Saving of water and smart water infrastructure management are high on the agenda of the majority of developing and developed countries in the world. As water systems age, the condition of the piping deteriorates due to natural wear and corrosion. Failures occur also in newer systems but, new or old, whether due to corrosion or other circumstances, their initial emergence is not visible. So too, their deterioration and resulting water loss can go unmonitored for long periods of time. This leads to financial loss from wasted water, environmental and collateral damage and higher cost of management and maintenance of an already damaged infrastructure, compared to early discovery of the fault.
Figures for World loss of water (non-revenue water or NRW) stands at $14B a year with $2B a year being attributed to The United States alone. The problem is addressed by most developed countries by the gradual replacement of water infrastructure based on the age of the pipes alone (and not based on real knowledge of their condition or serviceability). This is an expensive and inefficient process.
This is leading more and more municipalities throughout the World to seek out means of control and monitoring for their water infrastructure both in terms of the condition of the pipes and the costs needed to maintain them. Today some 30-50% of water utilities’ budgets go on maintenance and repair of pipes and the need for planning in advance, including identifying priorities for maintenance, is on the rise.
The most effective way of meeting these challenges is through comprehensive and continuous monitoring of the water network, something that gives a complete picture of the current state of the system and a strong indication of how it will look in the near future. This brings about a considerable drop in the amount of water wasted, reduces the damage inflicted by continuous leakage on infrastructure such as foundations, buildings and roads and prolongs the life of the pipe network through correct and efficient maintenance.
Active discovery of leaks has been pursued for years using a range of different technologies, primarily involving the inserting of cameras or audio sensors into the pipes. These ‘invasive’ methodologies are expensive and tend to be used on-demand for surveys on main pipelines and not as fixed systems. Aside from the high cost of manpower, the results are only valid the moment the sample is taken. Getting an updated reading therefore requires a subsequent visit. There are cases of fixed-sensor monitoring systems. However the large number of sensors that are needed for a given length of pipe makes them expensive.
Aquarius Spectrum has developed a system based on software and sensors that effectively turns a “buried” water infrastructure into one that is visible, controlled and monitored smartly, within the realm of internet of things (IoT).
Aquarius Spectrum entered the market with a smart hybrid solution that comprises two synergic product lines it developed independently. The first – AQS-SYS – is a fixed leak detection system that executes daily monitoring of the municipal water network. It can identify the presence of leaks from a very early stage and monitor their development over time. The second product – iQuarius™ – is a mobile leak detection device that connects to a smartphone and interacts with its own proprietary app. iQuarius™ can be used to carry out surveys independently and additionally, it can be used in conjunction with AQS-SYS; once the AQS-SYS has indicated the location of the leak, iQuarius™ pinpoints the exact position at which digging should commence to reach and repair the fault. Combining the findings of both systems gives the most comprehensive data and therefore the most reliable means of analysis. Furthermore, both systems share the same web interface which can incorporate maps of the municipal water network.
A number of competitive advantages of the Aquarius-Spectrum system allow financial saving for water utilities, partly due to the relatively low cost of the system and partly due to its high degree of accuracy and reliability. It handles the simultaneous transfer of large amounts of data from the water network and this is fully analyzed on the cloud (big-data), using unique self-learning algorithms developed in the company over 5 years.
The AQS-SYS fixed monitoring system is based on acoustic sensors that connect to the internet using cellular communication (3G GSM); they are equipped with GPS technology that allows millisecond synchronization between sensors. The sensors therefore pick up the acoustic signals produced by leaks in the municipal water pipes in a synchronized manner. The samples recorded from all the sensors in the municipality’s network are transmitted to the Aquarius-Spectrum data analysis center, where they are analyzed immediately and the findings made available to the water utility users in the form of simple and intuitive information on the screen, together with actual data recorded when sampling.
One of the most outstanding features of the system is its unique method of leak detection by correlation, which is characterized by the large amount of data recorded and analyzed in each and every reading across all the sensors in the network. This method allows for the identification of leaks as small as 1.5mm in diameter, quickly and reliably, including their exact location. Furthermore, this method extends the range covered by the sensors, resulting in fewer sensors required and a reduction in costs. On average, 2-2.4 sensors are required for each kilometer of piping.
Another important characteristic of the Aquarius-Spectrum system is its simplicity of installation and user-friendly control panel that displays current status information and history that have high importance to the water utility. This comprehensive picture allows the water company to repair leaks while they are still minor, preventing them from developing into far more costly cases such as infrastructure damage. Moreover, having an ‘X-ray image’ of the entire water network allows the utility to plan a long-term maintenance strategy to extend the life of the pipes and reduce maintenance costs and collateral damage.
Not Only Leaks
The AQS-SYS technology does more than just locating leaks in the municipal water pipes. It also identifies and pinpoints failures in components such as faucets and water meters and its unique correlation technology also allows it to identify leaks in private property where no sensors are fitted.
The iQuarius™ portable leak detection system consists of acoustic sensors, a GPS receiver and a unique Smartphone App. It can be used for independent surveys with the option of correlation using 2 sensors; and can be used for pinpointing – marking the exact spot at which to start digging – following location of a leak by AQS-SYS. iQuarius™ is the first water leak detection system in the World that works on a smartphone and incorporates cloud technology. It comes complete with all the accessories required to undertake professional water leak detection fast and effectively. It includes a portable sensor that can listen to the signals emitted by water flowing in the pipes by a variety of methods and adapters including direct contact with the pipe, via a listening stick or on hard ground above the pipe.
It has an intuitive user interface that includes marking the location of leaks on an online map, achieved through acoustic analysis and GPS location, with an internet connection to GIS maps. The price of the device is relatively low and it is sold with a monthly service package that fits the customer’s usage requirements.
Both systems, the fixed AQS-SYS and the mobile iQuarius™, are provided under a SaaS model and are supported by a professional team of support engineers that are in daily contact with the customers – from the implementation phase to continuous tracing for significant findings, analysis and recommendations.
In 2015 Aquarius-Spectrum won 2 prestigious awards:
- First place in the Aquatech Innovation Award 2015, Water Infrastructures category. More than 70 companies participated.
- Second place in the Water Infrastructure Challenge competition March 2015, “Growth-Stage” category, organized by Imagine H2O. More than 100 companies participated.
Aquarius-Spectrum numbers 20 employees who include engineers, software developers, sales and marketing personnel. The company CEO, Zeev Efrat has 20 years of management experience locally and internationally, with an emphasis on building and developing startups.
The company was founded in 2009 by David Solomon. It was a portfolio company of the Hutchinson-Kinrot Technology Incubator, owned by Hutchinson Water. The company recently announced that Hutchison Water International Holdings Pte. Limited, from the international CK Hutchinson Holdings Limited group, invested 2.2m USD in the company’s first round of fundraising.