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Smart Sensors as tools to meet the challenges of urban population growth, pollution and plastics in the ocean

10/05/2019

It is now indisputable that we need to become more pro-active to save our planet!

With the public and media now awakened to the issues concerning climate change, population growth and pollution such as Plastics in the Ocean (BBC Blue Planet 2018 and UN Paris Report, May 2019), the Water and Wastewater Industry will have to become much more pro-active to respond to the growing criticism and expectations.

However, how can a politically bound and cost constrained industry implement change where data logging has been the norm since the 1970s, without breaking the bank, emitting millions of tons of CO2 in the process through digging up thousands of miles/km of streets causing widespread disruption?

Retrofit Smart Sensors and Real-Time Control

Part of the answer we believe is to sweat the existing assets, through the application of strategically deployed retrofit wireless Smart Sensor technology with edge computing functions capable of generating real-time, simple binary on/off, start/stop type data to enable the control of existing assets such as pumps and penstocks, plus where they do not exist control to retrofit flow regulators, actuators and containment valves.

Ordinary Smart Sensors will not meet the demands of the Water Industry as all devices must be more than just analytically smart.  Sensors also need the ability to operate at ultra-low power levels operating off battery power for perhaps a decade, to use smart communications to signal in real-time from awkward subterranean locations and finally to facilitate through good design “Smart Installation” practices to permit the sensors to be installed, tested and verified in seconds without the need for highly skilled staff, confined space entry teams and computer programmers using laptops that currently result in extended road closures and aborted installations when it is raining.  Finally, they must be durable, also to withstand the harsh locations within, for example, a sewer and where applicable, comply with the ATEX directive 2014/34/EU.

Hence water industry smart sensors should include:

  • Simple edge computing making them easy to interface, e.g. 1/0 binary decision high/OK or flow/no-flow
  • Ultra-low power consumption with a target life of 10 years
  • Virtual constant real-time reading
  • Smart communications – virtual constant real-time reporting both locally and remotely
  • Smart installation without the need for calibration and field programming laptops, etc.
  • Ability to install under all weather conditions day or night and without the need for confined space entry teams
  • Ability to survive in the tough environment of a sewer and comply with ATEX and other standards
  • Fail-safe in the event of ragging or containment with FOG, etc.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, strategically applied retrofit Smart Sensors and real-time controls are useful tools in the battle against Climate Change, Pollution and Urban Expansion.

Compared to re-laying sewer networks, retrofit real-time flow control can produce significant cost savings with the added benefit of minimal disruption.

Although not a magic “silver bullet”, these methods and techniques have widespread applicability from tackling existing sewer flooding hotspots, containing CSO overflows, to controlling the flow from new building/industrial developments.  Thereby in the latter case, permitting connection to an ordinary fully laden sewer.

 

RDN Press Office