Novel approach to Telemetry ensures reliable water supply under African conditions Tabateq

By: Tabateq  11-11-2011
Keywords: radio, Telemetry, System Integrators

Municipalities use wireless telemetry widely to overcome constraints imposed by cabling over longer distances in order to reach remote sites. Pump stations and reservoirs are classic examples of remote sites that use data connectivity over radio technology. Information relating to operational statuses gets fed back to a central station (typically running SCADA software) for monitoring & control in order to maximize process efficiencies.

When a home wireless network goes down, it causes an inconvenience but is seldom a critical issue. Downtimes on radio telemetry networks for water/wastewater systems could result in unacceptable delays in response to genuine remote system faults and may result in interruption of service delivery – e.g. no water to the consumers.

For this reason modern telemetry systems need to be robust and contain a high level of self-diagnostics and may even use meshing - a technique whereby a signal automatically finds a communications path even during periods where a station may have an outage. If, for example, an antenna is damaged due to vandalism, the ability of the radio system to quickly indicate communications faults is critical.

Tabateq uses radio telemetry systems designed by Elpro Technologies to ensure the radio communications channel is optimised and fault reporting via integrity signals are sent and monitored. Elpro’s Ethernet modems also feature diagnostic registers that can be read directly from a SCADA using Modbus TCP. Monitoring signal strengths and alarming pre-emptively have become standard features in Elpro’s gateways to ensure maximum uptime and availability.

Radio communications in industry used to be the exclusive domain of RF experts. Elpro’s radio technology is maturing to a point where the radio complexities are neatly tucked away and user-friendly interfaces are provided for configuration and maintenance. Elpro has developed its radio telemetry with ease of expansion and maintenance by the user in mind using Windows-based software. This allows users to conveniently configure and expand complete systems. It is possible to mix radios with direct industrial fieldbus interfaces (e.g. Modbus, Ethernet/IP, Profibus) and conventional telemetry units within the same system.

The use of copper cable in distributed water systems has died about 20 years ago. Cable was replaced by custom designed telemetry that required the input of RF experts to install and maintain. Deregulation in the RF field has allowed further development and Elpro’s technology has seized the opportunity to develop solutions which can be implemented and supported by system integrators anywhere in the world.

Tabateq has successfully facilitated wireless automation across the continent of Africa. Elpro systems are extensively used by all major mining groups as far as Ghana, DRC, Namibia, Botswana and Kenya. Remote water supply systems in various African states rely on Elpro’s technology. Botswana Water Utilities have adopted Elpro for their automation applications throughout the country based on its reliability and ease of implementation through multiple trained system integrators in the country. This underlines the fact that modern radio telemetry systems is gaining acceptance within Africa.

Keywords: radio, Radio Telemetry, Radio Telemetry Systems, System Integrators, Telemetry, Telemetry Systems, Wireless Telemetry

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