In Conversation with Andrew Forster-Knight, Operational Technology Manager at South East Water

In Conversation with Andrew Forster-Knight, Operational Technology Manager at South East Water

We are delighted to share our conversation with Andrew ​Forster-​Knight, ​Operational ​Technology ​Manager at South East ​Water, a goverment utility that has been exploring IoT technologies with the goal to develop the most advanced water distribution system in Australia.

Andrew Forster-Knight.pngAndrew himself has vast experience in managing intelligent utility systems. Here he presents  IOTA , a commercial unit of South East Water, set to commercialize its technologies and offer them to anybody who can ​benefit from ​reduced ​operating costs ​and improve ​their ​customers’​ experiences.​

We used this opportunity to talk with Andrew about the common challenges in modern-day utility management and key technologies designed to simplify operations. 



THE WATER NETWORK: From your ​experience, ​what might be ​the most common ​challenges ​utilities face ​on a daily ​basis, and how ​can South East ​Water’s ​inventions ​tackle these ​challenges?​  ​

ANDREW FORSTER-KNIGHT:  Some of the ​major ​challenges (and ​costs) relate ​to reactive ​work in ​response to ​burst or ​leaking water ​mains and ​blocked sewer ​pipes. As ​utilities, we ​would love to ​be able to find ​these and fix ​them well ​before they ​impact our ​customers. In ​order to ​achieve such a ​goal, we need ​increased ​monitoring at a ​much more ​granular level ​than before. ​South East ​Water has ​invested in ​long-life, low-​powered ​technologies in ​an attempt to ​become more ​predictive in ​this space. In ​particular, we ​use the ​Advanced ​BlokAid® ​device at ​strategic ​locations ​throughout our ​wastewater ​network to ​prevent ​blockages from ​becoming spills ​to the ​environment. ​

On the water ​side, digital ​meters and ​other IoT ​devices allow ​us to gain long ​term monitoring ​of critical ​assets. ​

TWN: Can you tell ​us more about ​Advanced ​BlokAid® ​and how other ​utilities are ​using this ​solution?  ​

AFK : Advanced ​BlokAid® is ​an NB-IoT-​enabled device ​that is easily ​installed in ​manholes or ​stormwater ​drains to ​monitor sewer ​levels, derive ​flow rates and ​detect H2S ​gases.  ​

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Advanced ​BlokAid® ​plays a key ​role in South ​East Water’s ‘Beach ​Guard’ ​program, ​designed to ​protect its ​beaches from ​potential ​sewage and ​wastewater ​pollution. By ​installing ​these devices ​in high-risk ​manholes, the ​operations team ​is able to ​identify and ​clear blockages ​before they ​become a spill. ​The data ​collected by ​Advanced ​BlokAid® ​has helped ​inform a ​proactive sewer ​cleaning ​program, which ​also helps ​South East ​Water plan ​upgrades more ​effectively and ​reduce ​maintenance ​costs.  ​

Melbourne ​Water is using ​Advanced ​BlokAid® to ​monitor ​stormwater ​drains for ​illegal waste ​disposal from ​the industrial ​area near ​Dandenong and ​Old Joe’s ​Creek. Using ​Advanced ​BlokAid® to ​monitor flow ​patterns and ​comparing this ​data with ​rainfall events,​ Melbourne ​Water can ​identify ​anomalies in ​the network and ​investigate for ​signs of ​pollution in ​near-real-time.​  ​

TWN: How is ​Advanced ​BlokAid® ​unique compared ​to other sewer ​monitoring ​technologies or ​techniques? ​

AFK : Measuring ​sewer levels in ​manholes in not ​a new concept. ​However, in ​order to do it ​on a large ​scale the ​devices need to ​be low ​maintenance and ​have a long ​asset life. ​Emerging IoT ​communication ​networks now ​allow much ​longer battery ​life to be ​achieved. The ​Advanced ​BlokAid® ​takes advantage ​of this, ​together with ​cutting-edge ​intelligent ​sensors, to ​allow for a ​single device ​to be deployed ​that can ​measure level, ​derive flow and ​detect ​corrosive gases.​ No other ​device on the ​market has such ​a long life, ​low-price point ​and advanced ​sensing ​functionally.​  ​

Advanced BlokAid side2 (1).jpgTWN: On your ​wholly-owned ​subsidiary, ​Iota’s ​website they ​list a ​provocative ​“coming ​soon” tab ​for IVK and ​digital meters. ​As South East ​Water develops ​these, can you ​tell us what ​makes these ​products ​different from ​others in the ​market?  ​

AFK : Our digital ​meters are ​unique to ​others on the ​market as they ​will feature ​fully ​integrated ​vibration ​sensors to ​detect leaks in ​the network. ​The meters can ​also measure ​pressure, flow ​, and temperature.​  These ​meters are ​underpinned by ​our IoT ​platform –​ a water-specific ​solution ​we’ve ​designed to ​collect, ​visualise and ​analyse ​information ​from digital ​meters.  ​

The IVK (​Intelligent ​Valve Key) ​attempts to ​solve the ​widespread ​issue of ​network valves ​being in an ​unknown state. ​It works just ​as any valve ​key would, ​except it is ​able to record ​the location ​and operating ​details each ​time a valve is ​changed by an ​operator. This ​data is then ​transmitted ​from the key in ​real-time to ​the utility’​s servers to ​update GIS and ​other systems. ​

TWN: We are now ​facing a ​challenge of ​rapid ​population ​growth in major ​cities ​worldwide. How ​do you think ​utilities, and ​the infrastructure ​needed to ​service a ​larger ​population, ​will change in ​the next ten ​years?  ​

AFK : We need to ​have more data ​to make better ​decisions on ​asset ​investment and ​operation. ​Smart ​infrastructure ​is key to ​achieving this, ​and will also ​help us move ​from a reactive ​organisation to ​one that ​predicts and ​prevents asset ​or customer ​issues. ​

Thank you, Andrew, for explaining the perks of NB-IoT monitoring devices in regard to water infrastructure management.


Read More ​​Interviews from ​​the 'In ​​Conversation ​​With' ​​Series ​ ​
by The Water Network