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Wireless monitor warns when wipes clog pumps

06 April, 2020

A Californian IoT specialist, myDevices, has teamed up with a French electronics developer, éolane, to offer a wireless predictive maintenance system that could help water companies to monitor pumping stations that are increasingly being clogged by the large numbers of people who are flushing disinfectant wipes, paper towels and napkins down their toilets during Coronavirus lockdowns.

The California State Water Board has reported that wastewater treatment facilities already are experiencing issues with their sewage systems. “Wipes are among the leading causes of sewer system backups, impacting sewer system and treatment plant pumps and treatment systems,” says the Board. “Even wipes labelled ‘flushable’ will clog pipes and interfere with sewage collection and treatment,” it adds.

Clogged pumps can result raw sewage overflowing into rivers and lakes, and creating backups into homes.

myDevices and éolane say they can help utilities to tackle this problem using what they claim is the first predictive maintenance system with embedded AI (artificial intelligence) that uses the LoRa low-power wide-area wireless networking technology. The system, called Bob Assistant, gathers data on the performance of equipment such as sewage pumps, providing insights into the machines’ health, and helping to predict breakdowns. It replaces traditional visual inspections with 24/7 remote monitoring.

A sensor is mounted onto the monitored machine, where it learns and analyses its natural vibration patterns over a seven-day period. Once this phase is over, if it detects any anomalies that exceed the established baseline, it can send SMS and email alerts.

The Bob Assistant device warns wirelessly if machines deviate from baseline vibration patterns

Machines’ operating status – such as their total runtime and any anomalies – can be viewed on a Web dashboard or mobile app. The system – which éolane describes as “the industry’s first autonomous predictive maintenance solution” – needs no wiring, infrastructure or configuration. The battery-powered sensors are designed to work uninterrupted for several years.

The LoRa WAN technology can cover an entire site, regardless of its physical environment, with low energy consumption. The sensors send end-to-end encrypted reports to the cloud.

The technology is already being used by some customers including the French utility, Veolia, which receives warnings if there are any machine malfunctions. “A perfect example was our wastewater treatment plant in Angers where we were alerted to a drift with an agitator sludge digestor machine,” recalls Veoilia technical project engineer, Hervé Benhammou. “Our maintenance team was able to intervene on time to maintain the injection of biogas into the network. It was critical to keep the machine functioning properly but provided time and cost savings.”

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