What is the role of IoT technologies in pumping systems?


Intelligent, connected devices are changing every aspect of our lives, but what does this world of connectivity mean for the pumping industry? How can digitization be leveraged for business improvements?


Image by Tumisu from Pixabay


Intelligent power solutions used in the pumping industry collect data, learn, and provide actionable insights to optimize power use and continuity. By collecting and transforming data into clear insights, you’ll have the information needed to make better decisions faster.


So what is the role of IoT technologies in pumping systems?


IoT technologies drive energy efficiency, remotely monitor and control pumping applications, and predict issues before they cause downtime or impact operations. These advanced technologies can provide critical equipment performance metrics to enable informed decisions impacting budgets and long-term modernization plans, and can be used in the after-sales service to predict when repair or replacement is needed. They also allow users to simultaneously monitor and manage multiple smart pumps installed in different locations in the same water treatment system.


Predicting component failures through data collection


IoT allows real-time data to optimize failure modes and rates of components. With intelligent devices like sensors, controls, and variable frequency drives (VFDs) connected to a network, the data could be analyzed and used to understand how pumps are being used and when or why they operate outside expected conditions. Pump manufacturers can use this data to understand trends, make more reliable pumps, and predict market needs before they happen. With monitoring in place, pump systems can proactively alert users to decreases in efficiencies while enabling troubleshooting and diagnosis for potential problems before they become detrimental to the system.


Frost&Sullivan, a third-party consulting company, recently conducted a research survey to understand and determine end users' needs and opinions on smart pumps. A factory manager from the United States said: “One of the problems that bothers me is that we misdiagnose potential problems and failures. For example, when we see the bearing is beginning to wear or predict that there is a problem, the staff will try to replace it; however, this bearing may actually have a lifespan of one year. We are only performing maintenance and replacement ahead of time because of concerns. We are not optimizing assets, but optimizing reliability."


The smart pump can collect data to determine the current operating status of the smart pump and predict when it needs to be repaired or replaced. Thanks to the Internet of Things, it can also use the data collected for other pumps in the water supply system to make more accurate real-time predictions and inform users or managers whether the pump will fail. The concept and function of the smart pump is to first eliminate the possibility of accidental failure of components. Most standard water pumps require vibration monitoring, which is a low-cost on-site solution for checking the condition of the water pump.


Data-driven digital water treatment has always been the focus of the Danish water pump giant Grundfos. Grundfos has been developing IoT smart water pumps and firmly believes that this will completely change the global water resources management ecosystem.


Grundfos currently produces 18 million water pumps per year, but it is eager to collect data effectively in order to transition to the production of intelligent pumps. Ericsson recently announced its cooperation with Telenor Connexion to help Grundfos build a strong and flexible ecosystem to support the company's vision for the future of the Internet of Things. In order to collect relevant information, the solution provided by Telenor Connexion for Grundfos has a manageable information flow interface, helping Grundfos manage and digitize millions of water pumps worldwide. Once the system is effectively activated, Grundfos can successfully track and control various regions and even link global networked pumps. All collected data is finally compiled and centralized on a unified platform. It is said that the integration and application of these data can greatly optimize the flow rate and water supply of the pump.


Smart pump & smart city


As modern cities pay more attention to the energy consumption, global "smart cities" will become a key area for the growth of demand for smart water pumps. Although water pumps are critical for heating and cooling of the buildings, treating and distributing water, and even generating electricity, they are often overlooked in discussions about sustainable cities. The reality is that in modern cities, water pumps can account for 40% of industrial energy use, and smart water pumps can provide an energy-saving solution for cities that wish to transform themselves into smart cities.


Peter Gaydon, head of technical affairs at the Hydraulic Institute, recently discussed the potential growth of smart pumps in urban applications in an article written for Smart Cities Dive. Gaydon writes: “Smart pumps enable decision makers to collect and share data to better manage the technical and data support needed to meet system requirements. Driven by the Internet of Things, efficiency improvements are consistent with the methodology of smart cities in order to manage assets and resources more effectively, and ultimately achieve the city's sustainable development goals."


The well-known company Xylem reports that its Flygt Concertor model smart wastewater pump saves 70% energy compared with traditional pumps.


According to Klas Carlsson, senior manager of integrated systems at Xylem, and Stephen Clark, global product manager of applied water systems, this series of pump products have integrated technologies such as power electronics including edge computing capabilities. The intelligent settings of the products allow them to run continuously at the optimal energy consumption level and activate the automatic cleaning function when needed.


In an online interview with Aquatech, Carlsson stated that smart water pumps combine three elements rather than the efficacy of a single component: This includes IE5 motors, power drive systems (IE2) and hydraulic pumps, designed for minimum efficiency index (MEI) ratings value. The benefits brought by it are as follows (take the Flygt Concertor series pump as an example):


Efficient asset management: Smart pumps use adaptive technology to optimize performance. You can also fine-tune the settings to enhance operational flexibility.


Trouble-free operation: The smart pump has a built-in sump and pipe cleaner, which can extend the service life of the pump, reduce odors and improve the maintenance reminder function. The smart pump also has a clogging detection and automatic impeller rotation self-monitoring system.


Energy saving: Smart pumps can automatically optimize their efficiency to reduce energy use and increase energy saving effects.


Total investment reduction: Although smart pumps have a relatively large upfront cost, over time, smart pumps can save energy costs without having to replace the pump multiple times.


We have noticed that several pump companies have launched smart pumps, systems and sensors to generate more data from existing pump assets. Here we have selected five noteworthy cases:


SMART Digital, DDA, DDC, DDE smart series metering pumps developed by Grundfos


Grundfos' smart digital metering pump series are designed to provide precision for water treatment, chemical and process engineering. The micro-control stepping motor drives a turndown ratio of up to 3000:1, combined with continuous full-stroke length displacement, to always ensure accurate, stable and continuous dosing. SMART Digital’s flow monitor will alert you to failures in the metering process, and the AutoCal function will automatically recalibrate the pump when the system pressure fluctuates.


Guard sensor and PumpDrive variable speed system developed by KSB


The German company KSB has developed a system to manage the maintenance plan of the pump. KSB's protective sensor unit is directly installed on the pump and records the vibration and temperature of the pump. The KSB Guard transmission and battery unit powers the sensor unit and transmits the measurement data to the KSB Guard gateway. The gateway transmits the data to the KSB cloud through the mobile network for you to access using the KSB Guard portal or KSB Guard app.


Another device that can be connected to the KSBGuard sensor is the autonomous PumpDrive pump-driven variable speed system. The KSB pump drive can be continuously changed to match the pump speed, and the pump output can be changed according to the actual system requirements to improve energy efficiency and better reliability. PumpDrive can also be controlled via Bluetooth and smart apps, turning your smartphone into a remote control for PumpDrive, and all data and information can be found on apps.


VLT AQUA Drive system developed by Danfoss


The daily load changes in water and wastewater treatment plants make it economically feasible to introduce motor control on rotating equipment such as pumps. Therefore, Danfoss has a series of systems suitable for IoT smart pumps, including VLT AQUA Drive suitable for retrofit projects. The company said that compared with traditional solutions, the new generation of VLT AQUA Drive can save 10% to 30% of the cost in the first year. The system provides user-friendly water and pump settings, easy installation, energy saving and motor control functions. Danfoss claims that by concentrating all important data in a simple and easy-to-use user interface, it greatly reduces the risk of misconfiguration.


Flygt Concertor and Field Smart Technology (FST) developed by Xylem - Real-time adjustment of performance

As mentioned earlier, Xylem's Flygt Concertor is a fully integrated system between software functions and hardware, optimized for wastewater pumping. This new sewage pump system can sense the operating conditions of the environment and adjust its performance in real time to provide feedback to the operator. Xylem said that the system has been sold in 25-30 countries, covering "customer groups in different regions and different market segments."


The FST system enables the operator to understand the pump's operating location, current situation and environment, as well as to determine whether maintenance is required. Users can access real-time data in the high-security cloud and make wise decisions from a distance.


Stephen Clark from Xylem said: "This means that customers can remotely monitor and control the pumps to maximize uptime and efficient operation-all without the need for staff to spend time on site, especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic."


Vibration energy harvesting system developed by 8power


The British engineering company 8power has developed a vibration energy harvesting (VEH) device that can retrofit existing pumps. The VEH device can continuously monitor the status of the pump and send periodic data to it via status messages or Bluetooth. The energy generated by the vibration of the pump can be stored by VEH to provide power for the operation of the sensor and the wireless communication function, even when the pump is stopped.