Summer is here. And so is the very real threat of water scarcity. It is not new to us, sure, but the need for smart water management is now more urgent than ever.
What does that entail? Well, like everything “smart”, it means making use of technology and wireless / cellular connectivity to better predict, manage and utilise the resources available to us.
What makes a technology “smart”? For starters, interoperability with other applications, especially the Geographical Information System, weather forecast, etc., and flexibility to integrate with other systems, including existing “legacy” systems. Loosely, this translates to one technology in particular: IoT.
In the world of the Internet of Things, or IoT, “Smart Water Management” is making quite a few waves! IoT application in industrial and domestic water management is no longer just a pipe dream. With the help of mobile applications, cloud technology, and wireless/cellular connectivity, IoT is being used in very real ways to manage water distribution and management systems. How? Read on!
Interconnectivity of databases helps in accurately predicting the water needs of the masses. Databases containing historic data of water supply, usage and wastage in a certain area, city or the country as a whole are being correlated and analysed, to help create a better and more accurate prediction of how much water consumption can be expected in any given time and area, where and how water is being wasted and how to prevent wastage of water & optimise its usage.
As they say, “forewarned is forearmed”.
A leakage or blockage in the distribution system (i.e. the network of pipelines carrying water from the treatment plants to the end-users) can create unnecessary and widespread chaos. Manually identifying a leak or blockage is no easy task, and may take days to locate, even for experienced technicians. IoT technologies are proving to be very helpful in precisely locating a leakage/blockage and saving precious time. Strategically placed smart water meters continuously monitor and compare the water pressure, flow & levels in the distribution network. The data the meters gather is transmitted to the central server via cloud / cellular connectivity. Armed with this real-time data, the system can then triangulate and precisely locate problem areas, based on an analysis of even slight variations or anomalies in the usual and expected water levels/pressure/ flow. The management is alerted promptly, and smooth operations is ensured.
In fact, IoT can go one step further. Real-time data gathered on the usage of the distribution system (i.e. pipes, pumps, storage containers or any other machinery or equipment) enable the management to accurately predict the wear and tear of the equipment and schedule repairs/maintenance at a suitable time, without disrupting the water supply too much and reducing downtime.
Another growing use of IoT is in the field of predictive maintenance in water-treatment systems. Traditionally, water quality is measured manually, by sampling and testing the water from different facilities. However, recently developed smart water systems now use real-time monitoring of the water quality (in terms of pH, temperature and turbidity) and advanced data analytics to alert the management of any dip or variation in the metrics. If the precision of these systems was not reason enough to deploy them, then the precious time and resources saved through predictive maintenance should be.
It isn’t just industrial usage that’s amped up on IoT, either. Development of smart irrigation systems that use wireless technology and cloud-based analytics has helped farmers not just schedule when the irrigation begins, how much water is dispensed and for how long, but also control the irrigation based on plant need and weather. Armed with flow sensors and real-time alerts, these systems (which are so much more than the simple timers that people have been using, by the way) can alert the user of anything not going as per plan, thus reducing water wastage, as studies show, by up to a whopping 95%!
The concept of “smart homes” is not limited to just controlling your home’s security systems and electrical appliances anymore. Water management through IoT is the next step. It is now possible for your reservoirs and overhead water tanks to be fitted with sensors specially designed to display the amount of water contained in the tank and to transmit real-time data regarding the water level to the server/user at regular intervals. The pumps, using this data, can be programmed to turn on automatically as the water reaches a certain low and turn off automatically as well once the tank is full, thus ensuring a steady supply of water but minimizing the chances of wastage resulting from your tank overflowing because you didn’t switch off the pump in time!
It isn’t just individual houses or bungalows that benefit from smart water management either. Industrial IoT technologies are being increasingly modified to suit the needs of apartment complexes: you can now use the same technologies, but on a much smaller scale, to regulate water distribution, monitor water levels and quality in underground / overhead tanks, automate refilling of tanks, spot leakages or blockages and carry out predictive maintenance of the water distribution and management systems within a complex. Smart irrigation systems are being modified for domestic use as well, replacing timed sprinklers in landscaped areas and gardens.
Globally, smart water management using IoT is increasingly proving to be a winning idea: pushing accuracy, productivity and efficiency higher, while lowering costs and wastage. It must be your next step too. Why? Because: (a) they help you find ways to minimise wastage; (b) they eliminate the need for your personal/manual involvement, and (c) they help you make the optimum use of your as well as the world’s resources.
And most importantly, because it is really, really, really cool to make a little bit of effort to conserve the world’s priceless resources.
So… when are you going Smart?