University of Huddersfield researchers are helping a specialist Yorkshire manufacturing company harness the latest communications technology so that its products – which use ultrasonics to measure water flow – are even more successful in global markets.
The firm is Addingham-based Mainstream Measurements, and its range of flowmeters have been exported throughout Europe, the Middle East, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and Africa plus North and South America.
Now, the company has formed a £120,000 Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), with the University of Huddersfield, in order to develop software and communication mechanisms that will allow the meters to be read remotely, as well as integrate into standardised industrial control systems, such as MODBUS.
“Rather than someone having to physically go and read the data, they will be able to remain in the office and remotely acquire data, allowing the end-user to make better-informed and rapid decisions,” said the University’s Dr Simon Parkinson, an informatics lecturer who is the KTP’s academic supervisor.
The breakthrough will be a massive advantage for companies involved in applications such as effluent monitoring, water distribution, industrial flow and water distribution, who need to monitor flow in order to deal with issues such as blockages, flood risks. The advantages of remote reading would be even greater in some of the territories where Mainstream’s flowmeters are deployed, such as the remote areas of Australia.
The challenge of the KTP – which is backed by the Government agency Innovate UK – is that there is no dominating data communication protocol in the Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure, and this is particularly true within the water industry, said Dr Parkinson. Using a cellular infrastructure, such as 3G or 4G, would be costly and consume too much power, which is highly detrimental to devices running on battery power in remote areas.
The LoRaWAN communication protocol – a low power data transfer protocol for wide area networks – could be the answer, and this is being investigated by the KTP Associate, Sean Howson, who is now based at Mainstream. He has BEng and MEng degrees in electronic engineering from the University of Huddersfield and during the two-year KTP he will work towards a Master’s by Research.
It is also expected that the KTP will help Mainstream boost its research and development capacity and add software engineering to its range of expertise.