The scope for water management in commercial estates casts an almost hopeful image in the business of sustainability. Plus, utility solutions are proving to be promising tools. Effective management requires information based on usage history and consumption patterns, which are made possible with sensor-based Internet Of Things (IoT) solutions. With the advent of new technologies, there is a paradigm shift in the business models introduced — such as zero capital expenditure (Capex) — making these vital technology interventions easier to adopt.
The urgency for such solutions is due to the problems FM teams face. Erratic water supply, increased costs, unpredictable demand and scarcity concerns have made real-time tracking the need of the hour. Furthermore, with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) making it mandatory to monitor water quality, it is time to provide estate managers with a solution.
The breakthrough with measurement began where the previous setup’s limitations did: the metering. Flow meters come with inherent drawbacks such as reading airflow in pipes, inability to read low flow or transmitting data automatically. These are generally installed at the water source of the building and can only tell us how much water is being consumed. They cannot capture data on open taps, leakages, individual consumption and other water saving inputs. To bridge this information gap, we brought in IoT to capture data.
Requirement versus supply
What began as a general usage log that recorded consumption details from every inlet soon became the primary data to plan day-to-day water requirements versus supply from sources like tanker lorry, borewells, rainwater and municipal water. An efficient, robust and real-time analytical system also prevents pilferage from the source.
Users had information on different types of water in a room-by-room setup to help selec the most efficient pattern. This soon became a baseline of normal usage, which is a key starting point to detect errors.
Deviations from regular activity led to alerts for previously invisible events such as open taps, flush level events, efficiency, etc. For example, in the case of an open tap, an alarm is raised at customisable intervals of continuous water flow. The interface is designed to give a visual indication on the user dashboard plus an auto-email alert to the facilities team. Rules can be set for the system, so that the building behaves the way you prescribe and any deviations are corrected remotely and in real-time. The result we witnessed: In the first quarter after installation, the system alerted leakages and open taps on 20 different occasions potentially saving 5,00,000 liters of water.
Real-time data on flush events identified the quantum of water used on every individual flush and monitored if the tank settings were at an optimal level. The data on average volume too was made available on a room-by-room basis.
Management and control
Management teams are particularly pleased with the monitoring now possible on scheduled maintenance. Identifying the water usage pattern of the maintenance team enabled them to detect days on which maintenance activity was not carried out.
IoT solutions have now made it possible to treat and reuse wastewater for non-potable purposes. It is no longer just for re-use in flushing systems; real-time quality checks of the ultrasonic sensors allow only colourless and odourless water for heavy-volume applications like HVAC systems. Monitoring the quality of treated water from the STPs enables the user to bravely reduce and reuse their water footprint.
Fittings and infrastructure efficiency
The ability of the sensors to test fitting and valve efficiency is one of the most exciting applications. The real-time flow data measured the flow rate of each fitting in the bathrooms which enabled the user to either change to a more efficient showerhead/tap or include flow reducing valves. In the fast-paced kitchen, data on flow rates in the plate-cleaning section helped reduce water consumption by 10 liters per plate. The info suggested a switch to shower-type taps that cut the flow rate in half.
There were instances where anomalies were identified in plumbing bypasses. Data tracking detected a diversion in a Water Treatment Plant (WTP) plumbing line that led into a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) inlet. Testing helped find that bypass and the maintenance team rectified it before further losses. Abnormal losses need not be a recurring invisible cost any longer. The ability of the sensors to distinguish between a higher than normal usage and a consistently high user makes this utility solution the right necessity to commercial estates. IoT sensors are improving on reading through the air bubbles in the pipeline and help with the tracking of water demand and supply. Today, anything to do with water quantity and quality can be trapped by this technology.
The challenge ahead
What was once a breakthrough in commercial comfort and luxury is now an essential. The discussion on sustainability is a shrug because it comforts to know that the resulting business will take care of the bills. The utility solutions that exist today would never permit the argument of standard as a justification for running up the tab on resources. Depleting reserves of water have changed the question on scarcity from an “if” to a “when”. Withholding action on sustainable measures would have us seeing a new age of Corporate Social Irresponsibility (CSIR); something we at WEGoT are trying each day to prevent from happening. The future of sustainability is with data and we look forward to the day when technology achieves the solution not just for water but for all things sustainable and convenient in a building, in that order.
As mentioned in World Resources Institute (WRI), 75% of India in 2050 is yet to be built. Imagine reducing the demand for water in these buildings by 50%. IoT technology can evolve the design of an entire structure with sustainable components to improve upon every aspect of the site. Much like our statisticised answer to sustainability, consistent awareness will always be step one.