Blog  /  April 2018  /  Opportunities for Water and Wastewater Operators in Remote Monitoring

Blog Post Teaser

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the key force behind Industry 4.0 – the technological revolution borne out of a desire to improve the efficiency of the infrastructure and industrial sectors through leveraging the power of data-led insights.  To make Industry 4.0 happen, sensors need to be connected via an internet network and securely and reliably brought online.  This is the chief purpose of the burgeoning IoT ecosystem.  This article will present the concept of the IIoT, discuss the benefits municipal operators can achieve through its implementation, and outline the challenges that they may encounter while doing so.  Two abbreviated case studies will conclude the article and illustrate to operators the advantages of “going smart.”


What is the IIoT?

The IIoT uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to connect industrial devices to computer networks and obtain oversight of remote asset functionality.  The importance of the distinction between Consumer IoT (CIoT) and IIoT is especially important to outline.

Bringing the internet to widely dispersed industrial assets is an endeavor that, for many, makes average CIoT setups seem trivially easy by comparison.  Unlike CIoT devices, like Amazon Dash buttons, IIoT devices are typically deployed to monitor “dark” assets that are both difficult to access and challenging to bring online.  Additionally, such devices must be able to withstand (for years) the ravages of corrosive chemicals, odors, and liquids.

Typically, IIoT use-cases will involve the provisioning of hundreds of sensors in order to create so-called “smart networks” to effectively monitor complicated industrial processes.  Each of these sensors will require adequate communications and a power supply to remain operable.  In the case of a typical wastewater IIoT project, for example (such as monitoring the hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, sewer gas), battery-powered sensors will likely have to withstand harsh, corrosive environments for long periods of time.

The margin for error is also typically far narrower than that which is seen in the CIoT.  In water management, for instance, the loss of even a single device could result in significant water loss or cause substantial damage to the network’s infrastructure.

Finally, those responsible for implementing IIoT systems need to make sure that the systems being set up are interoperable.  Only once all these potential concerns have been addressed can have a project stand a chance of being successful.


One Technology, Many Applications

Although all IIoT systems use the Internet of Things (IoT) to meet the monitoring needs of industrial operators, their specific applications within each vertical vary widely.

Those commonly undertaken in the water and wastewater sectors, however, include discrete systems to monitor:

  • System water loss, through district metered area (DMA) technology
  • Corrosive gas monitoring in wastewater systems
  • Water and wastewater quality through in-line, continuous monitoring systems


Advantages for Would-Be Operators

Successfully implemented, IIoT networks can help operators to:

  • Realize Cost Savings:  Pressure monitoring can provide water network operators with vital clues to find leaks in their networks and avoid mains breaks.  In addition, real-time pressure monitoring can be used to help operators ensure that only the minimum necessary pressurization is used in their distribution networks, thereby realizing cost and energy savings.  For wastewater operators, the early detection of potential sewer overflows can help avoid such events entirely, saving on fines from environmental regulators and minimizing the environmental pollution that such events typically entail.
  • Improve Maintenance:  When coupled with the power of analytics programs, data can be leveraged to help operators move from antiquated run-to-failure (RTF) repair strategies towards modern methodologies, such as predictive and preventative maintenance.  Specifically, real-time data can be measured to calculate total chlorine in remote tank sites – to facilitate the timely mixing of chemical dosing, for example – and to obtain awareness of groundwater level and conductivity to properly model underground aquifers in order to prevent irreversible collapses.
  • Improve Service:  More efficiently managed networks deliver improved service to customers through ensuring that supplies are correctly pressurized, properly chlorinated, and not leaking.


Potential Challenges for Operators

Some of the challenges that those hoping to implement IIoT solutions face include:

  • Communications:  Achieving reliable communications to network endpoints ranks as the primary difficulty facing IIoT users.  The parallel development of competing – and often overlapping – networking technologies only compounds this difficulty.
  • Cost:  Although modern, IIoT-based systems are significantly more cost-effective than the telemetry systems of old, remote monitoring still remains an expensive endeavor.  To get key stakeholders on board, emphasize the long-term cost savings that will come with operating infrastructure more efficiently.
  • Cybersecurity:  Bringing infrastructure online can constitute a cybersecurity threat to operators who may feel (justifiably) concerned that such systems could be exploited as backdoor entry vectors to critical control systems.  Integrators and technology staff more used to securing networks through physical means such as air-gapping may prove recalcitrant to the idea of trusting other methodologies such as encryption.


Field Success Stories:  LADWP and Delta Diablo

Two successful implementations from California will illustrate to operators the advantages of successful IIoT deployments.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) supplies water to 674,000 water customers and operates an extensive network of storage tanks throughout Southern California.  It acquired remote tank monitoring solutions to gain real-time network state information and prevent nitrification.  Jonathan K. Leung, the utility’s Assistant Director of Water Quality, said that before deploying remote monitoring solutions, the utility had to make do with manual monitoring methodologies that were time-consuming, labor-intensive, and inefficient.  Through adopting an IIoT-based remote monitoring technology, the utility has achieved reduced system nitrification and improved water quality.

Delta Diablo is a wastewater operator based in Northern California.  After concluding a search to find a technology to support its efforts to prevent sewer overflows, the utility installed 10 sewer level monitoring kits to improve the operation of its network.  According to its Resource Recovery Services Director, Dean Eckerson, obtaining real-time monitoring of critical conditions throughout the sewer system has allowed the utility to “anticipate the onset of adverse hydraulic conditions and take proactive action to prevent overflows.” 


Ayyeka IncorporatedAbout Ayyeka Incorporated

Ayyeka Incorporated simplifies delivering data from remote infrastructure and assets.  Creating smart networks with Ayyeka’s hardware-enabled Data-as-a-Service solution is streamlined and secure.  With Ayyeka, users can collect data using any sensor, over any communications network, and integrate with any SCADA or software platform.  In a data-driven world, Ayyeka provides the technology operators need to operate at the cutting edge.