Imagine your job was to oversee a group of water tanks scattered over a wide area – how would you expect to monitor the water levels in each tank and control the water pumps accordingly? The use of wireless technology is one answer.
Although it sounds like a simple plan, asset managers have struggled in recent years due to the rising costs associated with license band radio frequencies. Here, Ian Loudon, Global Sales and Marketing Manager at wireless pump monitoring and control specialist Omniflex, explores what the industry needs to overcome these challenges.
Water reservoirs are often located in geographically dispersed areas and can be difficult to access. This means asset managers must rely on remote monitoring and control systems to monitor water levels and turn pumps on and off for each reservoir from a centralized control station. Since the installation of control cables is extremely expensive, more expensive than any equipment itself, the utility industry relies on wireless monitoring and control systems to reduce costs.
Wireless technology monitoring of all reservoirs from a centralized control system allows asset managers to know at a glance the water levels at each site. If combined with a pump control system, it allows them to control water levels based on demand without the need for costly and disruptive site visits.
Wireless technology also increases operational flexibility, as it is much easier to move a wireless device compared to a wired unit. This is because when moving wired units, engineers have to dig up all the cables and reroute them to the new location, compared to wireless units where all they have to do is unplug them at the old location. and plug them in again.
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Wireless technology offers a plug-and-play solution for tanks and more
Traditionally, asset managers used radio telemetry systems, operating in the license band frequencies, to operate all wireless equipment. However, the administrative costs of owning and maintaining radio frequencies in the license band often exceeded the cost of the equipment itself, making networks much more expensive to operate.
The new license-free ISM band radio telemetry equipment defined globally, the radio frequency spectrum (ISM) in the industrial, scientific and medical band has proven to be a game changer, helping equipment owners avoid unnecessary license and administration costs.
Wireless units can be directly interfaced to an existing SCADA (supervisor control and data acquisition) system using the on-board Ethernet ports or operate as a stand-alone programmable controller independent of SCADA using a wireless network to monitor I/O remotely for the implementation of the control.
This makes installation quick and easy, allowing asset managers to save on any additional hardware or technical needs. Most applications require little or no programming. For example, remote reservoir/reservoir level setpoints mapped via a telemetry system to the pump controller triggering pump on/off control.
Additionally, cloud-based platforms allow asset managers to monitor systems 24/7 using a tablet or phone, rather than having to use a fixed desk in the factory control room. This is particularly useful for a mobile workforce and even in the current situation, where many people are forced to work remotely due to the global pandemic.
This new generation of plug-and-play wireless telemetry equipment is not just benefiting water tank managers. This technology is also extremely beneficial in other industries, such as mining, where they rely on surface-level control of underground water pumps to evacuate water from mines. In fact, any industry where cabling is too expensive or too disruptive to install can benefit from adopting a plug-and-play wireless telemetry system.
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