Mobile Sensor Management technology makes it easier for operators to keep tabs on process values and keep instruments well maintained and calibrated.
Today’s clean-water plant operators deal with multiple priorities at once. That includes keeping track of information coming throughout the day from multiple process measurement instruments.
To maintain consistently high-quality effluent, it helps to have easy access to data from inline sensors and analyzers. Regular cues to perform required maintenance and calibrations provide further help in running a plant efficiently and in compliance.
Toward this end, Hach offers Mobile Sensor Management, a cloud-based software solution that gives operators clear visibility into their process measurements from any 3G/4G or internet-connected smartphone, tablet or computer. Among other benefits, the system synchronizes process instruments with lab values so that operators can verify readings against grab samples and so make well-informed decisions.
The system also provides service diagnostics and maintenance instructions in real time. Sam Utley, software application development manager with Hach, talked about the offering in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.
TPO: What need in the marketplace does this offering address?
Utley: In the wastewater space, and in drinking water and industrial applications, the desire among operators for access to more data and big data is becoming stronger and stronger. While the aging workforce and loss of knowledge were market drivers we considered in creating this offering, the major need was for customers to have greater access to data and to focus on their highest priorities. This offering is designed to simplify a facility’s daily work so it is clear to operators where and how they should spend their time.
TPO: Please describe in practical and concrete terms what this offering is and does.
Utley: Mobile Sensor Management is a new software that enables instrument data to be accessed on any mobile device. So on any web-enabled device, operators can check the current status of their sensors, whether any maintenance needs to be done in the near future, and whether any maintenance is overdue that is affecting the performance of a sensor or analyzer. The solution also provides guidance on how to maintain those instruments.
TPO: How does the software provide that maintenance guidance?
Utley: Suppose you have an AN-ISE probe for ammonium and nitrate that needs calibration. The software will alert you that in, say, three days, a calibration is due. Then it will walk you through the steps. The instructions are right there in the palm of your hand. It also provides a list of tools and materials needed for the calibration. In all, this ensures that the calibration steps are performed completely and accurately.
TPO: Does this solution apply only to your company’s devices?
Utley: Currently, yes. It’s available on products heavily used in wastewater, but we’re looking to continually expand. We’re releasing new functionality with this software on a three-month cycle, adding sensors and analyzers and adding functionality very rapidly. We aim to move into other areas, including some specific applications in wastewater, as well as drinking water and industrial applications.
TPO: Which sensors are covered by the solution today?
Utley: It covers the majority of our wastewater sensors. That includes our DO probes and ISE probes for nutrients: AN-ISE, A-ISE and ISE. It also covers Amtax ammonium and Phosphax phosphate analyzers, the Nitratax nitrate sensor, and the Solitax sensor for suspended solids.
TPO: How does this offering make connections between field measurements and the lab?
Utley: As an example, if there’s a need to calibrate that AN-ISE probe, Mobile Sensor Management lets you start the job right there on your mobile device. It locks in the values you measure in the field and sends a job to the instrumentation in your process control lab. Then the lab technician can start getting things ready for the job. The sample from the field is taken to the lab. When the analysis is complete, the mobile device displays the field and lab values side by side and asks if you want to update your instrument. When you update, the value that was obtained in the lab is pushed out to the field. At that point there is no reason to go back out and manually punch in that calibration. From a quality control standpoint, that helps limit the errors that can be made, such as from unclear handwriting on a note and putting in numbers incorrectly.
TPO: What do operators actually see when they open the software on their device?
Utley: They see a list of all the sensors with the names they have assigned, a photo of the sensor, the parameter it’s measuring, and the current value in real time. In addition, they see a status bar at the top of the screen, titled Critical and Severe. When they click on the Critical bar, for example, it will show the instruments that need attention. Next to each sensor it tells what the issue is, such as Factory Calibration Lost, or Cleaning Due in Three Days. This helps operators see in a very quick manner what the highest priorities are.
TPO: Can they click on any individual instrument and drill down for more detail?
Utley: Yes. The system logs all the relevant information so that operators have a historical track record of what has happened to the sensor.
TPO: Can users receive alarms or alerts to abnormal conditions with their instruments?
Utley: Absolutely. Customers are able to receive emails about the critical and severe notices.
TPO: How have customers who have used this technology reacted to it?
Utley: It has been received rather warmly. It’s a very different value proposition depending on what the user wants to achieve. One customer was thrilled that they could see their remote facilities. They’re responsible for multiple sites, and they don’t go to them every day. So they appreciate the ability to pick up a phone and see if anything is out of the ordinary or if any maintenance is overdue. That’s peace of mind for them. Another customer was excited about the ability to focus on those highest priorities: What’s going on right now and what do I need to focus on?