Melbourne Water spends $45,000 per year inspection cathodic protection installations across its water transfer system.

Cathodic protection is a technique used to protect steel from corrosion by making it the cathode of an electrolysis process with a different metal as the anode. The anode corrodes instead of the steel and must be periodically replaced.

To remove the need for manual inspections Melbourne Water has developed — in conjunction with Green Technology Services (GTS) Group, Sigfox network operator Thinxtra and IBM — an IoT system to monitor these cathodic protection installations.

GTS Group was responsible for the IoT device design, the firmware build and the prototype creation. In addition to supplying the connectivity, Thinxtra provided valuable support to set everything up correctly. IBM provided the IoT gateway and systems to monitor the data.

Melbourne Water says the prototype devices have performed without fault. It is now planning to rollout the system across its water infrastructure and is developing similar technology for its drainage infrastructure to provide real time insight into system operation.

“It is hoped that this will in turn provide advanced warning of asset issues in the field that can be rectified in the shortest possible time frame,” it says.

Melbourne Water estimates the cost of a network-wide rollout at $150,000, which would give it a return on investment in three years. However, it would also increase the life of billions of dollars in assets by increasing the uptime of cathodic protection systems, and reduce the risk to employees by eliminating travel for site inspections.

Melbourne Water is now looking to commercialise the hardware developed for the system and market it to other utilities.

SA Water’ Smart Water Network is a finalist in the Best Municipal Project category at the 2018 Australian IoT Awards being held at the IoT Festival on 4 June in Melbourne.