Remote Environmental Monitoring
Necessity for a continuous water quality monitoring system
The implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) across the EU, and the growing international emphasis on the management of water quality is giving rise to an expanding market for novel, miniaturized, intelligent monitoring systems for freshwater catchments, transitional and coastal waters. The importance of maintaining good water quality highlights the increasing need for advanced technologies to help monitor water and manage water quality. In particular the implementation of the WFD poses new challenges for water managers who have traditionally monitored water quality by taking samples and analyzing them in the laboratory.
Challenges associated with environment monitoring
The challenges associated with environmental monitoring are various; sensor nodes are deployed in remote places, generally of difficult accessibility and covering wide geographical areas (e.g. river catchments). Long-term deployments require sensor nodes to be robust and systems to be “easily” reconfigurable /upgradeable. In addition, environmental events are, spatially and temporally, related to each other (e.g. river catchments: an event happening at the rise of a river might be seen further downstream later on). There is a requirement for the environment to be cost-effectively monitored by an intelligent system giving the required granularity of data in both the temporal and spatial planes to enable an autonomous decision making process to be implemented in real time based on data distributed within the system. These sensor systems need to have a long deployment lifespan, be rugged and robust, have multiple sensor interface capability and be able to operate autonomously in the required environment.
Advantages of continuous monitoring
Water quality is of popular interest and real-time water quality monitoring provides a way to verify its suitability for intended uses (e.g. Agriculture / Fishery). In addition, environmental monitoring helps to identify trends in the quality of the aquatic environment, forecast natural phenomena and understand how the environment is affected by the release of contaminants, and/or by waste treatment operations, also known as impact monitoring. Some of the advantages of continuous monitoring versus conventional sampling and laboratory based techniques are listed as follows:
- Possible to monitor remote locations in real-time.
- Faster data availability, enabling a quicker response to events
- Increased data collection frequency improves understanding of cause-and-effect relationships.
- Provides data sets for developing water quality models.
Environmental monitoring system research at Tyndall
The Tyndall Environmental monitoring system is directly or indirectly related to the following areas of research within the Wireless Sensor Network group at Tyndall:
- The first one concerns the Data acquisition system, based on the Tyndall mote and the plug and play smart sensor technology aims at providing a costly-effective, low power, easily reconfigurable /upgradeable system, that meets the requirements of long-term deployments.
- Sensors Design aims at providing costly-effective, long deployment lifespan, rugged and robust sensors.
- Telemetry that allows for intelligent wireless sensors network implementation.
- Power systems that aims at providing low power systems, energy harvesting and energy aware protocols.
Data Acquisition System: Plug and Play Smart Sensor Technology
Meeting the low power consumption requirements of an autonomous environmental wireless sensor node, the Tyndall mote enables networks of sensors to be realized which gives the required granularity of data to meet the requirements of the WFD.
The Tyndall mote interfaces locally with the Plug and Play Smart Sensor Technology that aims at:
- Implementation of “intelligent” sensors incorporating Transducer Electronic datasheet (TEDS), based on the IEEE 1451 standard, which allows a sensor to identify and describe itself to the control unit within the management system.
- Sensors Standardization
- Sensor modularity, aggregation, inter-operability, fault tolerance & dynamic calibration.
- System “easily” reconfigurable /upgradeable.