Talking Telemetry for Utilities with Dr. David Mundie
The field of telemetry has skyrocketed in growth via digital and cellular-based technology. But where do smaller, more budget-conscious providers fit in? We talked with Dr. David Mundie, Founder and President of High Tide Technologies, about some of the issues facing utility providers, and how telemetry fits into the modern landscape.
High Tide: Thanks for chatting with us. Before we dive in, can you give readers some background on High Tide Technologies?
David Mundie: Thanks for having me. Back in 2002, I was working with a civil engineer at a dot-com company that went under. He knew the wastewater market really well and I, as an electrical engineer, knew telemetry really well. So we took what we both did best, knew there was a need, and decided to start High Tide Technologies.
HT: What problem did you see and set out to fix with High Tide?
DM: We specifically started the company to focus on rural, small- to medium-sized utility systems, those who could not afford the more sophisticated monitoring and control equipment, which led to basically doing a lot of things manually. What we’re able to provide is a solution that’s simple to install, no software or hardware to maintain in the collections doesn’t involve a big server (because it’s all Internet-based), and has full 24/7 support. Smaller utilities are on-call 24/7 but can’t necessarily be at the plant to look at a screen. Instead, they can check their levels from anywhere and feel good that things are still working. We’re right there with them, any time. It’s peace of mind.
HT: What kinds of problems are utilities and municipalities coming to High Tide to solve?
DM: In the wastewater world, there are all sorts of environmental regulations to stop overflow and spoil the environment. Most states require that someone drives by and looks at the unit once a day. When you have telemetry, you don’t have to physically visit; you can access the information before you get there, which cuts down on overtime and makes the system run more smoothly.
On the water side, we’ve been in stations that had no telemetry, and to monitor everything, they drive down the road and see that the target on the tank is low, flip the switch, and hope to remember later to switch it off. They have water loss from leaving it on too long and overflowing the tank. The state [government] does a lot of regulation on water loss, but also has the problem with tanks that are too low, and not having enough in the hydrants to fight a fire. But having a system that is automatically controlled can eliminate all those problems.
HT: So telemetry helps keep levels accurate, and helps the whole operation run more efficiently. Can you give an example?
DM: Sure. We had one customer who had 40% of the water produced lost somehow. They measured this by adding up water billed from meters at customer sites compared to what meters at the plant say and the numbers didn’t match at all. After installing one of our monitoring and control products, they got it down to 30% within a couple of months and it keeps improving the more time goes on, refining their system. Loss numbers like that affect funding for plant expansions, budgets, etc. Telemetry helps solve those mysteries.
HT: Why would a municipality or utility board choose High Tide? What’s the benefit?
DM: The thing about our stuff is that there is no custom programming and we can get a system up and running within a week or two. A typical SCADA system is customer-specific. The way we do it, everybody is sharing the resources. We make the same box for everybody, in different sizes. And we can ship it the next day after the order is placed so the customer can be up and running fairly quickly, probably within a week or so. It’s less expensive because there is no central server they have to maintain and staff. Our solutions are about one-third to one-fourth the cost of traditional radio systems or phone dialers, which is helpful for stricter budgets or smaller municipalities.
We do have subscription service that’s like a rental service fee for the system and even if we take 10 years of fees, our systems are still less expensive than traditional because traditional systems need maintenance, and that gets costly. Customers benefit from getting accurate data in real-time, which allows them to provide their service efficiently and effectively.
To read the entire interview with David Mundie and learn more about the future developments for telemetry and SCADA systems for utility service providers, click here.