Water treatment plant monitoring via the cloud
Nishihara Environment Co., Ltd., of Tokyo, Japan, in collaboration with Nissin Systems Co., Ltd., of Kyoto, have developed an integrated product and service solution called N-Share that uses Skkynet’s DataHub technology and the iBRESS Cloud system from Skkynet’s partner in Japan, BellChild Ltd., to improve access to process data in water purification and sewage treatment plants.
N-Share lets Nishihara work more closely with the facilities they serve, as well as share the data in real time with regulatory agencies and operating companies, yielding significant time and cost savings for all parties.
“Having an in-plant monitoring system gives us the data we need to propose large-scale, comprehensive maintenance projects,” said Nishihara Engineering Manager Masumi Wada. These projects are typically valued at around 10 million yen (about $100,000 USD) each. “N-Share also reduces the number of on-site maintenance visits,” she added, “saving us hundreds of person-hours per year.”
Process control systems for water treatment plants are unique among industrial applications. Plant operations are difficult to model, as control systems must respond to a wide variety of analog and digital data. To optimize the processes, this data must be gathered, integrated, and fed to analytical tools that employ data-driven methods for fault detection, variable prediction, and advanced control algorithms. Although each area is closely monitored, before N-Share Nishihara’s customer plant data could only be accessed at the plant site, requiring either a site visit, or a lengthy procedure carried out by the supervising engineer. By introducing N-Share, Nishihara can now ingest and synthesize treatment system data ranging from power supply and tank levels to pump status and sludge weight, and provide remote access to that data as needed.
N-Share collects and redistributes data using DataHub technology in each plant and in the iBRESS cloud system. In the plants, a wireless gateway device running Skkynet’s ETK (Embedded Toolkit) maintains a secure connection via DHTP (DataHub Transfer Protocol) to a special cloud-enhanced version of DataHub software running on the iBRESS Cloud system. The ETK and iBRESS exchange data in real time, through a secure SSL connection, with no firewall ports open at the plant.
Sensors and devices all over the plant send their data to PLCs, which pass it 12 times per minute to the gateway, via the Modbus protocol. The ETK running on the gateway receives the data from all PLCs and aggregates it into a single, unified data set. It then sends the collected data to iBRESS at a more moderate rate of once per minute, to conserve bandwidth and system resources. Any alarms that come through are immediately passed on to iBRESS over a separate channel.
iBRESS is connected to HMI displays in the offices of plant personnel, managing engineers, and regulatory agencies, giving them a complete view of the whole system, with up-to-the-minute readings on every sensor and device. iBRESS also sends emails for any alarms or failure notifications, and logs the data to databases and CSV files. This allows Nishihara to respond to alarms as necessary, maintain records of all activity, and share selected data with their clients and contacts as needed.
Nishihara has developed N-Share to be portable, and can deploy it quickly, using a remote configuration system from their central office. “N-Share can be packaged and delivered to water purification and sewage treatment plants, and attached directly to their equipment to monitor the performance of in-house equipment in real time,” said Ms. Wada. “This allows us to see what issues may be developing, plan the best way to address them, and propose maintenance overhaul programs for customers.”
“Digital transformation and the IoT have strengthened and enhanced our business and sales models,” she added. “We now serve our customers and suppliers better than before, and actually save money in the process.”