IoT to the rescue of precious water
With India always witnessing shortage of potable water and water for crops, despite being a resource-rich country, conserving precious resources is surely the need of the hour. Innovative water conservation mechanisms with IoT deserve a look-through.
Keeping farmers’ water consumption levels for paddy crop as the focal point, the key issue to be solved is the exact water requirement for corps.
“The water that was being let out into the Paddy fields was way higher than the actual requirement. Therefore, we were asked to design a product for monitoring the water level in each paddy field,” states Anil.
Now, with smart technology being the latest buzzword, METI did not have to look past the Internet of Things. Since the company possessed (by designing and development) a generic IoT platform, designing of products from IoT applications from the scratch could be eliminated. This directly translates into more time for engineers whilst off-loading burden.
Only the hardware with application-specific sensors required to be designed.
“Since it was a direct requirement from our client for a specific purpose, we already possessed the fundamental structure to build the entire product. It was a very requirement driven product and we have built features for the same,” reasons Anil.
Sensors thoroughly track water levels from every corner of the farm – Solving the major issue
Keeping water requirement for paddy as the focal area sensors placed in different locations, connected by the METI gateway, spanning the field, sense ‘water data’ and transfers this to the custom METI cloud. The custom METI gateway derives power from the sun via solar panels.
Deviation in water levels, from the standard levels, is tracked by the sensors and sent to the cloud for analytics.
“Any water level deviation will trigger SMS alerts and share these with the concerned party, which in our case is the NGO responsible for sharing limited water resources among multiple small farmers,” explains Narayan Swamy.
Developing low-cost and low-power solutions – Keeping it simple!
With the issue of water monitoring taken care of, there were other challenges viz developing the exact low-cost and low-power offering.
“Unlike Manufacturing, where we need to capture data in real time, here we can afford to read the water level once in 30 minutes. This proved to be a blessing for us,” states Anil.
Also, deployment of hardware over agricultural fields invites risk factors such as rodents; therefore, wired monitoring solutions are ruled-out in such use-cases. Therefore, METI used a simple wireless mesh to interlink sensors.
“We had to do a simple trade off. This meant thinking of a low-cost and low-power solution as power availability is scarce in rural areas. So, wireless mesh was the obvious choice,” explains Anil.
As far as underlying hardware (and applications) with respect to the METI smart water monitoring system is concerned, there are four essential components that can easily be deployed:
- A simple ultrasonic sensor that can be purchased off the shelf in any market across India.
- The innovation lies within powering up the sensor using 3V AA battery pack and make them last for at least 3 months. The controller board pretty much handles the detection of water level and communicating with RF module.
- The next part is the custom IoT Gateway, which collects data from multiple RF modules and sends data to the METI cloud.
- METI’s Secure Cloud and Analytics platform and the SMS Gateway that synchronise effectively.
Simple solutions = Simple cost
As per Narayana Swamy, low cost is the generic focal area of the smart water monitoring system. “Though farmers are not our direct customers, we have made it affordable for NGOs and agencies in rural areas to install it.”
The key takeaway from the above solution is the fact that a no-frills IoT-driven system can be built and deployed to solve real-world issues technically. Though not completely eliminating the issue, mitigation can be achieved via elimination of age-old unscientific engineering schemas.
METI’s smart water monitoring system for paddy fields driven by IoT is also an illustration of the fact that there is a definite need for deployment of smart solutions for society, and about the time now being ripe for deploying such solutions.
Composed by Rahul R, Senior Technical Journalist at EFY