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​'6 Senses' approach to the Internet of simple Things

The Internet of Things is already delivering significant positive benefits through unlocking previously inaccessible asset data. This technology is here, today, and has already fast moved beyond just proof of concept into production-ready delivery models. We need to rapidly adapt our skillset in this area, just to remain relevant, let alone to forge any competitive advantage. This is not a tide that will wash over you if you simply stand still: it is more of a tidal deluge that we can steady ourselves to navigate or allow ourselves to be carried up in its swirl, not knowing where or when it might spit us out.

Perhaps the secret to maintaining some modicum of stability through this flood is recognising that this talks very much to a deluge of data. To this end, successful navigation of the Internet of simple Things could simply look like ‘connecting the unconnected’ and/or ‘making improvements to ecosystems through prudent use of data’.

With a strong background in 5 Water networks (including rivers and treatment maintenance delivery), I have previously struggled to find suitable devices to deliver on this outcome. More recently, using a 5 Senses approach where we use a range of underground, automated systems to help us study the behaviour of water, I have now started to see and implement operational systems that help to deliver this insight across each of the 5 Water strands with the all-important sixth sense being data utilisation.

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Suffice to say that the past 24 months has seen the nexus of four things that have collectively led to amplification of both the importance and the potential of this sixth sense. Three are technology related and relate to the advent of:

  • low cost micro radios (South Korea);
  • long life batteries (China); and
  • wide availability of reliable low powered wide area network (LPWAN).

The fourth is the inevitable expansion of innovation collaborations between the end users and it is in this latter regard that Citycare Water is confident it has stolen a march on many of our competitors. As an experienced operations and maintenance team, with significant first-hand knowledge of the assets we maintain and the behaviour of the networks we preside over, our alignment with an industry-leading and focused, local IoT start-up company has enabled us to clearly define end purpose applications and design fit-for-purpose IoT devices. We have forced the agility to test and fail fast, to enable us to ultimately deploy devices within an imposed four week period.

Keeping in mind the ‘simple’ in our IosT nomenclature, our aim was always to take small packets of critical data from the field and to display these in a meaningful way to ensure the asset and operations staff could then understand trends and make fixes, changes or recommendations accordingly.

A compelling and current example of our IosT and 6 Sense success to date is recent delivery of a ‘taste and smell’ network of chlorine level and pump monitoring devices across 50 sites within four weeks. Using widely available ‘App store’ QR code systems we have also been able to control and record who entered each chlorination site to deliver or work on these proprietary systems. This fit-for-purpose approach has shattered the shackles of traditional high cost, long lead time and complex SCADA systems.

Dosing Pump web

LevelSense was deployed into high usage chlorine tanks to monitor usage. We abandoned traditional float sensor and high resolution laser/ultrasonic level technology, implementing a $650 standalone sensor. Using a 15 minute reporting period via Digisense over a Sigfox supported 920 MHz network, we were able to see the rate of change – predicting resupply and automatically alarming the supplier. They could then prudently schedule their batching and supply in working hours. This replaced the high cost and unreliable traditional options of a high and low float alarm system (which typically failed due to gas bubbling) or over-specced ultrasonic systems. The network costs are now also substantially lower - in the $2/unit/month range.

Put simply then, Citycare firmly believes IosT is a game changer for our business. It is about matching the right devices with asset owner and operator needs, focusing on driving better immediate and mid-term positive outcomes through utilisation of targeted asset data.

When you can see what’s going on and prudently plan your response it has to be good! That’s the Internet of simple Things.

Hugh Blake-Manson - Asset Optimisation Manager, Citycare Water

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