WiSAR Lab Technology Helps Deliver Smart Water in Uganda

The Smart Water consortium consists of seven partners, including LYIT researchers, led by Fields of Life (FOL), an NGO that has been working in Uganda and who have drilled over 30 wells in the Kumi region over the last 25 years.

The Smart Water consortium consists of seven partners led by Fields of Life (FOL), an NGO that has been working in Uganda and who have drilled over 30 wells in the Kumi region over the last 25 years.  LYIT researchers Martin Bradley, Shane McCrossan and Dr. Stephen Seawright were responsible for defining and developing the Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring system, funded by an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership grant and contributions from Analog Devices.  The monitoring devices developed have been manufactured by CW Applied Technology in Shannon. ARUP Ireland played a significant role on the ground providing hydrogeology, project management, digital expertise and funding for Fields of Life to provide water capacity development to the communities in the Kumi region.

From the outset the project emphasised community engagement with an evidence centred approach to ensure adoption of the technology by the communities involved.  A systems requirements specification was developed with the stakeholders which drove the hardware development and acceptable data acquisition needs.  Methods to detect and measure waterflow, handle movement and mechanical reliability were developed by LYIT and incorporated into a bespoke compact sensor unit that fits within the hand-pump.  It was of critical importance that the sensor should be continuously connected to the cloud and powered by a battery with a multi-year lifetime. To this end low-power wide area communications (Sigfox) was selected as the communication technology with the module power supply enhanced by energy harvesting from a small solar panel integrated into the pump assembly.  The Irish Sigfox network operator, VT, contributed a Sigfox base-station to the project and has been providing support for the pilot in Uganda.  One Sigfox base-station provides coverage for all boreholes over a 15km radius.

The consortium developed a web-based application to deliver information from the monitoring device directly to the community members’ phones (SMS) with near real-time statistics available online for local government.

The IOT monitoring devices were developed, manufactured, and recently installed into 10 new water points in the Kumi region and are now providing data.  Through these new installations 16,000 people are benefiting from reliable access to clean water and system testing is underway.

Data from the pumps will support local government and community decision-making, enabling preventive maintenance to be established through early identification of issues. Local Water User Committees and District Water Officers will be able to make informed management decisions in the short and long-term.

The new system is scalable and can be further adapted to increase functionality such as the addition of water quality monitoring.  For at least the next year the team at LYIT will continue to collaborate with the Smart Water partners to make enhancements, to address any issues that arise from the field trial and to support the roll out of the system in Uganda.

This was the first Sigfox network installation in Uganda, delivered by the Irish Smart Water consortium, and has the potential to lead to other internet of things use cases raising significant interest in the region.

Alex Gason, Fields of Life talks about the impact of this project:

“Much innovation and technology has failed to impact lives in Africa because so very often the local beneficiaries are not consulted in the design phase and therefore solutions are not adopted by the end users. What was so refreshing about this project is that the partners involved took time to work closely with the NGO, the district government and the village committees to involve all the key stakeholders in both the design and the solution. This created good will, buy in and adoption of the Smart Water system within the Kumi area and helped to provide empowerment and ownership, vital to the success of any good development project.”