Robotic swans are being deployed in Singapore’s reservoirs to provide real-time assessments of water quality. The project is the culmination of work by the city state’s national water agency and the National University of Singapore.
Despite the best efforts of conscientious scientists, not all IoT solutions blend into their environments. Technology and utility tend to be prioritized over aesthetics. Unless you live or work near Singapore’s Marina, Punggol, Serangoon, Pandan and Kranji reservoirs, that is.
A joint project involving national water agency PUB, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute aims to gather data in a less conspicuous manner.
Designing a robotic swan that’s convincing to the human eye – albeit from a distance – is one thing. But the team behind the project has also fit each swan with all the tools it needs to move around reservoirs and sample water quality.
Using wireless technology, each swan is able to transmit live results to PUB, removing the need for teams to be sent out to take samples manually.
According to Channel News Asia, the SWAN project (Smart Water Assessment Network) will be used to monitor the City State’s fresh water pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll. All of these elements are used to determine the overall water quality.
Professor Mandar Chitre a member of the team behind SWAN from the National University of Singapore, said, “we started with a number of smaller bird models before we decided on the swan. It’s just the right size. If you look at it in the environment, it looks just like a swan swimming around.”
This is not the first time that scientists have looked to the natural world for inspiration when designing robots for use in water.
Last year, a similar project from EPFL in Switzerland developed a robotic eel to report on the water quality in Lake Geneva. Unlike the SWAN project, EPFL’s Envirobot was designed to mimic the movement of its real-life equivalent. But both have provided researchers with a way to measure water quality remotely.
With the addition of more data points and increased autonomy, it may not be long before more of these robots are spotted roaming our rivers, reservoirs and oceans.
A colossal water diversion project in China has installed a myriad of IoT sensors to help monitor the essential canal infrastructure.
The ambitious engineering scheme will see three canals, each over 1,000km long, divert 44.8 billion cubic metres of water annually from rivers in southern China and supply it to the arid north, including the cities of Beijing and Tianjin. Each canal route will support the rapid population growth and economic development of the northern provinces.
The project was expected to cost in the region of $ 62 billion when started in 2002, but with $ 79 billion spent by 2014 it has fast become one of the most expensive engineering projects in the world.
The middle canal runs from Danjiangkou Reservoir on the Han River all the way to Beijing, some 1,257km, supplying the city with 70 percent of its water.
With construction on this route completed in 2014, attention turned to how to monitor such a large and valuable infrastructural system – particularly in those sections where the canal uses tunnels to circumvent rivers and other obstructions, making human inspection difficult.
The answer was to develop an internet of things (IoT) network, consisting of 100,000 sensors, along the waterway. Over the last year it has been scanning the canal for structural weaknesses, testing water quality and flow rates and watching for intruders (both animal and human). Planning for the system started in 2012, when technicians travelled the route to determine its monitoring needs.
The region’s vulnerability to earthquakes makes it particularly at risk of structural damage. Manually monitoring the canal, particularly its two tunnels, would be extremely difficult, making it a perfect candidate for an IoT solution.
While no industrial buildings are allowed within the route’s watershed, it’s vital to ensure that the water remains unpolluted. Sensors below the waterline can detect pollutants and toxins. All-in-all 130 different kinds of connected sensor were used to oversee the canal.
The IoT network’s technical lead Yang Yang, Director of the CAS Key Lab of Wireless Sensor Network and Communication at the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT), told IEEE Spectrum that lessons learned from the system will be applied to similarly large infrastructure projects, include the South-to-North Water Diversion Project’s two other routes.
“This system benefits more than 50 million people daily, not mentioning the people along the project,” said Yang. He also revealed that the technology could be put to use on skyscrapers, to monitor the integrity of their glass facades.
With the canal producing such a wealth of data the team faced the challenge of relaying this information, particularly in remote areas without fibre-optic internet or reliable cellular connections. Yang’s team created a system called Smart Gateway that would receive data from nearby sensors and transmit it to a cloud server via whatever cellular, wired, Wi-Fi or Zigbee connection was available at that time.
“The Smart Gateway can learn the availability of the connection to the cloud. After a successful transmission, it will follow that network next time. Otherwise, it will try another one,” Zhang, told IEEE Spectrum.
The destination servers then feed into a web platform that allows the management team to see up-to-date information and respond immediately.
The scheme certainly hasn’t been without its controversies though. A utilitarian approach has seen hundreds of thousands of residents resettled to make way for the project. In Hubei and Henan provinces, almost 350,000 people were relocated to make way for the middle route. Many residents have complained that their new homes are poorly built and suffered the loss of their livelihoods.
US diplomatic cables released via WikiLeaks also criticised the project as misconceived, arguing that China’s water shortage should be solved by modernising and diversifying its water-intensive agriculture, rather than expensive engineering projects. China hasn’t been ignoring these needs though. Research into the likes of drip irrigation and less water intensive crops is ongoing.
The reality is that China will likely need a combination of both these approaches to protect and allocate its most precious resource. IoT will no doubt play a huge part in providing its population with food and water in the decades and centuries to come.
While China’s rise has, until now, been down to its snowballing primary industries and resource rich land, it is having to increasingly look to technology and policy reform to continue that growth in a more sustainable and responsible way – not least because the government wants to ensure those IoT sensors go on detecting drinkable water in its canals.
Apple launched the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the first water resistant certified iPhone models, back in September of 2016. And though they weren’t the first waterproof smartphones to market (an award owed to Sony’s 2013 Xperia Z), Apple’s previous iPhone flagships nevertheless received one of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC’s) highest certification ratings of IP67.
Mumblings from the rumor mill leading up to their launch in September, led us to believe that Apple’s iPhone X would receive a modest boost to IP68 certification. As we’ve come to find out, though, iPhone X along with its iPhone 8 counterparts were ultimately given the same IP67 rating as their predecessors.
Is iPhone X Waterproof?
Not technically. The iPhone X is regarded as water resistant, however it can be fully submerged in shallow water for up to 30 minutes.
According to Apple, “iPhone X is splash, water and dust resistant, and was tested under controlled laboratory conditions with a rating of IP67 under IEC standard 60529. Splash, water and dust resistance are not permanent conditions, and resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear. Do not attempt to charge a wet iPhone; refer to the user guide for cleaning and drying instructions. Liquid damage not covered under warranty”
IP67 vs IP68
An IPXX rating, according to the IEC, is assurance that “ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time.”
In the case of an IP67 certified device like iPhone X, complete water submersion is feasible — though not encouraged — for up to 30 minutes at a maximum depth of 3.28 feet (1m). Apple’s iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus are also IP67 certified.
An IP68 rating, meanwhile, implies the same 30 minute time restraints while upping the depth threshold to 4.92 feet (1.5m). Samsung’s high-end Galaxy smartphones achieve the IP68 rating.
You can submerge your iPhone X under water for no longer than 30 minutes. Beyond that point, and beyond a depth of 3 feet, you’re running the risk of your device sustaining serious, irreparable water damage.
Can I shower with iPhone X? YES
Can I drop an iPhone X in the bath or toilet? YES
Should I swim or dive with iPhone X? NO
If you were to drop your iPhone X in the toilet, bathtub, or swimming pool full of water, even if you jump in with it still in your pocket, you’ll more than likely be in the clear.
If you were to accidentally spill a water-based beverage like beer, juice, or gatorade on your iPhone X, it will more than likely continue to function — although it’ll likely be a bit sticky from the beverage residue, requiring a bit of wiping up and disinfecting on your end.
Owners are strongly advised against taking their iPhone X for a swim. Regardless of the water type — be it a swimming pool, lake, or ocean — both iPhone X, and Samsung’s slightly more submergible Galaxy Note 8, can only go so deep.
And you definitely don’t want to start pushing those limits, particularly because the IEC’s definitive tests were conducted under strictly monitored lab conditions. Meaning it’s unlikely that your real world experience of getting iPhone wet will hold the same precedent.
While a depth of 3.26 feet (for a maximum of 30 minutes) might seem stingy to those who dreamed of embarking on a deep-sea ‘iPhone X-ploration’, it’s still deep enough (and certainly long enough) to serve the purpose for which the phone is even IP certified in the first place.
Apple published an exhaustive Support Page outlining the terms, conditions and guidelines for how best to protect your iPhone X, and how to avoid damaging its internal components via water exposure. The guidelines, of course, are meant to serve as a warning against “trying this at home” — and they should be followed in that regard, especially since your warranty depends on it!
Still, the iPhone X is basically waterproof — let’s not dismiss the raw facts over a few technicalities, shall we? While a snorkeling expedition or swim in the deep-end of the pool might be out of the question, that’s not to say you can’t enjoy your iPhone X by the water. Live it up, in fact! And with summer just around the corner, it’s a great time to get your hands on waterproofed accessories for your waterproofed iPhone.
This iPhone compatible Dual-USB Solar Charger features a rugged, water-resistant shell with built in Solar panels to help charge up your waterproof iPhone using the power of the sun. Complete with a 5,000 mAh reserve, dual USB-A ports for simultaneous charging, and LED indicators to keep you informed, this portable, water-resistant powerhouse is your perfect poolside companion. Get it here in one of four unique colors for less than $ 20.
We’ve known for some time that huge deposits of water ice reside beneath the surface of Mars, but we didn’t know much about its properties. Currently available methods of peering below the planet’s surface can’t access the depths where the water ice is present. Landers can dig down a few centimeters, and radar equipment can offer a look at what’s tens of meters beneath, but we needed to see between those two areas. We needed to find exposed water ice.
Now, a team led by geologist Colin Dundas has done just that. Using the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, they’ve pinpointed eight locations where large quantities of sub-surface ice have been exposed by erosion, leaving it accessible for further study.
Erosion has caused steep, pole-facing slopes to form at these locations, exposing water ice starting at depths of as little as 1 to 2 meters (3.2 to 6.5 feet) and extending up to 100 meters (328 feet) or more. The sites that have been spotted don’t feature many craters, so the researchers believe the exposed water ice formed relatively recently.
According to Dundas and his team, the steep angles and fractures observed suggest that the ice is cohesive and strong. It’s comprised of different bands and covers, which might indicate that it’s made up of layers from snowfall that took place at various times. As a result, studying the exposed water ice could reveal how the climate of Mars has changed.
The images of the sites, which were captured over the course of three Martian years (almost six Earth years), demonstrate that huge chunks of rock fell from the ice as erosion took place. As a result, the team behind the study estimates that the ice is receding at a rate of a couple of millimeters (~.07 inches) each summer.
The discovery of this much exposed water ice opens up various possibilities for future research projects. It could also be a very useful resource for any future crewed missions to the Red Planet.
Researchers believe the exposed water ice is relatively pure and likely more extensive than what we can actually see with the HiRISE camera. Unfortunately, the eight sites identified by the researchers are all within Mars’ upper mid-latitudes, which can endure extremely low temperatures. Any manned mission is unlikely to target these areas.
Still, researchers plan to look for similar ice deposits in regions where humans may one day visit. They’re likely to be much further underground, but the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover can drill down as far as 2 meters (6.5 feet), while NASA’s Mars 2020 rover possesses an advanced ground-penetrating radar. The hunt for usable water on Mars is far from over.
Leak detection sensors have been around for years, but most have limited sensing capability. If the sensor isn’t where the puddle is, the leak goes undetected. Some leak sensors have tried to address this with corded “tails” that extend beyond the sensor but can also detect water. I like those better, but the best leak detection isn’t a smattering of sensors. Instead, it’s a smarter water meter.
With that in mind, several companies have formed to try to help consumers and insurers avoid one of the costliest aspects of home ownership — undetected leaks. At CES next week, several startups will launch or show off new products aimed at the DIY homeowner that are worth a look.
All of them allow for remote shut off of the water valve if a leak is detected. Some even do that automatically. Most offer algorithmic leak detection, which means that water doesn’t have to hit a sensor for a leak to be detected. Instead these systems monitor the water usage of the home looking for anomalies or above average water usage by specific devices. Toilets are a big culprit.
Toilets that run all the time can waste hundreds of gallons of water each day in a home, which adds up over time. For example Phyn, one of the startups in this space, determined during a beta test that just over half of leaks are caused by toilets that run constantly. Other common culprits are sprinkler heads and faucets.
Phyn is probably the most well known of these startups to this newsletter’s readers because I covered the creation of the company in 2016. Phyn is a joint venture between Belkin and Uponor. Uponor makes plumbing and heating supplies. Phyn’s product uses Wi-Fi and sensors that determine how water flows throughout the home and when those flows deviate from the norm. It has been in beta in a few hundred homes for over a year, and will sell for $ 849 plus installation.
Flo is another startup in this space, offering a $ 500 device that will ship in February. The Flo device screws onto the home’s main water line and tracks the water flowing through the pipes. It also sends out proactive tests to try to detect slow leaks, something that Phyn says it can also detect.
The Guardian by Elexa is a bit different because for $ 400 you get a motor that screws onto your water shut off valve to turn it if a problem is detected. Also included are sensors that you scatter around the home to monitor for overflows or moisture. This is not my favorite approach since sensor placement will determine if your leak gets detected or not. Of course, even the best algorithmic leak detection sensors won’t help in the case of roof leaks or some of the other ways water can destroy a home.
Finally, there’s Buoy, which is $ 800. Buoy also installs on the main water line and uses algorithms to determine what’s using water in your home and what’s normal. On its website, the company also gives the example of a running toilet wasting water.
All of these startups are hoping consumer panic about leaks helps drive sales, but the real test will be insurance providers. Already insurers are testing these devices and we’ll likely see discounts if a consumer installs one of these in her home, or even certain policies that might cut premiums but force such a device on the user. If it can detect a slow leak, I’d be all in. Those are expensive!