Wireless Network Enables Remote Pump Monitoring

Midlothian, Texas, a fast-growing city near Dallas, saves time and money due to Aeris-enabled monitoring, control and alarm system from RACO Manufacturing.

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By Chris Purpura

Midlothian, Texas, a fast-growing city near Dallas, saves time and money due to Aeris-enabled monitoring, control and alarm system from RACO Manufacturing.

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Aeris has designed and developed custom network infrastructure to provide QoS routing, lower latency, and custom network solutions specifically for wireless machine-to-machine communictaions.
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Equipment uptime drives productivity and costs – and, if that equipment supplies a municipality with the ability to pump city water, failure can cause disastrous and costly damages. This is why ensuring optimum pump performance in an on-demand manner is quickly moving to the top of many municipal agendas.

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Proactive network monitoring is extended through Aeris’s web portal, AerPort, and allows customers immediate access to all aspects of their wireless communications devices including development, deployment, device management, real-time network and billing activities, and customer support.
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“Most devastating pump problems, such as sewer water backing up in city residents’ basements, result from the municipalities’ inability to proactively monitor their system’s performance,” said Sam Siggins, vice president of engineering with remote monitoring solutions specialist RACO Manufacturing & Engineering, of Emeryville, California, USA.

Pumps also constitute one of the largest municipal expenses. A poorly maintained collection system (as exhibited by infiltration) and energy consumption can add up to high costs for most city governments.

Wireless Expertise Challenge

RACO turned to Aeris Communications to expand its landline based monitoring capabilities. Aeris has developed and deployed a wireless network service delivery platform dedicated to machine-to machine (m2M) and telematics communication, connecting remote devices to back-office applications, and providing access to multiple networks and multiple communication layers within a specified network. The result is a custom solution delivering real-time data anywhere in North America.

Using Aeris’s network and technology, RACO was able to develop a wireless remote maintenance, monitoring, control and alarm notification system called AlarmAgent.com. The service enables field, plant and other personnel to collect, access and easily view data from their monitored equipment 24 hours a day, from any Internet-connected computer or other web-enabled device via a secure website.

“What Aeris was able to bring to the table was an extensive wireless footprint combined with a better way of administering our kind of data through the network coupled with excellent customer service,” said Siggins. “This is in stark contrast to other cellular operators whose main focus is not in delivering our monitoring data. Aeris truly understands our business and their call centers are staffed by network technicians that can help resolve potential problems as they arise.”

Aeris provides a single uniform “tunable” network from Canada to Mexico providing customers consistent performance and capabilities across the entire footprint. They can reduce total cost of ownership for wireless deployments with m2M-centric rate plans, supply chain friendly billing and real-time traffic reports to manage variable usage.

RACO’s solution, deployable in a matter of hours, allows plant operations staff to monitor their pump station flows without need for expensive flow meters. With the on-demand flow information, municipalities are able to see surges in flow at the pump stations that may be experiencing stormwater infiltration. They also can use flow information as a pump diagnostic to determine when pumps aren’t operating efficiently due to wear and tear or clogging with debris.

One differentiating feature of AlarmAgent.com is how much user control the system allows. Rather than relying on the service provider to institute requested changes, the end-user can easily change an alarm point from one location to another. RACO is now approaching 1,000 installations of the monitoring solution.

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AlarmAgent, running on the Aeris network, provides the City of Midlothian with detailed reports including date, pump run time and other information.
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AlarmAgent’s customized visual reports for the City of Midlothian include Pump Runtime and Pump GPM.
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Remote Monitoring in Action

One of the fastest-growing cities in Texas, Midlothian deployed RACO’s monitoring system in a cost-cutting strategy to support this growth. The city’s top priority was the ability to monitor pump performance on demand to ensure optimum pump performance and prevent potentially disastrous effects of a pump malfunction going unnoticed.

Midlothian city staff can conveniently review flow rates, start rates and alternations of pump cycles. They also can monitor high and low water level alarm points in wet wells, spotting potential problems before a pump becomes seriously damaged. If a high-level condition in a wet well stayed unmonitored, for instance, sewer water could back up into home basements. Recently, AlarmAgent.com alerted a city worker to a pump inefficiency resulting from a mop head clogging the pump.

Before the RACO monitoring system, Midlothian spent $1 million to correct sewage infiltration problems by improving its collection system and placing new piping and liners inside the sewage collection system pipes. “After they installed AlarmAgent.com, they were able isolate and repair a problem that stemmed from a single manhole in the woods,” said Ralph Royall, manager of the Midlothian project with RACO. “This pinpointed information wasn’t available before it was installed.”

Labor cost has proven to be another major cost-savings benefit to Midlothian. As the city expands to accommodate ongoing population growth, Midlothian’s water plant has difficulty hiring and training additional personnel to support the growth. Because the wireless monitoring solution enables workers to identify and pinpoint specific trouble spots, the city can mitigate its staffing requirements.

In short, municipalities can save money in a variety of ways with implementation of this solution. That can include a reduction in electricity use to pump stormwater, reduced labor costs and proactive prevention of costly water damage to private property. By implementing AlarmAgent.com and the Aeris Communications network, the city is able to improve their system’s performance while reducing the total operating cost.


Author’s Note:

Chris Purpura is vice president of marketing at Aeris Communications, of San Jose, California, USA. Founded in 1992, Aeris began MicroBurst® data services in 1998. The wireless network service provider deployed the 1,000,000th unit on its network in 2005. Contact: +1-888-462-3747 or www.aeris.net

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