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RDL//Nano Creates a Continuous Flow of Turbidity Data for UK Water Companies

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ATI and Caption Data have worked together since 2008, initially with Caption Data providing telemetry for Chlorine monitoring systems used in remote locations throughout the UK. The range of applications and volume of installations has increased over the years, with the latest application being ATI’s disruptive technology for Turbidity monitoring, with on board robust and miniaturized wireless telemetry units by Caption Data.

Analytical Technology was founded in Pennsylvania in the early 1990’s by two of North America’s leading experts in water quality monitoring and gas detection. This, still privately owned, company is deeply rooted in the principle of developing and manufacturing sensors that will protect lives, improve process control or protect the environment. A guiding belief is that these monitors should be simple to operate and inexpensive to own and operate.

A Groundbreaking New Portable Turbidity Monitor

Nephnet portable turbidity sensor with remote monitoring capabilities small

The new NephNet portable turbidity monitor

A ground breaking new portable turbidity monitor has been developed by Analytical Technology (Europe), with the help of PODDS and the UK water industry, which offers continuous remote monitoring of a network/DMA to alarm for if a level of discolouration is seen.

NephNet is the first battery powered, portable turbidity monitor that gives the same performance as the more traditional fixed monitor, with no compromise on accuracy at low levels.

How Was Data Being Collected from the NephNet?

Before ATI partnered with Caption Data the data was being collected via a USB data logger, this provided excellent levels of granularity in terms of sampling time and accuracy however the data had to be retrieved manually, this would cause issues as the data could show alarms that were missed due to the slow reaction of analysis.

Within a water network hundreds of turbidity monitors could be deployed. Traditionally that would mean a technician would have to visit each one to collect data.

Remote Turbidity monitoring systems marked on a map

Remote Turbidity monitoring systems marked on a map

What the Water Companies Really Wanted In Addition To This?

There are a few main application areas for this type of measurement:

  • Flushing of networks normally takes place as a pre-planned maintenance program, this requires NTU (Turbidity) levels to be monitored before, during and after the flush to assess the effectiveness of this work
  • Into this category also falls ‘re-conditioning’ of a mains/DMA. This work consists of increasing the flow of water ‘incrementally’ to prevent discolouration further down the line. Catching small changes in NTU is vital in this work as the water quality has to remain below 1 NTU for the work to be successful. No other turbidity sensor can measure accurately at this level, continuously.
  • Longer term monitoring of potentially problematic areas within the network. This calls for less ‘real time’ capabilities however events must be picked up if they occur, alarming and historical audit trails are equally important.

The Solution

It is our philosophy at Caption Data to try and get equipment into the real world as soon as possible during the development phase for live testing and this application was no exception.

Phase I – A full investigation was undertaken to understand and focus on the hardware end of the system

  • What inputs were given from the turbidity sensor
  • What power was available and how often did we need to retrieve/monitor the data
  • Physical wiring requirements
  • IP rating needed
  • What sort of GSM antenna was practical and effective

In conjunction with ATI engineers, the end users (Water Companies and their contractors) and Caption Data engineers started to deploy units into live field based locations within weeks of first meeting with ATI.

ATIs CDLSmartHub data Dashboard

An example dashboard with key turbidity data from multiple sites on one screen collected by logging in to the CDLSmartHub

Key Points

  • From initial contact with ATI to the first field tests took less than 3 weeks
  • We used existing telemetry products to get the first phase of testing underway as soon as possible
  • Caption Data invested time and experience to assist ATI on all of these test deployments

What Did We Learn from Phase I Field-Based Trials and What Did We Do?

Physical Elements: The deployment sites (under hydrant covers) are extremely aggressive locations. Water ingress was a serious issue to begin with. A series of developments with higher IP rated enclosures, and different cabling connections has overcome this issue.

Transmission: Strength of GSM signals was generally very low and we worked through different techniques and hardware to give the system every chance of sending data. We leveraged our real time SIM diagnostic capabilities to monitor and understand the GSM network behavior, and use optimized SIM cards and antennae.

Power: Clearly the longer the unit lasts in the field the better it is for all concerned. Based upon Phase I testing we developed more intelligent on-board processing and storage of data. This minimized the need to transmit when there was simply no need to (whilst retaining data).

User installation experience: We optimized the way in which a system could be set up in the field. Clearly due to the inhospitable nature of the locations we needed to make the set up as robust as possible. We used our QR code quick access system and commissioning text feature to make this process as robust as possible.

CDLSmartHub: With the continual end user customer exposure we have during this process, we continually absorb and ask for feedback on how to present the information making the user interface as useful as possible and the user experience, at all levels, one that stimulates utilization of the system. We have as a result tailored mapping, alarming, alarm acknowledgement, dynamic graphing and dashboard features. This is a regular part of the “OEM journey” with Caption Data. For ATI as with many customers, having agreed to work in partnership, Caption Data were often involved in multiparty meetings with ATI clients, to help understand their issues and deal with any telemetry, data and other challenges.

Turbidity data taken from NephNet in use by UK water company

Turbidity data taken from NephNet in use by UK water company

At any time our customers are encouraged to hit the ‘feedback’ button on the CDLSmartHub to assist in making the SmartHub a ‘value adding’ experience.

Phase I Summary

  • ATI with no major hardware design iterations have a robust, accepted telemetry solution which can be sold as an option with the NephNet
  • A standard ‘off the shelf’ solution would simply not have been a success without a consultative and collaborative approach
  • A huge amount of client/end user interaction has provided a road map for future developments in Phase 2

So What is Phase 2 Looking Like?

Whilst Caption Data and ATI are delighted with the results from Phase I and the fact it is a commercially robust product there are still improvements we are implementing.

  • Lower power. We will soon have available a super lower power device which is projected to last for a number of years in the field
  • On board logging ‘All of the data all of the time’. With the use of an SD card we will be able to store data a sub 1 second intervals for in excess of 6 years.
  • The rest is confidential! Please contact us if you would like to find out more.

Conclusion So Far:

  • Accepted, innovative remote turbidity monitoring solution available now
  • In use/test/pilot with eight water companies
  • Already saved Water companies millions of Pounds by giving them data that they have to have and have previously had visibility on
  • Already being integrated into Water Companies own management systems enabling turbidity data to be combined with other existing, important parameters such as flow and pressure

What the Customers Are Saying

Tristen Preger – Sales Manager Utilities

ATi manufacture water and gas instrumentation. Telemetry is not considered a strength of our remit. With an already established relationship with Caption Data, we believed that we had the correct company to work with and deliver what was required. After only a short period of time, the NephNet had evolved into a turbidity ‘logger’ as well as sensor. Caption Data were pro active in establishing needs from the water industry and turning them into a practical, finished solution that best suits what was required.

We engaged Caption Data to specifically collaborate on remote monitoring of the NephNet over 12 months ago and have enjoyed a very successful relationship with them on this unique innovation.

It was clear at an early stage the market required telemetry for the NephNet turbidity monitoring system and we needed to act quickly to gain traction as quickly as possible.

Caption Data assisted us in integrating the telemetry system seamlessly, quickly and easily into our existing system.

Caption Data also were very pro-active and supportive with joint sales presentations across the UK and we were happy to promote this collaboration.

Product development support is also a key part to our successful relationship, many joint customer visits and workshop sessions were attended to help ‘fully understand’ exactly what the end customer required.

We look forward to collaborating and partnering with Caption Data for many years to come.

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