COVID-19 and the Internet of Water Treatment

  • 31 March 2020
  • Author: Jeff Lazor
  • Number of views: 1212
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COVID-19 has brought the phrase “social distancing” to the forefront, and many locations won’t allow nonessential employees or vendors on site at all.  Not only has this changed the world we live in, but the outbreak has changed the value proposition for water treatment controls and services.  It has forced us to proceed quickly into the future.

Many systems using decades old technology are running completely in the dark.  These “dumb controllers” could allow small hiccups, such as a pumps losing prime or a solenoid plugging up, to have disastrous outcomes.  A scale inhibitor pump losing prime could cause heat exchangers to plug and energy usage to skyrocket.  Without proper protection, corrosion could cause complete failure.  Biofilm formation and legionella growth could get out of control if biocide feed is lost, causing regulatory and liability costs to soar.  When all of these issues are potentially detectable and preventable for a reasonable upgrade cost, the phrase “dumb controller” almost seems too kind.  The water treatment apocalypse could arrive out of nowhere.  That’s likely overdramatic, but with COVID-19 that no longer seems out of the realm of possibility.

Years ago, searching for information required going to the library and combing through textbooks or encyclopedias.  The internet was a fantasy, and the thought of turning days of research into minutes was like watching a futuristic movie. That dream is now a reality, and with just a few keystrokes, endless information is at hand, sorted by articles, photos, videos, etc.  It has become such an essential part of our everyday life that “googling” has become a common word even though the company didn’t exist 25 years ago.  When the internet is down for even short periods of time, we feel like we are back in the stone ages and people begin to panic.  

Water treatment is no different.  In the past, full scale labs with burets were required for even the simplest of tests.  Test kits often required multiple cases.  Spectrophotometers were only used in the fanciest of labs.  But like computers and cell phones, water treatment has evolved over time. We can now carry all of these tools in backpacks and employ “Smart Controllers”.  These are referred to as Smart Controllers because they can monitor critical parameters in real time such as conductivity, PTSA, and biocide feeds, and send alerts to anyone who needs them.  Smart controllers provide an ounce of prevention, but they’re worth YOUR weight in gold.

To understand the internet of water treatment, we need to understand the internet of things (IoT). We hear how IoT is the future and how it will change our lives, yet we dismiss it because it seems unnecessary.  After all, who needs to talk to their vacuum or their washer and dryer, right?  But do we really understand what IoT means?  By definition, “it is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical, and digital machines provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”[1] That’s about as clear as mud to most people. Simplified it means connecting a device to the internet or other devices simply by turning it on.  It is what allows Amazon’s Alexa to turn on your lights or close your garage door even when you are not home. 

Does the IoT apply to water treatment, or does it even make sense?  A few short months ago, many businesses thought internet connectivity for water treatment was a luxury item rather than a necessity.  The onset of the COVID-19 crisis has rapidly shown why the internet of water treatment is crucial to protecting vital assets. 

The internet of water treatment can help put your mind at ease.  Conductivity sensors can control your bleed in real time and send any out-of-specification readings virtually anywhere in the world.  A plugged solenoid valve can be identified in short order and communicated to the appropriate personnel.  Inhibitor readings can be tracked and adjustments made from remote locations. Chem-Aqua’s bioDART, for example, can measure biofilm potential in real-time and alert you of upsets.  The bioDART has successfully been used to identify loss of biocide feed, stagnant offline equipment being brought online, and other failures.

What can you do with the internet of water treatment?  You can look at all of your sensors tied to your controller such as pH, PTSA, temperature, tank levels for inventory, and much more.  You can turn chemical pumps on or off or make adjustments.  Graphing can be set up to help you analyze the data over any period of time.  The data can be used to pinpoint the time a particular problem occurred.  Multiple systems can be monitored from a single location.  Multiple locations can be monitored from a single dashboard.  It can give you all of this valuable information even when the unexpected happens.  The internet of water treatment gives you the ability to monitor your systems at anytime from anywhere.  It is the Holy Grail of water treatment.

For more information on the internet of water treatment, Smart Controllers, and how they can help you stay on top of your water systems remotely in these changing times, contact Chem-Aqua.  

Written by: Jeff Lazor

 

References

  1. "Rouse, Margaret (2019).”Internet of things (IoT)". IOT Agenda. Retrieved 14 August 2019.

Source: Internet of things - https://en.wikipedia.org

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