Amey uses smartphone sensors to detect sewer flooding

25 February 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

Amey has devised a new system using capacitive sensors similar to the ones found in smartphones to predict the likelihood of sewer flooding.

Ofwat imposes fines on the water companies for exceeding the allowed number of sewer flooding incidents, with each incident can cost a utility company over £40,000.

Amey Consulting’s new technology, which is undergoing trials with the Water Research Council, aims to tackle the problem.

Capacitive sensors detect the depth and speed of the flow in pipes. Analysis of the data picked up by the sensors is used to assess where blockages are and to predict the likelihood of flooding so that utility companies can take preventative action. The low power consumption of the sensors, combined with the use of cloud processing, means that data can be gathered across the whole sewer network rather than from individual sensors, Amey claimed.

The data captured from the sensors will be communicated to the cloud via a mobile network operator at regular intervals. This enables utility companies, using a data analytics platform, to predict and take preventative action on sewer floods. For connectivity of the project at the current trial stage, Amey Consulting is using the next-generation NB-IoT technology, which is specifically designed for this type of application. The next stage is a pilot programme with utility companies and, if these are successful, Amey Consulting will work to commercialise the technology and expand it outside the UK.

Charles Oldham, head of strategic consulting at Amey, said: "Amey Consulting is working closely with our clients and partners to solve the problem of sewer blockages that lead to flooding, a situation that is exacerbated by our increasingly wetter weather. This is an exciting technology that if piloted successfully with our utility clients in 2020, could have further applications across large estates such as airports, cities that are impacted by being on or close to a flood plain or for local authorities trying to manage highways flooding."

Research and development work on the technology was undertaken by Amey Consulting, led by Dr Stephen Gooberman-Hill and co-inventors Dr Michele Gaio and Dr Vergil Yotov. The team drew on the expertise of the Amey Utilities business and the project was supported and funded by Amey Investments.

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