Whole-process innovation supplies an alternative to invasive leak detection.

Whether it is pressure testing or probes, current methods of leak detection can often depend on laborious service-interruption with inconclusive results. FIDO offers water companies a new way.

Whole-process innovation supplies an alternative to invasive leak detection

Hard to deploy, difficult to interpret

Pressure testing, CCTV probes, free-flowing acoustic sensors: all weapons in the increasingly sophisticated armoury being amassed by water companies in the hunt for leaks.

But in most cases, putting probes into pipes means interrupting the very supplies they are supposed to be protecting. And, in too many instances, the results are still inconclusive.
Idiosyncratic data sets that are difficult to interpret

Existing free-moving sensor devices provide a data stream of images, audio data and other sensor measurements that is affected by the specific path the sensor device takes.

Getting, extracting and processing reliable results in a form that the responsible engineer can interpret is hard.

Not only is the data idiosyncratic, there’s the extra problem of deploying and retrieving the in-pipe sensor devices, which can be time consuming and error prone, requiring the specialist training for users.

As a result, many pipework anomalies are deemed too trivial to warrant the resources necessary for an effective investigation.

The FIDO Tech Method

At FIDO Tech we always look at the whole picture with our solutions. Taking in-pipe investigation as an example, one technical solution could be to increase the number of sensor devices. This technique need not increase the demand on resources as long as the device being used is simple enough. This is one of the principles we’re working on at FIDO.

Simpler individual construction allows a smaller form factor (for instance, ≤50mm diameter) so that sensors can be deployed efficiently in smaller-bore pipework and without significant disruption to service delivery.

How does this work? The data from each sensor device can be received as a separate data stream, including measurement which marks anomalies. Instead of using their absolute movement, as the devices pass an anomaly their combined navigation maps changes of movement relative to each other and their starting point to pinpoint the anomaly’s specific location and properties.

Highly accurate information

Analysing and comparing the multiple streams of data produced by a collection of sensor devices following a similar trajectory along a pipe gives highly accurate information about the location of anomalies in the flow, such as leaks, pumps, and other causes of boundaries between laminar and chaotic flow.

By using and comparing multiple data streams, error levels are greatly reduced giving much higher location accuracy than can be achieved by a single sensor device.

And, if the device is small enough and simple enough to use, there’s no need for service interruption or specialist and complex insertion procedures. Access is easier and service interruption becomes a thing of the past, so more leaks are investigated and more are found and fixed.

A whole-process approach to innovation

At FIDO, we believe this is an area of technology development that’s well worth exploring. Taking a whole-process-view to leakage quickly gives you an appreciation that employing sophisticated and cutting-edge technology without considering the bigger picture can often lead technology companies astray.

Developing increasingly complex and novel technologies to solve the issues like water loss can eventually fall down. The solution causes too much disruption to services or other parts of the utility company. Simply put, the cure becomes worse than the illness and the technology that so many people have worked so hard on for so long is discarded.

By working to develop simple hardware with sophisticated artificial intelligence software in the background, we can guarantee excellent analysis while reducing invasive procedures. This is just one way in which FIDO Tech ensures that our solutions really are improvements and not double-edged swords that require utility companies to make compromises elsewhere in their processes.

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