Utility Southern Water is trialling the SmartBall acoustic sensor system in its latest crackdown on water leakage. Provided by partners Pure Technologies and the Water Resource Centre, the ball is equipped with an acoustic sensor that can detect tiny variations in the flow down a pipe which might indicate the smallest of leaks or even a crack that has yet to leak.
The acoustic sensors can ‘hear’ a leak of as little as 0.11 litres/min and other detectors inside the ball can spot unevenness in pipes and pockets of air in a pipe. Housed in a foam packaging, the SmartBall is squeezed through one of the valves on a water main and is rushed along by pressure for up to 12 hours.
Southern Water said in its current trials, the ball stays in the pipe for shorter periods but actually transmits data to the surface where it is collected by computer. The ball can then be grabbed at another valve or caught with a net where the pipe pours into a reservoir.
Southern Water’s technical team have nicknamed the SmartBall as ‘The Dude’ – a fictional character from the cult film, The Big Lebowski.