Waterproof Testing: As Explained By Ayyeka’s Summer 2016 Intern

Since Ayyeka’s Wavelet devices are sometimes placed in extreme weather conditions, our engineering team needs to know and have absolute proof that the device can withstand certain conditions. Our Wavelet devices have an IP68 (and NEMA 6P for US standards) Waterproof certification, a standard set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This standard means that Ayyeka’s Wavelet device can be submerged up to approximately 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) deep in water for up to 30 minutes without a single malfunction. But how do we know that this is the case? How do we test for this? Nir Ben David, Ayyeka’s Director of Engineering, explains this in detail.
The testing process

“First of all, you have to test that the device works after installing the software,” says Nir. “We put our devices through countless tests, making sure that all of the sensors are intact when submerged. We check that the GPS and data works, and that the device continues to give accurate readings under water.”

Next is the most interesting part: testing for leaks/water tightness. We have a fascinating piece of equipment in our lab that is used to check for leaks, called a vacuum water pressure leak tester”.

The machine works as follows.First, you put the Wavelet device inside the cylinder, and close it. Then, you increase the pressure in the cylinder. You increase the pressure to around 2 bar (29 psi).This is the pressure water would be exerting on the device if it were submerged 67 feet (20.5 meters) deep. We always want to give more pressure than the bare minimum, in order to ensure that the device will function at the stated level. This allows for what is called a “factor of safety”.

The final step

The next step is to submerge the entire Wavelet device. At this point, you release the pressure in the cylinder, slowly. As the pressure reduces, air expands, and the engineering team can see if any leaks are present. If there is a single bubble coming out from the device, then there is a leak, and the device must be tested again later.

The last Wavelet device that we tested had no air bubbles emerging from the device. This meant that it was ready to go to storage. All of the components worked underwater, and the device passed our very rigorous leak test. The Wavelet now has an IP68 waterproof certification, and is ready to be installed in the field!”

Critical Infrastructure Upgrades For Smart Cities – If Not Now, When?

Today 3.5 billion people live in densely populated urban areas. By, 2030 more than 6 billion people will be living in cities.1 So how will cities change to accommodate so many people Sustainable urban design and planning, denser and smarter hi-rise buildings are just a few ways to manage the increasing number of people moving to already overcrowded urban centers. But what about the need to supply critical infrastructure to support large cities? A transformation in the way we manage, distribute, analyze, and secure critical infrastructure is required.
Ttake New York City as an example. In 2014, New York City provided approximately one billion gallons of drinking water daily to over 8.5 million residents.2 At the same time, the city’s population is growing, and it needs to upgrade aging water infrastructure. Climate change is no less of a threat and financial burden. Sea level rise is a major threat to downtown Manhattan, along with volatile temperatures which could cause increased evaporation.3 For that reason, the New York City Mayor’s Office oversees a long-term plan of sustainability and resiliency initiatives called PlaNYC.

Technology and urban planning drive the smart cities of today

The PlaNYC initiatives include water supply protection, repairs, and stormwater management. Long-term management and planning is key to better asset management and also ensures public health and safety. At the same time, infrastructure and equipment repairs and replacements are expensive, but technological innovation and data collection are working to make this process more affordable. Long-term urban planning and technological innovation should go hand in hand. These two elements are shaping the smart cities of today.

What is the value of data collection and asset management for the water sector?

Imagine getting ready to shower, turning the water on, and seeing that only a few drops emerge from the showerhead. This is why low water pressure can be frustrating to consumers. For example, most water distribution networks are often over-pressurized by default, diminishing the lifetime of the equipment, posing a safety hazard, and leading to unnecessarily high energy costs. This occurs because operators don’t have the proper tools to monitor pressure throughout the network. There are additional Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices to monitor water pipe pressure and prevent leakage and bursts. With proper data collection and testing, water operators can reduce the pressure incrementally until optimal pressure is reached at the network endpoints. Optimal pressurization has a number of benefit including even water flow, leak prevention, and lower energy costs.

The many applications of smart city technology

Water is just one example of how smart cities can optimize asset control and critical infrastructure. Let’s examine smart trash collection. The city of Seoul connected garbage bins to sensors helping sanitation workers make data-driven decisions about trash collection, resulting in cleaner streets and happier residents.4

Traffic is another big issue; commuters waste time and gasoline sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. It results in unnecessary air pollution and congestion. The city of Barcelona came up with a solution to designate certain roadways for public vehicles, and at the same time, the city introduced a smart traffic light system that has a setting to allow emergency vehicles to navigate according to the fastest route. In addition, it sets the traffic lights on green for the emergency vehicles to pass and then returns the lights to their standard setting for regular traffic control.5Besides efficiency and lower costs, smart cities can enhance safety and improve the quality of life for all city-dwellers.

Some think that integrated, holistic smart cities will only be feasible in 2030. Barcelona, Seoul, and many other cities have already begun building sections of smart city infrastructure. The technology and IIoT communication networks are already up and running. City officials are looking for new ways to improve public services. What are we waiting for?

References:

1 “World’s Population Increasingly Urban with More than Half Living in Urban Areas.” UN News Center. UN, 10 July 2014. Web. 08 June 2016. .

2 “New York City 2015 Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report.” 133.1 (1925): 28. New York State Department of Environmental Protection, 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 8 June 2016. .

3 “In a Word, Why Climate Change Matters: Water.” In a Word, Why Climate Change Matters: Water. Phys.org, 27 May 2016. Web. 08 June 2016. .

4 “Smart Cities: Making Our Lives Smarter and More Comfortable.” Smartfrog. N.p., 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 8 June 2016. .

5 “Smart Traffic Lights.” BCN Smart City, 1 July 2015. Web. 08 June 2016. .

 

My Year Abroad

For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to spend my Junior year abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Before coming to Israel, I promised myself that for the duration of my time here I wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture of the country, whether it was through my studies, the people living here, or work experience. After the opportunity had presented itself, I knew there was no better way to do this than to intern at an Israeli startup.

I was apprehensive about working in a country whose language is not my mother tongue, but from the very first day, all of Ayyeka’s team welcomed me with open arms. The company provided me with an incredible opportunity to combine my studies and love for both science and business and apply my passions to real world situations.

A unique internship experience

Over the past four months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Ayyeka’s Business Development team and publicize the Wavelet through a wealth of social media outlets research material for Ayyeka’s marketing strategy, and directly communicate with editors of major publications.

The cohesive atmosphere and consistent level of dedication from very team member demonstrates how Ayyeka has grown from a startup to an international IoT company in such a short period of time. The open, fast-paced atmosphere allowed me to work with individuals that an intern wouldn’t dream of in a larger organization. For example, I worked directly with one of the co-founders, as well as team leaders and others..

Looking back at the past four months, I cannot imagine interning for a company other an Ayyeka. Ayyeka has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in Israeli society. At the same time, it has provided me with a wealth of knowledge that I could never have learned in a classroom setting.

I can confidently say that working at Ayyeka gave me hands on work experience and was a one of a kind Israeli startup experience.

Ayyeka’s Mission Impossible In Amsterdam

Ayyeka is constantly looking for ways to advance and improve.
That’s why a colleague from the engineering team and I travelled to Amsterdam at the end of April. Travelling to the Netherlands, we felt like we were on a version of mission impossible. We had just one week to ensure that our remote monitoring device, the Wavelet, had Sigfox and LoRa connectivity.

Sigfox and LoRa are two wireless radio networks that provide energy efficient data transmission specifically designed for IoT devices. But why did Ayyeka want our devices to work with these two communication technologies? Why Amsterdam over another high-tech city. And most importantly: why were comfortable shoes a necessity on this mission?

I’ll begin with the communication networks.

Ayyeka’s Wavelet transmits information using the internet, and the Wavelet connects to the internet via cellular networks. Just as cell phones can connect to the internet in any location that has cellular reception, so the Wavelet can, too The downside to current cellular networks is that cellular data transmission uses a lot of energy, which significantly reduces the battery life of the phone.

The IoT network ecosystem

For that reason, companies like LoRa Alliance and Sigfox are developing alternative radio networks, known as Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN). LPWAN is based on a technology that enables low power data transmission but on the other hand has low bandwidth which means that you can transfer far less data per second. These networks are specifically designed for efficient data transmission by Io devices. They simply don’t cater to the high bandwidth needs of mobile users. IoT devices transmit very specific data including water level, air quality, and soil moisture. They do not need to transfer videos, stream music, or friends’ Facebook photos.

Ayyeka chose to integrate with Sigfox, a French company that is a leading provider of dedicated communications services for IoT devices. Sigfox is deploying their network throughout Asia, the EU, Latin America, and the United States, where Ayyeka is Sigfox’s first U.S. channel partner! There are now over 7 million devices operating over the Sigfox network, and Ayyeka will be adding additional devices across the U.S. to create cyber-secure smart cities.

Ayyeka has also integrated with LoRa, through the LoRaWAN protocol, which is also gaining momentum as a leading IoT communication network. LoRa is well known for the LoRa Alliance, an open, non-profit association of members who are collaborating to drive the success of the LoRaWAN, as the open IoT LPWAN connectivity platform. These two communication platforms operate in Amsterdam, which is where our mission began.

We were sent to work on interfacing with these networks, which meant developing communication models to enable Wavelet transmission. Our tools consisted of Wavelets, transmission components, a toolbox, and slippers! At this stage, even our accomodation plans were unclear. Were we being hosted by the either of the tech companies? Which office would we be working out of?

Ayyeka at the LoRa Internet of Things Workshop
LoRa Internet of Things Workshop.

What we needed most, however, were the Sigfox and LoRa transmission towers that send and receive data. We were able to do most of the work our Airbnb rental using only our laptops and a desk. Whatever preconceptions you may have, this is what 21st century development actually looks like: two guys working out of an apartment along with coffee, cake, and slippers.

The sailing, however, wasn’t entirely smooth. We had to correspond with Sigfox staff to understand more about how their network operates. With LoRa, we probably just had beginner’s luck. During our first week in Amsterdam, we found out that The Things Network, which uses the LoRaWAN network to create an open source IoT gateway, was hosting a workshop in Amsterdam. We jumped at the chance to participate

An unexpected surprise

There was one more thing that nobody warned us about.

A siren sounded at noon on May 2nd. When the siren started ringing, we didn’t know what to do! Should we hide under a table or stand in silence? We were shocked to hear such a loud siren so early in the morning. We soon learned that this was an entirely normal occurrence. On the first Monday of every month, they test the sirens to make sure that in the event of war everything is working properly. To anyone visiting Amsterdam – now you know.

We were lucky that our trip happened to fall during the season with the most daylight. It only got dark at 10 pm, but as computer engineers, our workday rarely ends by nightfall – indeed, night-time is often the most productive time. When we looked out the window and noticed it was already light outside, we realized it was time to rest. We successfully completed our mission, and we even had some time to walk around and explore the city. Thanks to our expedition, the Wavelet can now connect to the Sigfox and LoRa networks.

Sunrise in Amsterdam
Sunrise in Amsterdam.

With Sigfox and LoRa connectivity, Ayyeka will release advanced features in the next Wavelet model, bringing the field of remote monitoring one step further by advancing the data collection process and ensuring energy-efficient transmission.

For us: mission complete!

The Time Is Now For Smart Sewer Management

Sewers are strange places.
The unseen labyrinth of tunnels carrying human waste have transformed urban existence from one dominated by periodic epidemics and pervasive odors (that made obvious where the output of residents’ toilets went) to one in which few residents would willingly spare a thought as to what happens after they turn the toilet handle.
An aging distribution network

What many would be surprised to learn is that although they distribute the waste of 80% of American citizens, most modern sewer networks are, for the most part, museum-worthy historical artifacts whose construction often dates to past centuries. Some, such as the partially operational Cloaca Maxima in Rome, are even the engineering work of bygone civilizations.

Just as populations have changed beyond recognition over the years, so too have best practices in infrastructure engineering. Whereas urban planners in the 19th and early 20th centuries followed the minimalist convention of combining storm sewers (for collecting rainwater) with sanitary sewers (for collecting human waste), the deficiencies of such a network soon became apparent.

Although the idea of diverting overflow into major water bodies and away from polluted inland waterways made sense at the time, it quickly became apparent that whereas the volume of a city’s sanitary sewer input can be predicted with some accuracy, estimating how much rainwater it will collect is complicated by meteorological uncertainty – and particularly by ‘freak events’ such as unanticipated deluges of precipitation.

For the 772 cities in the United States served by a combined sewer system, the result, when this happens, is a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) event. These are polluting events in which the volume of liquid in a combined sewer system overwhelms the system’s capacity to process and treat it. The water is subsequently discharged, untreated, at designated discharge points. According to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ‘SSO’ events, which include sanitary sewer overflows from separate systems, occur in the United States between 23,000 and 75,000 times a year.

CSO events’ devastating impact on the environment and public health

The impact of such overflow events is far-reaching.

The untreated effluent carries the typical ecosystem of organisms, many of which are pathogenic, contained in both collected rainwater and from sanitary sources. Research has demonstrated that concentrations of bacteria such as E.Coli can be elevated by two orders of magnitude even in sites well downstream of the discharge point. Similar findings have been reported from the Harlem River in New York City where, after storm periods, fecal coliform were been measured at levels greater than 10,000 MPN/100ml in sampled water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CSOs can also contribute to stream erosion, algal blooms, and kill existing ecosystems through lowering oxygen levels.

Advance detection is key

How can utilities overcome this legacy of 19th century infrastructure engineering that plagues the water systems – and threatens the public health – of today?

Due to the vast nature of sewer networks, refitting them with bigger pipes, or building larger treatment facilities, is simply not a practical option. Such an ‘upgrade’ to the water distribution infrastructure would be impossibly expensive to undertake.

The most practical way of preventing these events is to leverage the power of real-time monitoring, through creating ‘smart sewers’, and using the information gleaned to obtain actionable insights about the fill level of the sewer network and to take preventative action to forestall a CSO event — such as manipulating underground gates and valves or utilizing ancillary treatment sites.

No humans necessary

The IoT enabled devices needed to drive this kind of remote monitoring effort are almost as far a cry from the cumbersome telemetry stations of old as most sewers are from the engineering practices of today. Sleek transmitting gateways, often no larger than a cereal box, can beam real-time information directly over the growing list of IoT-friendly networks already operating or in the development pipeline, such as Sigfox and NB-IoT. This information can be interpreted by eagle-eyed SCADA operators ready to avert the next overfill event.

Additionally, ‘tactical edge analytics’™ – in which remote monitoring devices carry onboard analytics capabilities, allowing them to make intelligent, autonomous decisions based on, say, anticipated rainfall levels – can take such smart sewers’ corrective potential even further by allowing them to prevent CSOs without even requiring the intervention of a human. Cutting edge technology such as this can work in concert with even the oldest of infrastructure.

This is far from a pipe dream. Such smart sewer monitoring is already being used to good effect by The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati who are operating hundreds of embedded monitoring devices to prevent CSOs. As interest in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continues to blossom, this number can only be expected to grow over coming years.

Zero CSOs

The wastewater industry is quickly growing accustomed to the notion that ‘zero CSO events’ is an objective within reach of many network operators.

Reaching this target through the smartening of ‘dumb’, often antiquated, sewer systems, will have a positive impact on the health of ecosystems, the public, and the environment.

* Mr. David Dolphin is the Director of Water Sector at Ayyeka and has over 20 years’ experience in the water industry, including at international provider Veolia Water. Mr. Dolphin will present a free webinar on March 16th entitled ‘Better Sewer Management: Minimizing Environmental Impacts.’ To register, visit bit.ly/dolphinwater.

Fernüberwachung in Echtzeit als Lösung bestehender Probleme der Wasserbranche

Die Digitalisierung der Wasserbranche (Wasser 4.0) wird den Versorgungsunternehmen in Zukunft zu höherer Effizienz verhelfen. Doch die Frage stellt sich, wie Versorger schon heute unkompliziert in intelligente Wassernetze investieren können?
Gegenwärtige digitale Technologien ermöglichen es bereits heute, drohende Gefahren und eintretende Schäden nicht nur zu beseitigen, sondern diese durch vorsorgenden Schutz zu verhindern. Deshalb sind im Hinblick auf neue Gefahren wie bspw. Medikamentenrückstände, Nitraterhöhungen im Boden oder extremere Umweltkatastrophen kontinuierliche und gut vernetzte Überwachungslösungen gefragt. Diese können den Versorger bereits vor dem Eintreten kritischer Werte warnen und dabei helfen, die Ursachen schneller zu identifizieren bzw. Vorsorgemaßnahmen zu treffen. Ein weiterer wichtiger Vorteil von Wasser 4.0 ist, dass viele der neuen Technologien an die bestehende Techni adaptiert werden können. Die Fernüberwachung in Echtzeit mit intelligenten Datenloggern und Sensorik ist eine solche und wird für verschiedene Herausforderungen und Anwendungen bereits eingesetzt. Sie bildet zudem die Grundlage von intelligenten Wassernetzen, indem sie Daten von jedem beliebigen Punkt des Versorgungsnetzes und der Umwelt zur Verfügung stellen kann. Durch die verbesserten Datenerhebungsmöglichkeiten können die Unternehmen genauere und bessere Entscheidungen aufgrund von Echtzeitdaten treffen und somit leichter ins Informationszeitalter vordringen.

Mit autarken Fernüberwachungssystemen wie Ayyeka sie anbietet, können die Versorgungsunternehmen bereits heute und nicht erst in Zukunft Probleme und Herausforderungen mit intelligenten Datenloggern unmittelbar nach Eintritt identifizieren und lösen. Werden diese dann mit Analyse- und Softwareprogrammen verknüpft, so wird die Erstellung und Verwaltung intelligenter und transparenter Netze ermöglicht.

Aktuelle Probleme der deutschen Wasser und Abwasserbranche, denen man mit Fernüberwachung effizient entgegentreten kann:

Durch den Klimawandel veränderte Bedingungen müssen in den folgenden Jahren genauer beachtet werden um besser auf Umweltkatastrophen vorbereitet zu sein. Temperaturerhöhungen und veränderte Niederschläge sind ein Teil der Auswirkungen, die insbesondere die Wasserbranche betreffen. Zukünftig erwarten Wissenschaftler deutschlandweit eine Niederschlagsverschiebung vom Sommer in den Winter, wobei weniger Schnee und vermehrt Regen fallen soll. Dabei gehen sie mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit davon aus, dass der Anteil der Starkniederschläge am Gesamtniederschlag im Sommer weiter ansteigt. Es werden demnach wenige, aber starke Niederschlagsereignisse prognostiziert, wie es bereits im Mai 2016 in Süddeutschland der Fall war. Die Probleme der sich wandelnden klimatischen Bedingungen können insbesondere zu erhöhter Hochwassergefahr in Einzugsgebieten von Flüssen und im Hinterland der Bergregionen führen, um nur einen Ausschnitt möglicher klimatischer Konsequenzen zu nennen.1

Als Ergebnis der kontinuierlichen Weiterentwicklung der modernen Industriegesellschaft lassen sich vor allem im Grund- und Oberflächenwasser zunehmend künstliche Spurenstoffe (giftige/schwer abbaubare organischen Stoffe, Industriechemikalien, Schwermetalle, Pflanzenschutzmittel, Nährstoffe, militärische/zivile Altlasten, Mikroverunreinigungen, Medikamentenrückstände und Kosmetika) nachweisen. Aufgrund der unabsehbaren Folgen besteht in diesem Bereich noch erheblicher Forschungsbedarf. Die verursachenden Quellen reichen von Einträgen aus kontaminierten Standorten, defekter unterirdischer Leitungen, alternder Infrastruktur, veränderter Gewohnheiten der Bevölkerung bis hin zu intensivierter Landwirtschaft.2

Qualifizierte Fachkräfte sind für eine zukunftsfähige Wasserwirtschaft sehr wichtig. Doch aktuell fällt es vielen Versorgungsunternehmen schwer, geeignete Nachwuchskräfte mit entsprechenden Fähigkeiten und Kenntnissen zu finden. Auf Grund des demografischen Wandels und der Tatsache, dass heute und in Zukunft immer mehr Schulabgänger/-innen einen Hochschulabschluss der betrieblichen Ausbildung vorziehen werden, wird sich der Mangel vermutlich noch weiter verstärken. Vor dem Hintergrund des weiteren Ausbaus erneuerbarer Energien kann es zu Nutzungskonflikten mit Trinkwassereinzugsgebieten kommen. 3

Diesbezüglich werden vor allem Verfahren wie Fracking, Geothermie und Speicherung von CO₂ im Untergrund kritisch beobachtet. Die Nutzung solcher untertägigen Technologie in Regionen mit Trinkwassergewinnungsanlagen stellen eine Gefährdung für die Ressource Trinkwasser dar.4

Diesen und weiteren Herausforderungen kann mit Ayyeka’s Technologie effizient, zielorientiert und kostengünstig entgegnet werden. Sie ermöglicht Versorgern ein besseres Management der dezentralen Infrastruktur.

Unter Berücksichtigung der Nachhaltigkeitsaspekte liefert die Fernüberwachung Vorteile in allen Bereichen. Ökonomisch betrachtet können Kosten in unterschiedlichen Bereichen gespart und die Netze effizienter betrieben werden. Die öffentliche Gesundheit und Sicherheit sowie eine Reduzierung der Umweltbelastungen decken dabei die soziale und ökologische Ebene ab. Die Sicherheit der Ressourcen Trinkwasser und Umwelt stehen dabei im Mittelpunkt. Bei einer steigenden Gefahr von Terroranschlägen auf kritische Infrastrukturen wie Wasser, kann ein Fernüberwachungssystem dazu beitragen, die Wasserqualität an Schlüsselpunkten innerhalb des Netzes permanent zu überwachen und bei Grenzwertüberschreitungen unmittelbar zu alarmieren. Intelligente Datenlogger sind deshalb eine Schlüsseltechnologie für den Betrieb smarter Netze im Internet der Dinge (IoT) und haben das Potential, die Wasserwirtschaft in die Zukunft zu führen.

Literatur:

ATT, BDEW, DBVW, DVGW, DWA, VKU (2015): Branchenbild der deutschen Wasserwirtschaft 2015, Auflage 2015, Bonn, 10/2015, Wirtschafts- u. Verlagsgesellschaft Gas und Wasser, unter: http://www.dvgw.de/fileadmin/dvgw/presse/branchenbild_2015_langfassung.pdf (Zugriff: 30.10.2016).

BMUB (2014): Wasserwirtschaft in Deutschland. Teil 1 Grundlagen, in: Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit, Umweltbundesamt, Bonn, 5/2014, http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/378/publikationen/wawi_teil01_web.pdf (Zugriff: 30.10.2016).

The Water-Energy Nexus: How Smart Monitoring Can Help

Water and energy are inextricably linked through the large amounts of power necessary for the extraction, treatment, and delivery of water from its sources to consumers. This connection is termed the water energy nexus.
The work of pumping stations to propel the water supply on its journey from reservoirs and treatment centers to network endpoints in homes and businesses is an essential part of this relationship. In fact, 80% of the energy used in water distribution goes solely toward powering these pumping 1stations’ operation.

The problem with guessing pressure requirements

Estimating the correct pressurization to ensure that the water supplied in a distribution network has enough power to travel between pumping station and endpoint, defeat gravity, and arrive with adequate strength to meet the needs of homeowners and industry is an inexact science at best.

To ensure adequate pressure, network operators currently either rely on crude estimates as to likely usage requirements or simply over-pressurize the supply by default as a matter of course.

While erring on the side of caution may sound like an easy and conservative solution to the problem of adequate water pressure, over-pressurization is undesirable for many reasons. It wastes significant energy, financial resources, and can cause an uneven flow of water from faucets. In addition, it exacerbates any leaks along the network’s reach and increases the risk of pipe bursts.

Insufficient pressure, on the other hand, also causes issues with water delivery. Due to the slower flow of water through the system, it also carries an increased risk of introducing viruses and bacteria to the supply.2

Monitoring can eliminate the need for guesswork

What if utilities could see exactly what level of pressure was being experienced across the network endpoints – and do so in real time?

If so, utilities could simply reduce or increase the pressure being sent from the pumping stations in order to match exactly what was currently required by the network. They could also guarantee sufficient pressure without risking the problems inherent in either over-pressuring or under-pressurizing the water supply.

Such technology already exists. Automated Demand Response (ADR) systems are widely used in the energy generation industry to create a feedback loop between power consumption and what is generated at stations. This has resulted in significant savings for providers given the often enormous differences between network demand at peak load periods and regular consumption.

Such systems have been deployed to a lesser extent in the water and wastewater fields owing to the greater difficulty in monitoring a network’s overall water consumption.

This, however, can be changed.

The potential reduction in unnecessary pumping activity that could result from the implementation of such a system by water utilities could be significant, and would also pass on vast savings in reduced power bills to water and power utilities alike.

Exactly how much excess pressure could be relieved?

Where 80-150 psi is the pressurization most utilities default to, research has shown that just 48-60 psi would be sufficient to meet customers’ requirements.

Saving the energy required to generate over 100 psi of unneeded load on the distribution network would result in massive cost savings for many water companies.

So what gives?

With such a logical solution available to remedy such a widespread and costly problem, one may wonder what is preventing water utilities from implementing smart endpoint pressurization monitoring as an industry standard.

The answer lies in the complexity of traditional remote monitoring solutions which is the image many in the industry still have when they consider what is required to take remote water pressure measurements.

Legacy monitoring infrastructure normally involves provisioning dedicated pressure measurement ‘stations’ that could cost upward of $15,000 and take a significant amount of time and coordination. Installing each station effectively amounts to a small civil construction project in its own right involving the granting of permits, the building of concrete slabs, cabinet, a perimeter fence, a solar panel assembly, and integration with the broader water system.

Such stations entail planning and logistical difficulties that render their large-scale installation – such as would be required in the case of a distributed smart water network – both unfeasible and an environmental eyesore. Their high financial cost would also substantially negate or preclude altogether the savings that a utility could realize through their deployment.

What we offer

Ayyeka’s solution for monitoring endpoint water pressure involves connecting a probe sensor to a box about the size of a telephone and placing the system where the pressure readings need to be taken.

The unit costs under $2,000 and transmits readings directly to utility headquarters where system engineers (and automated computer programs, which inform ADRs) can intelligently adapt pressurization to ensure that only the minimum necessary to guarantee adequate supply is delivered at the pumping stations.

The water energy-nexus is a major cause of energy wastage – and unnecessary water pressurization is its major contributor.

Compact remote monitoring solutions, such as Ayyeka’s all-inclusive, streamlined, and secure monitoring kits, have addressed the barriers that have prevented water utilities from deploying endpoint water pressurization on a sufficiently large scale to enable automatic pressure optimization.

The day for water pressurization to ‘go smart’ has arrived.

References:

1 Congressional Research Service: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43200.pdf

2Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/thepotentialforhealthrisksfromintrusionofcontaminants_1.pdf (at p7)

IIoT Can Take SCADA To New Reaches

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are the leading means of monitoring and controlling industrial infrastructure electronically.

The systems involve a collection of cyber-secure, industrial-grade hardware and software tools to collect, analyze, and control information from sensors. They are deployed around the world to monitor complex, fast-moving industrial processes that exceed humans’ abilities for manual oversight. Typical applications include providing monitoring and control capabilities in power generation plants, for HVAC systems, and for large-scale manufacturing processes like automated production lines.

Reaching beyond the network perimeter takes work

Typically, remote monitoring (also called telemetry) has been employed for ‘inside the fence’ scenarios in which both the sensors and the control systems are co-located within the same facility or situated nearby. ‘True’ telemetry, involving input to a control system from geographically dispersed assets such as sensors aboard an oil rig, has been deployed on a far more modest scale.

Several factors help explain why SCADA systems have mostly integrated with assets inside the network perimeter.

Remote monitoring used to require the building of large ‘monitoring stations’ to contain the cumbersome communications and power equipment needed to power monitoring and communications. Installing such sites involves substantial logistical and bureaucratic considerations. In communications, the higher the packet size and more frequent the transmission cycle, the greater the power and data overheads that devices incur. Guaranteeing a reliable power supply for the installations was rarely straightforward and – until recently – mobile data networks were both expensive and inconsistently available. No utility wants to economize the transmission interval solely in order to extend battery life. Therefore, if remote monitoring were employed at all, transmitting by short message service (SMS), an antiquated medium which cannot be encrypted, was the preferred medium used.

The second factor limiting remote assets’ integration with SCADA systems has been the difficulty in providing the reliable and secure communications networks the systems need to transmit information back to the control systems. Unlike networks that run solely within a site perimeter, deploying a proprietary network to physically isolate channels that reach remote assets to prevent cyber-attacks (a strategy called air-gapping) is unfeasible for all but the largest of utilities. In addition, networks optimized (and suitable for) the Internet of Things’ (IoT) ultra-low-power requirements have arrived only recently. GSM-based networks, such as 2G and 3G, were designed with consumer data applications like video streaming in mind and incurred power overheads that were wholly unacceptable for IoT’s small bandwith requirements.

Ignoring dispersed assets create critical knowledge gaps

For these reasons and more, industries requiring the managing of widely dispersed assets have mostly chosen to leave remote assets out of their monitoring strategies altogether, relying instead on intermittent ‘field readings’ taken by technicians sent to inspect the status of the remote reaches of their infrastructure.

For such operators, employing a partially complete monitoring strategy results in the creation of a serious knowledge gap about the health of their networks. Water supply networks, for instance, typically involve clusters of centralized infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, in addition to a widespread network of midpoints, such as reservoirs and pumping stations, and a vast amount of system endpoints at homes or industrial sites.

Without real-time pressurization information from the network edge, water network operators cannot employ Automated Demand Response (ADR) systems to optimize water pressure for current demand. Instead, they must over-pressurize by default. As General Manager of Ayyeka Inc. Sivan Cohen explained in her recent blog, this over-pressurization is the major driver of water’s collosal energy footprint (a connection termed the ‘water energy nexus’). Simply not integrating the network edge with central data processing programs running aboard SCADA platforms has far-reaching ramifications for the systems’ power consumption, their running cost, and the environment.

No matter what the application, utilities bereft of information about the state of edge infrastructure can only be partially aware about the system health of their networks under management at best. Proactive and predictive monitoring strategies – both of which are vital for achieving efficient system maintenance – cannot be implemented. Inefficiencies increase commensurate with the network size.

How the IIoT can bridge the gap

Finding reliable power and communications sources remain challenging for those wishing to integrate SCADA systems with remote assets such as in-field sensors. However, both are rapidly diminishing in magnitude as increasingly sophisticated solutions come to market.

The rise of the IoT and its industrial variant, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), means that for the first time in the history of infrastructure monitoring, deploying widespread telemetric networks is an entirely feasible endeavor from both financial and technological perspectives.

The monitoring cabinet of a few decades ago is quickly being displaced by a new breed of IoT gateways which allow operators to communicate data at a fraction of the cost such transmission would have formerly incurred. Such gateways, often no larger in size than a desktop telephone, can be installed virtually anywhere, including within the confines of underground infrastructure or offshore abord digital oilfields. These gateways harness the flexibility of modern, LP-WAN and 3GPP-based IoT-specific networks (such as Sigfox, LoRa, and the NB-IoT protocol currently being rolled out in Europe), to transmit data from the network edge with minimal power overheads.

Demands for interconnectedness among control systems in the modern IT environment have rendered the air gap an almost obsolete security practice. Holistic cyber security strategies, particularly involving advanced cryptography techniques, have taken their place.

The rapid advance of edge computing means that the process of analyzing information is also increasingly being carried out in situ aboard the devices on the network edge themselves. Not sending unnecessary information to central servers obviates the need for analyzing unnecessary information within SCADA systems. This practice further reduces power overheads, can lengthen battery life by extending transmission cycles, and improves both responsiveness and system throughput rates down the stack.

A lot done, a lot more to achieve

With so much progress made, it’s fair to ask what’s left to do to achieve the dream of achieving universal integration between SCADA systems with the full extent of operators’ monitoring networks?

Although this will be the year in which the first commercial NB-IoT networks go live, the protocol was only formally standardized last summer. Significant milestones remain to be passed before it emerges as the preeminent communications network capable of driving worldwide IIoT connectivity. The current, fragmented state of the network market for IIoT connectivity has also created significant uncertainty among manufacturers about which of the competing networking protocols, Sigfox, LoRa, and NB-IoT, should be supported and prioritized by OEMs and software engineers.

For those responsible for integrating the sensors’ outputs into SCADA systems, the current surfeit of networking options does not make this process any easier. Compared to the state of affairs just a few years ago, however, the problem of excessive choice is an enviable situation.

As network roll-outs continue at breakneck pace, the IIoT will continue to grow and exceed the ambitious forecasts for its expansion. Coupled with the rapid rise in computing power at the edge, utilities will come to regard full remote integration with their SCADA systems as a norm rather than an expansion. How operators will utilize this to drive efficiencies will undoubtedly also be impressive.

Dr. Yair Poleg, PhD, is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Ayyeka

Join Dr Poleg this June 1st for ‘Augmenting SCADA Systems with IoT Technology’, an in-depth look at integrating SCADA systems with IoT devices. Dr. Poleg will cover integration strategies and explain how to utilize complex, robust datasets to get the most out of your remote monitoring infrastructure.

Introducing An Ayyeka Partner: HydroLogik

HydroLogik is a Golden, Colorado-based specialist provider of industrial automation technologies as well as systems for the monitoring and remote control of water resources.

Spearheading its team is Mr. Bruce Bacon (left) a graduate of Montana State University – Bozeman, where he studied Electrical Engineering. Bruce has previously held positions at AMCi Wireless, AMCi, and RadiSys Corporation.

Since its foundation last year, HydroLogik has strove to quickly realize its vision of working with third-party vendors to offer the company’s customer base the “latest and greatest” in remote monitoring capabilities.

The company now sells water kits on behalf of Ayyeka Inc., Ayyeka’s North American subsidiary, based in Los Angeles, California, and headed by General Manager Sivan Cohen P.E.. HydroLogik also sells Wavelets integrated with third-party sensors and systems. Its sales area extends throughout many western states, including Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington. HydroLogik also sells Ayyeka systems in Nebraska and Kansas.

Working with Ayyeka is a ‘triple win’ for all involved

Bruce, who in his spare time enjoys winter sports and the outdoors, says that being able to supply Ayyeka’s remote monitoring solutions “will benefit water managers throughout the arid western United States.” He sees the value that Ayyeka’s cutting-edge, IIoT-based water monitoring solutions bring as beneficial to HydroLogik, Ayyeka, and – most importantly – the company’s clients, calling it a “triple win” for all involved. “The value proposition for the Ayyeka Model is easily demonstrated to potential clients,” Bruce says.

Water management represents a significant challenge for many states along the West coast which has a significantly drier climate compared to the Eastern seaboard. .

Cutting NRW is a key challenge for arid states

Whereas average rainfall in New York City can reach 62 inches per year, Los Angeles’ figure is just under 15 inches. Despite these challenging conditions, according to Ayyeka General Manager Sivan Cohen P.E., many states do not even know the level of water they are losing through leaks in their system. Reducing such wastage, termed non revenue water (NRW), is an essential step for such states to to take towards improving their utilization of humanity’s most precious resource.

Through the efforts of sales channel partners like HydroLogik, more municipalities across the western United States are getting the tools they need to implement remote monitoring capabilities and improve the efficiency of their water usage.

We look forward to many years of fruitful partnership with Bruce and his team at HydroLogik.

If you are interested in becoming an Ayyeka sales channel partner, we’d love to hear from you. Contact our partner channel manager, Mr. Blair Carey, at blair.carey@ayyeka.com


For more information about HydroLogik, visit hydrologik.com

More Data, Better Infrastructure

Infrastructure has a finite lifespan. And to analogize to humans, most of the world’s infrastructure is now in the middle-age demographic.
Any infrastructural project undertaken after World War II is already likely to be a significant way along its inevitable march towards unusability. In the United States, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave the country’s infrastructure a D+ quality rating and estimates that $4.5 trillion needs to be invested in it within ten years to prevent its further decline.

In scope, the stock of public infrastructure is almost unfathomably vast. In Canada alone there is over 1,000,000 km. of paved roadway. Building the entire stock of public infrastructure anew would create a financial vortex that even the most well financially-endowed of countries could not emerge from. Simply put: there is not enough money in any government’s coffers to maintain all available infrastructure to optimal standards all of the time.

Maximizing the useful lifespan of infrastructure is therefore best achieved in practice by adopting efficient maintenance strategies, such as predictive and proactive maintenance. These are methodologies that can anticipate system issues before they threaten infrastructural continuity. Waiting for critical infrastructure to break is an untenable approach.

Finding more intelligent ways to prioritize backlogged repairs by directing limited maintenance resources to the most important infrastructure is therefore recognized as the best means of managing system decay to maximize its useful lifespan.

The traditional means of maintaining infrastructure

Traditionally, utilities have chosen between two primary techniques when devising maintenance plans for major industrial projects.

Reactive maintenance, also known as run to fail (RTF), is a strategy that allows infrastructure to break before being repaired. While such an approach may be suitable for maintaining small consumer appliances such as light bulbs, it is clearly inappropriate for managing the critical industrial infrastructure that society depends upon to function.

Proactive maintenance approaches, by contrast, seek to prevent problems before they occur. It is also significantly more cost-effective: repairing infrastructure works out to be 5 to 10 times cheaper than conducting emergency repairs.

Proactive maintenance can take the form of either preventative maintenance, triggered by conditions that indicate impending system failures (such as a critical battery state), or predictive maintenance which seeks to leverage intelligent analysis to predict such failures before there are even any direct indications that they are about to occur.

The journey towards proactive maintenance is an arduous one

Proactive maintenance represents a significant advance over reactive approaches, but its adoption has been severely impaired by the difficulties inherent in deploying remote monitoring networks that are sufficiently wide in breadth to provide justifiable value relative to their installation cost.

Traditionally, this has been due to the high cost of telemetric solutions which necessitated the installation of expensive and cumbersome monitoring infrastructure that lacked communications redundancy and could operate on external power sources only. These inherent deficiencies created a physical limit as to how far out along a network’s edge they could be deployed. Although telemetric solutions afforded utilities a functional means of transmitting data, they were not scalable.

The historic lack of advanced analytics platforms also meant that processing the full extent of field data was not always humanly possible. Collating all the information from the network edge risked overwhelming SCADA operators with a flood of unmanageable information, burying the needle of actionable insights admist a haystack of network noise.

These factors both meant that historically, sensor deployments beyond the managed network perimeter tended to be partial at best and – in a practice that has continued unabated to the present – technicians were instead sent to the field to take manual readings. This is a wasteful situation that could be compared to sending a salesman across the world to meet a business prospect without having done any background research that indicates that the trip will be a worthwhile one. Besides resulting in many needless visits and wasting skilled manpower, the collective cost of such unnecessary inspections reduces operators’ budgets to repair infrastructure that is found to be in need of repair.

Why a hybrid approach works best

Data lies at the heart of effective proactive and predictive maintenance. But for many years, sporadic information from a limited array of sensors was all infrastructure managers had to rely upon to help orchestrate effective maintenance strategies.

But times are rapidly changing.

Industry is advancing quickly towards an era in which deploying widespread, smart networks is both physically possible and financially feasible. IoT gateways no larger than a desktop telephone can now do the same job as the telemetry cabinets of old. A new breed of ultra-low-power IoT networks specialized for the IIoT including NB-IoT (which has seen initial commercial deployments in Europe) and the LP-WAN network family have pushed the frontier of connectivity to new reaches.

In parallel, the nascent area of edge analytics is rapidly reducing the data overhead from these network periphery devices by placing powerful offline analytics software onboard and conducting preliminary analysis in situ before sending pre-analyzed information to SCADA industrial control mechanisms.

Together, these developments have meant that achieving truly complete visibility of the state of edge infrastructure is a feasible possibility for most if not all providers involved in the provision of critical infrastructure to society.

To realize the full extent of this possibility, operators will have to focus on aggressively deploying smart networks to generate the raw data necessary to drive such smart maintenance programs.

It will never be possible to maintain all infrastructure to perfect standards all of the time.

But in the modern, IIoT-enabled era, devising a cost-efficient system of intelligent, proactive remote maintenance is now within the grasp of all utility operators. Harnessing the power of smart networks and big data can change how we maintain infrastructure.

That change is happening now.


Ariel Stern is the CEO of Ayyeka.
This article was adapted from a contribution that originally appeared in Environmental Science & Engineering Magazine.