A common technique to control the corrosion of underground steel pipes is called cathodic protection. A sacrificial piece of metal (anode) is connected to the pipe and this anode corrodes selectively instead of the steel pipe.
As such, the sacrificial anode must be periodically replaced. Routine inspection of sacrificial anodes is necessary to establish when they are due for replacement.
To remove the need for manual inspections, Melbourne Water, in collaboration with Green Technology Services (GTS) Group, Sigfox network operator Thinxtra and IBM, has developed an Internet of Things (IoT) system to monitor these cathodic protection installations.
GTS group was responsible for the IoT device design, building the firmware and creating the prototype. Thinxtra supplied the connectivity, as well as providing support to set everything up correctly. IBM provided the IoT gateway and systems to monitor the data.
The prototype devices have performed without fault and Melbourne Water is now planning to roll out the system across its network of pipes. Additionally, similar technology is being developed for its drainage infrastructure to provide real-time insight into system operation.
It is estimated that a network-wide rollout will pay for itself within three years. The improved monitoring will also increase the service life of billions of dollars in assets by increasing the uptime of cathodic protection systems. Additionally, there is a safety benefit from reducing the need for Melbourne Water employees to travel to site for inspections. We hope that this will also provide advanced warning of problems in the field that can be rectified in the shortest possible time.