IoT Blog
IoT Blog

IoT-Connected Water Purification Systems Enable Predictive Maintenance

by Remy Marcotorchino, Director of Marketing, Industrial & Infrastructure
It’s easy to take clean water for granted. But perhaps we shouldn’t: In the United States, for instance, the level of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and other health problems exceeds federally recommended safety levels in public water supplies, while across the EU, the growing presence of pesticides and nitrates has many experts concerned.

Nor is drinking water alone at stake. Consumers often don’t realize that high-quality purified water is essential to many industries, from food and beverage manufacturing to the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. Water clean enough for human consumption can still contain contaminants, ranging from organic and suspended material to high mineral levels.

While traditional water purification systems help industries mitigate the effect of these variables, such systems aren’t without weaknesses—and smart, IoT-enabled equipment may offer a more efficient solution.

The Challenge of Consistent Water Quality

Purifying, deionizing, or distilling water is essential for many industrial uses, of course—both to ensure the consistency of products and to meet strict safety regulations. Any deviation in the quality of water used for, say, an injectable medicine, could have serious consequences, both for the patient and for the company supplying the medicine. And in a research lab, variations in water quality could completely nullify findings.

Large laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and food and beverage manufacturers frequently rely on dedicated, standalone water purification systems to meet these challenges. But because they depend on such systems to keep daily processes running, water purification equipment suppliers must keep these critical machines running 24/7. This requires a very sophisticated service organization. And when thousands of such systems are deployed across a region—all requiring site visits—it turns into a significant burden both for the equipment supplier and the organizations who depend upon them.

At the same time, parts need replacing, and even the best systems eventually require service and maintenance, which can be costly and inefficient. Waiting until a part breaks before replacing it results in expensive downtime, and to avoid this, engineers must visit sites regularly to ensure that things are running smoothly—even though specific systems might not have maintenance issues. There is no other way to know the exact status of the equipment.

Smart Water Purification Systems for Smarter Resource Management
To improve the customer experience, forward-thinking suppliers are beginning to connect their water purification systems to the Internet of Things (IoT). One such company, Paris-based Veolia, which provides a range of water purification systems and service packages to customers in the pharmaceutical, industrial, research, and food and drink industries, turned to Sierra Wireless to create an IoT solution that would deliver a more efficient service.

Systems connected to the IoT have allowed Veolia to move from preventative to predictive maintenance. The data gathered from the connection—such as water flow, pressure, temperature, and conductivity—is stored in the cloud and monitored on a 24/7 basis. The information allows Veolia’s engineers to predict issues in advance—and to optimize the scheduling of maintenance visits so that technicians lose less time on the road. This saves money for both Veolia and its clients and creates significantly more efficient customer support:  if there is a problem with a water system, such as a drop in pressure or water flow, engineers will be alerted (and able to react) instantly. Since customers also have access to this data, they are able to know the exact status of their machines at all times, including when the next round of service visits will occur.

One particularly useful aspect of the Sierra Wireless offering is that customers can choose between designing a new piece of equipment around a cellular module or retrofitting existing machines with a gateway or modem. Veolia chose the latter, avoiding the need for equipment to be redesigned and allowing the company to deploy its system to existing water purification equipment right out of the box.

Another obstacle faced by many IoT deployments is that machines are frequently installed inside, where cellular signal is weak or nonexistent—and choosing the wrong Mobile Network Operator (MNO) can compound the issue. But Sierra Wireless’ managed connectivity service is operator independent. This allows it access to multiple networks at any given location and provides a much higher probability of machines being able to communicate.

Veolia now uses the data and alerts from the AirVantage® IoT platform to enable predictive maintenance services and to make recommendations for operational improvements. Veolia’s customers can also view the data through a dedicated portal. The result is a comprehensive IoT service platform that lets Veolia provide fully managed service contracts.

By connecting water purification systems to the IoT, equipment providers gain 24/7 remote monitoring capabilities. They can analyze real-time usage data and make better decisions about servicing their water treatment systems and enhancing business efficiency. The result is a more efficient, less costly, and more reliable service that keeps the water flowing. View the full Veolia case study here, or get in touch with us to develop your own wireless solution.