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Industrial Internet Aids Water/Wastewater—and Cows

Oct. 28, 2014
Greater Cincinnati Water Works and Zoetis Find Their Paths to the Industrial Internet Through the Cloud
About the Author: Jim Montague
Jim Montague is the Executive Editor at Control, Control Design and Industrial Networking magazines. Jim has spent the last 13 years as an editor and brings a wealth of automation and controls knowledge to the position. For the past eight years, Jim worked at Reed Business Information as News Editor for Control Engineering magazine. Jim has a BA in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and lives in Skokie, Illinois.

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Now that it's approaching critical mass in mainstream understanding and usefulness, the Industrial Internet is quickly being adopted in an ever-expanding number and range of applications.

For instance, the Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) and Metropolitan Sewer Dept. are employing the Industrial Internet and solutions from GE Intelligent Platforms to improve its resilience and speed up its response to storms and overflow conditions, while animal pharmaceutical supplier Zoetis is using radio frequency identification (RFID) and the Industrial Internet to help improve diagnosis and medical care of cows in feedlots.

"The Industrial Internet is real, and this is good because 70% of the world's people will be living in cities by 2050," said Bijou George, deputy director of GCWW. "Fortunately, advanced information and communications via the Industrial Internet can help address these trends and help make cities more livable and sustainable."

George and Stuart Fisher, associate director of strategic initiatives at Zoetis, presented "The Industrial Internet at Work" on the first day of GE Intelligent Platforms 2014 User Summit in Orlando, Florida.

"The Industrial Internet is real, and this is good because 70% of the world's people will be living in cities by 2050." Greater Cincinnati Water Works' Bijou George explained how his organization is using GE Proficy and SmartSignal technology to improve its resilience and speed up its response to storms and overflow conditions.

The challenge in Cincinnati is that it now has abut 1,000 miles of combined sewer operation (CSO) lines, which must also handle the 41 inches of rain that the city gets each year. In all, GCWW manages 75 billion gallons of sanitary flow per year, plus another 25 billion gallons of rainwater, which jointly result in about 11.5 billion gallons of annual overflow. Besides supplying water to Cincinnati's 78 square miles, GCWW also supplies water to communities in a neighboring 840 square miles, including some parts of Kentucky.

Similar to many U.S. water/wastewater systems, Cincinnati implemented a geographical information system (GIS) and sensors in the 1990s, and these capabilities were upgraded following the Sept. 11 attack in 2001. Presently, it's also leveraging several cloud-computing technologies and is even allowing its data to be hosted on a secure, cloud-based service. This is especially helpful because performance data at GCWW is coming in from new sources. The utility is even using satellite images to determine parts-per-billion phosphorus levels in its surface water. George added that GCWW also integrates data from its own pipelines, pumps, 90,000 manhole-based indicators and other equipment with information from other sources, such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, river level gauges and other components.

"Cloud computing and using GE Proficy and SmartSignal software hosted on a third-party, cloud-based infrastructure is a lot better than keeping the data in our own facilities because we can fuse together our data from different GCWW locations and applications and make decisions much faster and closer to real-time than the two or three weeks that simulations used to take," explained George. "Faster decisions also mean we can maximize the performance of our wastewater and water production systems, decide to move or hold pumps sooner, and reduce the effects of overflow situations.

"Now our system is optimized for water quality and reduced energy costs, and we're more resilient and sustainable. We're also seeing the value in asset optimization by using predictive analytics. In the future, I think we're going to have more autonomous processes and use more collaboration platforms enabled by the Industrial Internet."

Fisher reports that Zoetis, which is likewise concerned with serving large populations, was spun off from Pfizer in 2013 and manufactures about 300 different pharmaceuticals for cats, dogs, cows, pigs and other animals. To help cowboys find and care for sick cows in their feed lots, Zoetis recently developed a technical method for identifying ailing animals.

"The cattle-feeding industry has been affected by recent droughts that have pushed costs up. Also, there's a big labor shortage because today's cowboys are more reluctant to be out in the elements," explained Fisher. "There are usually about 100 cows, and they require attention and care, including medication. Usually, the cowboys manually see which cows' heads may be drooping or if they're on the ground. These or other conditions may indicate that they're sick and need to be pulled out and sent to a hospital pen."

Consequently, GE Intelligent Platforms, Zoetis and its users developed a solution that combines RFID tags and GE's Proficy platform to help show which cows might be ill. This solution recently completed six months of early testing at a feed-yard operation in southwest Kansas.

We were happy to find that, where the cowboys might pull about 115 to 128 cows for morbidity issues, the new technical solution only needed to pull 60 cows for morbidity issues, which was a 50% reduction," says Fisher. "Also, when two or three pulls were needed to treat cows a second and third time, our technical solution reduced pulls by 74% on second pulls and by 82% on third pulls. This means better health and performance for the animals and better economic results, including 8% better average daily weight gain and improved dry-matter conversion from feed to weight on the animals."

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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