Monitoring water utilities | Pipelife

Smart Probing Solutions: Facilitating Digital Transformation of Water Utilities

15. November 2021 | 3 min read

Monitoring water quality and network functionality has always been a key priority when it comes to water asset management. However, the currently available products have placement limitations along a network, which mean delays in detecting leakages and water quality issues, as well as areas that remain not monitored efficiently enough. To address these challenges, Pipelife is developing and testing a Smart Probing solution—a modular system that allows sensors to be fitted directly into the water stream and that can be safely installed at any point of the potable water network. 

With current pilot projects bringing positive feedback on safety and ease of use, Pipelife’s Smart Probing solution has shown a potential to change the industry. Offering a complete smart asset management portfolio to water utilities rather than a single product, three pilot projects are successfully running in the Netherlands, with the fourth, large-scale pilot recently started. 

Smart Probing solution installed | Pipelife
Smart Probing visualisation | Pipelife

Addressing shortages in water network monitoring

The currently used water flow monitoring methods like ultrasonic measurements have significant shortcomings. A key challenge is accuracy, especially when the water flow is low. Smart Probing can obtain more accurate measurements from any location in the network, even where there are low flow rates. High-accuracy sensors are currently being tested and developed in close collaboration with water utilities.

High hygienic safety and ease of installation are equally important features, and both have been confirmed during the pilot projects. Installation takes only one to two hours and can be done without interrupting the water supply. Furthermore, this technology poses no risk of water contamination or leakages. “We make a small hole and place a repair saddle onto the pipe. We have tested our system in a range of 1 to 40 bar pressure and never had any leakages,” explains Jorien Loots, New Business Developer at Pipelife Netherlands. “We designed Smart Probing to be easily installed, but it’s great when someone, who has actually installed it, confirms this. The installers said it was very easy to do, and they had no leakages, proving it’s a very robust system.”

Digital Twins for the Right Decisions at the Right Time

The Smart Probing solution allows gathering data that will eventually help develop digital twins of the complete network. Combined with big data, this brings new opportunities to water utilities when it comes to crucial decisions, for example, which parts of the network require replacement most urgently. It will allow to optimize the use of limited resources while keeping customer satisfaction at the highest possible level.

Attaching Smart Probing to a pipe | Pipelife
Smart Probing close up | Pipelife

Forming partnerships to create solutions 

The current pilot projects have led to partnerships involving partners from various fields, ranging from water utilities to data science. Furthermore, there is a possibility of connecting Smart Probing with other smart solutions developed by Pipelife, like flood warning or smart pumping stations.

“By combining our extensive knowledge of the piping materials and the water network, we can create better solutions, because they are tailored to the water industry’s needs,” says Jorien, explaining the current partnerships, “Instead of offering generic, off-the-shelf products, we work with water utilities, see what they are up against and deliver a solution that actually helps. We started with Smart Probing. Now, we’re working on a comprehensive smart asset management solution that will help water companies understand what is going on in their network and how to manage it in the best way possible.”

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