Tech Topics: There's a Cloud Over the Groundwater Industry (and It's a Good Thing)
April 22, 2013
There has been a lot of talk lately about “the cloud”-cloud computing, cloud data storage, etc. So what is this cloud all about and how, if at all, does it apply to the groundwater industry? I decided to do a little snooping, so I visited a company I’d heard about in Las Vegas called Aqua Management Inc. (AMI). They make cloud-based remote asset monitoring systems for the groundwater and other industries.
First of all, what is “the cloud”? The cloud refers to the use of hardware and/or software computing resources delivered as a service over the Internet. It can be as simple as storing your photographic images on services like Just Cloud or Dropbox-there are dozens of them, and some for free. One of the most popular examples of cloud storage is YouTube, where you store and share your videos for free.
At the other end of the spectrum are products by companies like Oracle, which offer application software and database services to banks and large corporations on a fee basis so that their customers don’t have to have in-house specialists to keep their hardware and software running. For this, they pay a very large monthly fee.
Microsoft is now offering some of their application software, such as Office 13, via the cloud so you don’t have to have the software on your computer and worry about keeping it updated. For this service, you pay a small monthly fee.
Another term used in describing Aqua Management’s products with which you might not be familiar is SCADA which stands for supervisory control and data acquisition. SCADA systems provide the communication pathway between devices like pump controllers and variable frequency drives to computers. SCADA communications protocol has been used for years between pump stations and management computers but, before devices like those manufactured by AMI, pump controllers and VFDs were hard-wired or connected by land lines to computers that made using them in remote locations difficult and not for the faint at heart.
A useful feature of SCADA-type communication protocols is their ability to allow multiple parameter sensors like water level, discharge pressure and flow rate to be connected on one network to multiple computers. In addition to the well parameters, which are monitored using digital pressure sensors, flow meters, etc., all of the pump motor parameters like horsepower, kilowatts, kilowatt-hours, voltage, frequency of the power, phase balance, etc., can be monitored using a SCADA-compatible VFD or pump control unit. And, as the name implies, SCADA systems can also control your pump. Virtually any information that you can gather or control standing at a pump station is available remotely via a SCADA system.
What Aqua Management brings to the table is a simple, inexpensive little weatherproof device called VAPOR that includes SCADA software and a built-in cell phone that interfaces with the well through pressure sensors, water level sensors and a pump controller such as SymCom’s Model 777, allowing you to monitor and control all of the important functions of the well from anywhere with a computer, iPad-type device or smartphone via the Internet.
With this system, a farmer, using his iPhone while on vacation in Hawaii, could check the water level in his well, the flow rate and pressure output of his pump, the pump run hours and total kWH consumed, plus about anything else he wanted to know about his well in Iowa. Or, he could check the moisture content in his corn field and turn on the center pivot pump if he thought it necessary.
The possibilities are endless and if this article has sparked your interest and imagination, contact the manufacturer at the Internet address listed with this column. Or, if you are already a SymCom customer, you can get a version of VAPOR built to SymCom’s specifications and tailored to use with the 777 PumpSaver series of pump controllers directly from SymCom. Their unit is called the CellRam for Cellular Based Remote Asset Monitor. SymCom’s contact information is also listed with this article.
It has been projected that by 2015 it will take you five years to view all the videos crossing the Internet to and from the cloud every second. Soon everyday things around us will start talking to each other, from home appliances to industrial machines and even vending machines. Imagine your washing machine asking the water heater for 10 gallons of hot water and the water heater checking with the utility company for best rate plan during the day to heat up the water. This technology will be available in a few years. Talking to your well from a remote location is available now. Check it out.
Aqua Management Inc.