instance, is that they alert operators to any unauthorised
access, thereby reducing the risk of accident or injury.
Another application for the sensors is in rainwater tank
management systems, where they transmit data about storage
levels and expected rainfall. This data can then be used to
optimise methods of rainwater harvesting and stormwater run-off.
Similarly, sensors can be used for applications such as measuring
free chlorine residuals and detecting odours.
When it comes to monitoring flow pressure, IoT again offers
huge benefits. Using traditional monitoring approaches, SEW
estimates costs at between $30,000 and $50,000 – this
involves installing a cabinet with an electricity connection, as
well as installing telemetry and flow metering equipment. Using
IoT technology for the same application costs around $3000 to
$5000, meaning that many more of these flow monitoring points
can be placed in the network.
Detecting leaks is also made much more efficient with IoT
technology – instead of needing to shut down an entire zone and
use mechanical valves to detect leaks, SEW has established virtual
metering zones and, with more two-way flow sensors deployed,
leaks can be detected without having to compromise the integrity
or operation of the entire network. These sensors are a fraction
of the cost of their forerunners. The automation of valves is also a
huge step forward; a task that once required someone to manually
open and close valves in various locations can now be controlled
and manipulated from the office.
One challenge raised by the rapid uptake of IoT is the sheer
volume of information that it makes available. In the case of
SEW, the water authority has built a network operations centre
at its new offices in order to manage all of the data coming from
the network. The centre provides the opportunity to visualise
and control all the devices in the case study, along with CCTV
and SCADA technology, and all analytics is done in the network
operations centre. The future of IoT in the water industry will
largely hinge on such operations centres and the analytical
function that they perform. These are at the strategic core of the
water networks of the future.
NB-IOT USES LESS
POWER THAN OTHER
OBJECTS – DEVICES,
VEHICLES – TO BE
LESS ENERGY USE
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