THE 'INTERNET OF THINGS' AND MEDECINE HAT FIRE HYDRANTS
This story is brought to you in part by Lawson Mills Biomass Solutions Ltd
by Jan Rose
Unlocking your car door from the opposite end of the continent, a smart video doorbell that lets you see, hear and speak to visitors whether you're at home or absent, the list grows longer and longer for the uses of the 'Internet of Thing's (IoT). This may sound like something designed to obfuscate but it actually is the name of a system of allied computing devices, digital machines, or animals, people or objects that are equipped with unique identifiers and the capability to move data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer contact.
The technology has made a fan of Brian Graham, Manager of Field Operations for Medicine Hat, AB. Initially, they were to use it for trying to find leaks, but they've also found it's quite good at highlighting "points of interest that might reveal a potential leak, he said. "What we've found are almost totally closed valves that have the same effect as a leak," when a work crew on site makes a closer examination.
"We also found one [hydrant] that had been paved over by an asphalt crew," he said. "We're finding it a useful tool", Graham said, adding 'it's a constant monitoring system and that's what we like about it."
How the system works at its most basic is relatively simple. Battery-powered monitoring nodes using very sensitive acoustic sensor built into fire hydrant pumper nozzle caps permit the system to identify and locate potential leaks or flow problems by comparing data detected by one or more acoustic linked by a broadband wireless network.
Installing the system is very quick, Graham explained. Modernizing 150 hydrants took four days.
"All you do is take off the old cap and install a new one at each location which is then checked by technicians to ensure they're operating correctly."
For 150 nodes they paid less than $250,000 for the entire system, he said. Graham convinced the city council to try the technology as a pilot project in 2017.
There's no lack of work for the technology. Medicine Hat has thousands of fire hydrants with another 150 scheduled for next year, he said.