Predictive Maintenance: A Flood Sensor Network

Marc Pégulu, VP of IoT product marketing and strategy for Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group, takes a look at how Internet of Things (IoT) solutions such as flood sensor networks can provide accurate forecasting, real-time flood alerts and flood monitoring.

According to a new study led by members of the NASA Sea Level Change Science Team, a “wobble” in the moon’s orbit will amplify ongoing rising sea levels caused by climate change to create “a decade of dramatic increases in flood numbers” starting in the mid-2030s.

Floods wreak havoc on communities, close roads, destroy infrastructure, interrupt essential services and pose a safety risk to all that live, work and play in the affected areas. Emergency response preparedness can be incredibly time-consuming and a slow reaction can mean more extensive damages.

As we look to prepare for the upcoming challenge ahead, having a clear picture of the flood patterns in problem areas will allow for a more efficient and straightforward strategy when dealing with the rising waters anticipated in the 2030s. Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and long range, power lower connectivity play key roles in helping communities prepare for this increase in flooding. With early-warning flood sensor networks, communities can get real-time information on many aspects involved with the rising flood levels from the timing and location of a flood to how deep the water may be and its changing conditions.

Predicting Flood Patterns

When a community sees excessive rainfall, its emergency response teams often find themselves scrambling to address overflowing water systems, but even a burst water pipe can create a spontaneous flood event. Floodwaters often rise quickly and with little warning, leaving people to fend for themselves as emergency response teams navigate the murky, rushing water while trying to save civilian lives. Without a way to proactively identify water levels and alert emergency response teams, and ultimately the communities these response personnel serve, there is a higher risk of substantial property damage and more danger to citizen safety. Early warning sensors reduce lag times to help keep citizens, first responders and infrastructure safe and undamaged.

Understanding current and potential community vulnerabilities involves expensive mapping that needs to be kept up to date with changes in land use and areas of growth. By using IoT solutions to understand flooding patterns and problem areas, cities can take preventive action.

By implementing an edge-to-cloud IoT solution, emergency response teams can offer communities the following:

• Access to data: Having the ability to quickly access and prepare relevant weather, environmental, sensor and development data used for modeling, simulation and insight generation.
• Monitoring flood conditions: By identifying weather trends, teams can provide timely insights regarding the magnitude of storm events, the impact of weather, and the location and magnitude of flooding.
• Accurate forecasting: The access to real-time flood data over a reliable, long range and low power wireless communication network provides enhanced monitoring and prediction of flooding events.
• After effects on city planning: With the weather and flood data, city planners can better understand the potential impact of land development decisions on streams and flood plains.
• Real-time alerts: Emergency response teams can improve awareness of impending floods and generate alerts to first responders and citizens.

Introducing Long-Range, Low Power Solutions

Deploying environmental sensors to measure wind, water levels, and tides is a great way to understand how particular areas within a community react to rain, wind and more. End-to-end solutions that incorporate low power wide area (LPWA) networks and advanced analytics simplify the development of solutions that are focused on solving real world problems. This type of solution offers data, streaming analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and gateways.

With individual long range, low power battery-operated sensors, which utilize Semtech’s LoRa® chipsets, users can connect through gateways that continuously collect data, allowing IoT solutions to measure and detect issues remotely before any potential break, breach or crisis. Pairing long-range, low power sensors with IoT devices empower experts to calculate and track water levels and depths in real-time continuously. These sensors can be installed in hard-to-reach areas like basements, alleys, and sewers to remotely track water and immediately alert teams if levels begin to rise.

The individual sensors continuously collect data, allowing IoT solutions to analyze the situation and provide actionable insights. Having constant insights from smart sensors help predict what problems may arise during the next flooding event, offering personnel to implement strategies to mitigate the impact of another potential flood.

Additionally, since long-range demand extremely low power, devices can be battery-powered for years and connect to the network wirelessly to remain in the environment without the need for maintenance. This is imperative in remote villages and communities of the world. Communities can easily install sensors with LoRa integration that can be left to monitor and track data upward of 10 years before requiring a battery update. Maintenance can also done remotely so the IT managers do not need to visit the sites regularly causing for costly, and perhaps dangerous, visits to these areas.

By implementing IoT-enabled sensors with advanced analytics, communities can respond early, inform residents of potential danger and emergency response teams can plan their resources and personnel accordingly. Flooding continues to be a costly and deadly natural disaster. Embracing IoT technology and implementing the sensors into areas for monitoring, it’s hopeful that infrastructure and lives will be saved.