Sensor analytics in the water system

Industry Tags: Monitors, Sensor Systems

Andrew Whittle engineers smart underground infrastructure for a safer and more efficient future.
The world's growing water shortage has inspired a wide variety of solutions ranging from improving agricultural practices to reprocessing waste water. One often overlooked approach is to stem the enormous volumes of clean water that are lost in leaking water distribution systems.

"Water losses are becoming a huge problem," says Andrew Whittle, the MIT Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Cities in the developed world typically lose anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of water supplied through the underground pipe networks due to leaks and bursts, primarily caused by antiquated infrastructure."

Cities are not only wasting water, but they're also wasting the energy and money spent purifying the water in the first place. While the leaks are bad enough, bursts have additional side effects, releasing massive amounts of water that can cause considerable damage. "A few years ago in Boston, we had a water burst in which the water got into the gas mains and affected heating systems," Whittle says. "It caused no end of problems."

Replacing infrastructure is an obvious solution, but it's expensive and "massively disruptive," Whittle says. The more common solution is to find and repair the leaks. Utilities typically send crews of technicians around the city with acoustic detection devices to locate leaks hidden underground. This is costly and inefficient, however, and is further limited by the fact that the work must be performed at night when it's quieter.
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Andrea Delogu
Italian startup Blue Gold analyzes the flow and pressure data from instruments installed in the network, and using sophisticated algorithms and advanced hydraulic models, provides water utility companies information for reducing operational costs and optimizing service performance
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