For more than 35 years Wideco Sweden AB has monitored underground district heating pipes and related underground areas, and today serves more than 100 energy plants in Sweden alone. While that monitoring was first carried out manually, the advent of IoT has allowed Wideco to transform as a business and today they can offer their global customers an end-to-end solution that saves both money and time, while also boosting sustainability.
When Wideco was founded in 1982, there weren’t any smartphones or apps or wireless connectivity or IoT to help monitor district heating pipes. Instead, Wideco used alarms with red and green lights. If something was wrong, such as too much moisture in the pipe’s insulation or a leak was detected, the red light would show. If everything was ok, the green light showed.
The problem with this system was that first you had to go out into the field and install the monitoring systems and then you had to send people out to check on things regularly. This was labor and time intensive and it wasn’t economical. Then IoT arrived on the scene and dramatically changed the Wideco offering, although the shift to online monitoring wasn’t always smooth sailing.
The first SIM cards Wideco used were GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), which were often unreliable, with frequent disconnects. But as connectivity evolved, so too did the Wideco solution.
“The advances in IoT technology means that today we have a plug-and-play solution, and it’s been a game changer for us,” explains Karl-Johan Wirfalk, CEO Wideco. “For the past twelve or thirteen years, we’ve worked with 2G and 3G, but with new protocols like LoRaWAN, LTE-M and NB-IoT coming onto the scene, we’re updating our units, as well as partnering with a number of sensor suppliers in Europe in order to stay on top of this fast-moving area.”
Wideco’s plug-and-play solution continuously measures everything from pipe leakage to moisture levels with very high accuracy. As soon as an issue is detected, an alert is sent, which allows energy companies to address the problem sooner, rather than later.
“This reduces human error because data is all about the facts,” says Karl-Johan. “The human eye can miss things, but a connected system won’t. The result is problems can be addressed before they spread and cause bigger problems, such as a water main blowing, which can be disastrous. This saves customers both time and money.”
The Wideco solution analyzes data and optimizes maintenance, which is another time and money saver, because companies don’t need to send someone out to perform maintenance when the data tells them everything is ok. Additionally, reducing leakage and keeping a high level of maintenance on pipes saves valuable resources.