The Internet of Things (IoT): the dream of interconnected wireless systems communicating effortlessly with each other.
IoT has been the aspiration of most technological advancements in recent decades. It can be seen in the technology that we use every day, with smartwatches connecting seamlessly to smartphones and laptops.
But what about a smart water pump?
The data-driven age has seen an increase in smart technology, and pumps are the latest piece of water technology to get the IoT treatment.
What is an IoT smart pump?
An IoT smart pump is a digitally enabled water pump with the ability to interpret and visualise data using Big Data, analytics, machine learning algorithms and cognitive intelligence.
Essentially, smart pumps monitor and provide real-time information on multiple factors, such as the pump’s health, its performance, pressure, temperature, and the velocity of water passing through it.
The innovation in IoT smart pump technology has meant that now pumps are able to gather a greater amount of data that can be used to predict when a pump needs to be repaired or replaced.
Simultaneously, due to the nature of IoT smart pumps, it provides the ability to monitor multiple smart pumps that are installed in various places in your water system.
Collecting data to predict component failure
One challenge the water industry continues to face is the unexpected event of a water system experiencing unforeseen downtime.
If there’s a water system equipment failure, it can lead to hours of downtime to identify which component has failed, how many have failed and where the components are located.
Another challenge is detecting and replacing faulty components ahead of their end of life.
Industry analysts Frost & Sullivan recently conducted a research survey to determine the thoughts of end-users towards demand for smart pumps.
“We are just replacing bearings too early due to fear of failure. We are not optimising the asset.”
One plant manager from the US reported: "One aspect that is bothering me is we are starting to find things too early. If we see a bearing starts to fail then we write-up. This bearing might have had a year left of life on it. We are just replacing it too early due to fear of failure. We are not optimising the asset, and we are only optimising the reliability."
A smart pump has the ability to collect data to determine the current health of the smart pump and predict when it will either need to be serviced or be replaced.
Thanks to IoT functionality, it can also use the data collected for other pumps in a water system to make more accurate predictions and let you know in real-time if it thinks a smart pump is about to fail.
The idea and function of a smart pump are to remove the possibility of an unexpected component failure in the first place. Most standard water pumps require vibration monitoring, a low-cost onsite solution to checking the condition of a pump.
Building a robust and agile ecosystem
We live in the age of data, and that is certainly a driving force behind the leading manufacturers investing signification resources into IoT smart pumps.
The data-driven digitalisation of water has been the main agenda for Danish pump giant Grundfos, who has been developing IoT smart pumps that it believes will revolutionise the global water management ecosystem.
Grundfos currently manufactures 18 million pumps per year but wanted to collect data to make the transition to making IoT enabled smart pumps.
Ericsson recently reported on its collaboration with Telenor Connexion to assist Grundfos’ project to build a robust and agile ecosystem to support the company’s IoT vision going forward.
In order to gather the relevant information, Telenor Connexion facilitated Grundfos with managed connectivity – a global IoT that allows Grundfos to monitor and digitalise millions of connected pumps worldwide.
“Grundfos was able to track and control networked pumps at a local, regional and global level.”
Once the managed connectivity system had been deployed, powered by Ericsson’s IoT system, Grundfos was able to successfully track and control networked pumps at a local, regional and global level. All the gathered data was then compiled into one unified platform.
The results provided actionable insights that were data-led to develop new ways to track the condition of the smart pumps. The data also allowed for optimisation of the flow and delivery of water from the pumps, according to the company.
Smart pumps to enable smart cities
One key area where smart pumps are expected to see an increase in demand are in “smart cities” around the world, as urban centres become more sustainable and improve their energy consumption.
While pumps are responsible for the heating and cooling of buildings, for treating and distributing water and even generating power, they are often overlooked in discussions around sustainable cities.
The reality is that pumps can account for up to 40 per cent of industrial energy usage in modern cities, and smart pumps can provide one energy-saving solution to cities looking to convert into smart cities.
Peter Gaydon, director of technical affairs at the Hydraulic Institute, recently looked into the potential growth of smart pumps for city applications, in an article for SmartCitiesDive.
“The reality is pumps can account for 40 per cent of industrial energy usage in modern cities.”
Gaydon wrote: "Smart pumps enable decision-makers to collect and share data to better manage the flow of energy needed to meet system demand. This gain in efficiency, driven by the internet of things, aligns with the methodology of smart cities to more effectively manage assets and resources — ultimately leading to the achievement of municipal sustainability goals."
A team of three elements
Water solutions company Xylem reported that its smart wastewater pump, called the Flygt Concertor, provided energy savings of 70 per cent compared to a conventional pump.
According to Klas Carlsson, senior manager of integrated systems and Stephen Clark, global product manager of applied water systems at Xylem, the pump features integrated technology such as power electronics including edge computing capabilities.
The built-in intelligence “allows them to continuously operate at optimal energy consumption levels and activate self-cleaning functions when needed”.
.Speaking to Aquatech Online, Carlsson said the smart water pumps combine three elements and that “it’s not about individual components. It’s about a great team of three perfectly concerted elements.”
This includes IE5 motors, power drive system (IES2) and hydraulic pump designed for Minimum Efficiency Index (MEI) ratings.
Using the Flygt Concertor as an example for reference, the company said the benefits fall into five categories:
- Efficient asset management: smart pumps feature auto-adaptive technology to optimise performance. You also have the ability to fine tune the settings for enhanced operational flexibility.
- Trouble-free pumping: smart pumps feature a built-in sump and pipe cleaner to increase the longevity of the pump, reducing odour and improved maintenance notification. Smart pumps also feature clog detection and self-monitoring systems for automatic impeller rotation.
- Energy savings: smart pumps can automatically optimise their efficiency to reduce energy usage and increase energy savings.
- Reduced total investment: while smart pumps feature a big up-front cost, over time, smart pumps can save money on energy usage and not having to replace the pump numerous times.
- Full connectivity: IoT smart pumps system are easily connected into a smart pump ecosystem that can be used to wirelessly monitor the health of the smart pump, the efficiency of water flow and easily troubleshoot problems.
Five examples of smart pump developments
Several pump companies have either launched smart pumps, or systems and sensors to generate more data from existing pump assets. Here we’ve picked out five noteworthy developments:
- SMART Digital, DDA, DDC, DDE intelligent dosing pumps, Grundfos Grundfos’ SMART Digital range of dosing pumps is designed to deliver precision in water treatment, and chemical and process engineering. The micro-controlled stepper motor drives a turn-down ratio of up to 3000:1, which combined with continuous full stroke length displacement, accurate, smooth and continuous dosing is guaranteed at all times. SMART Digital’s Flow Monitor alerts you to failures in the dosing process, while the AutoCal function automatically recalibrates the pump in case of fluctuating system pressure.
- The KSB Guard and PumpDrive German company KSB has developed systems to help schedule maintenance for the pump. KSB’s Guard sensor unit is directly fitted to a pump and records the vibrations and temperature of the pump. The KSB Guard transmission and battery unit supplies power to the sensor unit and transfers measurement data to the KSB Guard gateway. The gateway transfers the data to the KSB Cloud via a mobile phone network for you to access using the KSB Guard portal or the KSB Guard app.
Another device that can connect with the KSB Guard is the autonomous KSB PumpDrive variable speed system. The KSB PumpDrive can continuously change to match the speed of the pump and alter the pump’s output to the actual system demand for increased energy efficiency and better reliability. The PumpDrive can also be controlled via Bluetooth and the smart app, hereby turning your smartphone into a remote control for the PumpDrive, while all data and information are available in the app and web portal.
- Danfoss VLT AQUA Drive for new and retrofit projects The daily load variation in water and wastewater treatment plants make it economically viable to introduce motor control on rotating equipment such as pumps. As a result, Danfoss has a range of systems available for IoT smart water pumps, including the VLT AQUA Drive that is suited to both new and retrofit projects. The company claims this new generation of VLT AQUA Drive can offer a first-year cost saving of between 10–30 per cent, compared to traditional drive solutions.
The system offers a user-friendly setup for the water and pump settings that make for easy installation, energy efficiency and motor control. By having all the important data in one simple to use user interface, it reduces the risk of incorrect configuration, Danfoss said.
- Xylem’s Flygt Concertor and Field Smart Technology (FST) - adapting performance in real-time As referenced earlier, Xylem’s Flygt Concertor is a fully integrated system between software functions and hardware, optimised for wastewater pumping. This new wastewater pumping system senses the operating conditions of its environment and adapts its performance in real-time to provide feedback to station operators. Xylem said it has sold the Concertor to between 25-30 countries, across a “broad mix of customers across geographies and market segments”.
Field Smart Technology (FST) enables the operators to know their mobile pumps’ location, status and condition of the pumps, and if maintenance is required. Hosted in a high security cloud, the users can access the real-time data and make well-informed decisions from distance.
Stephen Clark from Xylem said: “This means the customer can remotely monitor and control the pumps to maximise uptime and efficient operation - all without the need for staff to spend time travelling to site, particularly relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Vibration energy harvesting from 8power
Rather than designing and selling the entire pump, British engineering company 8power has developed a vibration energy harvesting (VEH) device that can be retrofitted to existing pumps. The VEH device can continuously monitor the condition of the pump and send regular data to via either status messages or Bluetooth. Powered by the vibrations of the pump, the VEH is able to generate and store energy to power the sensor and wireless communication functions – even when the pump is idle.