The term Internets of Things (IoT) was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 and the big corporate players like Google, Facebook, Apple, Samsung and LG have been practicing it for years. In recent years, it has become a hot topic and IoT ‘tech’ has started to flood the market.
Now, every ‘Thing’ would need to look smart and cool, hence not only has the phone started to “think and talk”, the Smart Devices, Smart Appliances, Smart Home, Smart Car, Smart Factory, Smart City are starting to form a Smart World.
How can the Water Industry catch up with this “smart” trend?
Let’s see what have the big players done so far. GE has launched Predix, a cloud-based platform that enables asset functionality monitoring. IBM® Intelligent Water software has been developed to deliver smarter water management through insights from data to help utilities manage pressure, detect leaks, reduce water consumption, mitigate sewer overflow, and better manage their water infrastructure, assets and operations. According to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the researchers at Clemson University are building the “Intelligent River” to provide real-time monitoring, analysis and management of water resources.
Of course, it would be cool if we can apply Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) across entire assets, collect the big data from all the facilities perform a thorough analysis in order to find out the insights to improve operational efficiency, enhance productivity and create new opportunities. However, this ideal case unlikely to happen due to the limitations of knowledge, budget, risk, standardization and legacy installed base.
I believe a lot of people will agree with me that we need to “start small” for new ventures in order to gain experience, take the calculated risk and predicted outcome. Let me share a case here to demonstrate how we can achieve that in the water industry.
A reservoir is surrounded by a few pumps / lift stations; the reservoir is 100km away from the centralized SCADA system. A standalone PLC and Ethernet Remote I/O is in place to control and monitor the water level of both reservoir and pump stations.
Kelvin, the Facilities Manager is being assigned to explore the implementation of IIoT within a timeframe of 3 months with budget of less than US$7,000. It should have low cyber security risk, justifiable benefits and consideration of future extension.
Kelvin has decided to pursue a simple IIoT project by partnering with an IIoT service provider. They deploy more sensors at field (e.g. weather stations, thermistors, BTU meter) and install a connectivity box next to the PLC. The sensors will collect more data such as temperature, humidity, energy consumption and water quality.
The connectivity box can take in additional signals and the I/O is expandable for future extension and the box is designed with unique connector for easy plug and play. The box is also equipped with 4G router in order to send the data back to the centralized SCADA and subsequently send to the IIoT platform securely (data is encrypted).
The collected data is in real-time and can be analysed individually (e.g. pump energy usage) and interoperability (e.g. pump can run at lower speed during the hot weather). The analysed data can be used to predict pump failure, save pump energy, early detection of the contamination or give early flood sign.
Kelvin has accomplished his mission and now his ‘THINGS’ look ‘smart’. In addition, he can easily communicate with his team about the current status, problem or performance of each facility by using the dashboard and generate a report in the structured data format (e.g. text, graph, image, video) for his management to discuss further improvement or to identify new opportunities. Do you think now Kelvin also looks “smart and cool”?
There are plenty of ways for you to implement the IIoT platform depending on your current situation (e.g. remote area, existing with or without SCADA system, multiple sites) and technical and commercial requirement (e.g. cyber security, cloud-based, redundancy, future expansion, budget).
Phoenix Contact offers flexible and customize IIoT solutions inclusive of the connectivity box, please feel free to drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org for clarification or discussion.
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