The Internet of Things, or IoT, relies on information poured in from billions of connected devices. Experts predict that there may be as many as 50 billion connected devices by 2030. This wealth of information shared across nearly every platform can lead to more educated advancements in almost every aspect of life, from retail to industry and even things beyond the market.
For instance, utilities can benefit a lot from the IoT — particularly the water sector. Wastewater treatment is an important part of utilizing our most precious natural resource without truly wasting anything, but this process needs to be as exact as possible or we’re causing more harm than good. The IoT can help improve the way we treat wastewater and even how we use it.
What Exactly Is Wastewater Treatment?
Wastewater treatment removes contaminants from water that is not fit for consumption, like sewage or gray water from laundry, showers or even storm drainage. Once the contaminants are safely removed, the water is able to return to the water cycle via evaporation. In some cases, the water can be directly reused in a process called water reclamation.
In the United States, wastewater treatment plants process over 30 billion gallons of wastewater each day. Treating this much water takes a lot of energy. That means saving even just a small amount of energy in this particular sector can lead to much greater efficiency in the long term.
The Three Stages of Wastewater Treatment
Wastewater treatment usually happens in three stages:
- The first stage requires collecting the water that requires treatment — the wastewater influent.
- The second stage is the biofilter — the water is treated with electroactive bacteria and conductive materials to eliminate hazardous contaminants.
- The third stage gathers the treated water that can be reused — the disinfected effluent.
The progress of each stage can be monitored with sensors that can then send information out to the IoT. The sensors can monitor everything from pH to water temperature, including conductivity, turbidity and the amount of dissolved oxygen content. Hardware requirements are different for each stage of the process, but the amount of work and investment put forth is worth the information the IoT provides.
Better Efficiency With the IoT
Using information gathered from the IoT has proven time and again to be worth the effort through better efficiency alone. Improved efficiency leads to faster work at a fraction of the cost, so more profit and product for whatever system is utilizing the IoT to its fullest. Some wastewater treatment plants have already implemented IoT and witnessed a visible difference.
In 2014 and 2015, a plant operated non-stop for a year with recommendations from the IoT being updated every two hours. As a result, the plant managed to reduce electricity consumption by 13.5 percent, lowered chemical use by 14 percent and reduced the amount of sludge production by 17 percent.
There are several ways all of these reductions can happen throughout the treatment process. For example, certain mixing solutions can end up saving energy. One such mixing solution provides more flow so there is less energy output in the mixing process. This, in turn, reduces operating expenses as well. Mixing solutions like the one mentioned can be used for any application during the water treatment process.
Faster Alerts and Notifications
The efficiency aspect doesn’t just pertain to the machinery and hardware used in these plants, either. The people involved in maintaining the wastewater treatment plants can also perform more efficiently with the right set of knowledge at their fingertips. Workers who have to check everything on their own, for instance, could take hours to find a potential problem — if it was something they could even find at all before something more catastrophic occurred.
With the IoT and sensors set up at every stage, treatment plant workers can find a problem immediately, as well as where the problem is and what exactly is wrong. Not only does this help the plant operate much more smoothly and efficiently, but employees get to work more efficiently as well. They have more time to focus on more crucial situations and implement new systems for the plant to work even better.
The IoT Can Improve Just About Anything
The potential IoT has in the world is phenomenal and only grows with every passing second. As long as we know the tricks to organize the information brought into the network, we can use the data provided for almost anything to work more efficiently and safely. It’s no surprise that even wastewater treatment can be improved when the IoT is used correctly.