The “New” App – Remote System Monitoring
Controlling the many variables that impact recreational water stands as the prime objective for the water-quality professional. That may seem an obvious statement, but it’s also much easier said than done. Issues with water balance, filtration, sanitation, disinfection by-products, water-related illnesses, organic contaminants, and, ultimately, bather load all conspire to make the job of creating what I call “resilient water” so steep.
Certainly the first step in meeting that challenge is developing a working knowledge of water chemistry, a huge topic that for many of us can take years of experience and study to fully grasp. The second part of the challenge is all about developing and deploying systems that enable the highest possible level of monitoring and control, all of which takes place instantaneously. After all, water problems take form in real time, which means we need to be able to respond with both speed and precision.
In many ways, that capability is what separates the true professionals from those clinging to increasingly outdated methods.
We’ve Come a Long Way
Some reading this may say that we have already come a long way in automation and control, and that’s perfectly true. There’s no question that long-standing technology (including chlorine feeders, ORP and pH controllers, ozone and UV systems, automatic filtration backwashing, and efficient heating systems) have all made water maintenance far easier than it once was.
There are control systems available from multiple manufacturers, and most recently the National Swimming Pool Foundation introduced a control app it developed with the brilliant professionals at Counsilman-Hunsaker. I applaud all of those efforts and encourage professionals striving for greater water quality and system function to do their own research into which systems make the most sense for their businesses.
Yet, for all of those great efforts and innovations, we also know that many facilities, especially high-use commercial aquatic centers, still limp along with systems that cannot keep up with bather loads and all the contaminants that humans introduce to the water. The fact that so many pools have problematic water conditions is evidence that we collectively need to do better.
The “New” App: Remote System Monitoring
I personally believe the solutions can be found in today’s ever-advancing control technology, and that’s especially true of those systems that enable remote system monitoring. The movement toward “apps” now enables us to monitor and manipulate system functions at multiple sites simultaneously and continuously, and most importantly, respond accordingly. That’s a true game changer, even though it might seem as though that technology has been around for quite a while. The fact is those applications are continuing to develop both in capability and in market penetration.
My own experience with offsite control technology began several years ago on a commercial pool where we used versions of Pentair’s IntelliTouch and IntelliChem systems. These are outstanding systems that enable you to monitor many pools from one screen remotely, and they deliver the added benefit of email and text alerts. All the systems have protocol adapters that will report to the one main screen allowing you to monitor up to 100 pools on one screen.
The upshot is you can have a broad overview of all the pools with detailed information and helpful data. Also, each site has a history log that allows you to drill down to fine-tune the system and dosing style. You can export system information to an Excel sheet that has data for up to three months for careful analysis. The other great thing is that all the pumps tie into the system allowing control over pumps’ gpm/rpm as well as ability to see wattage/amperage draw, which we use to determine filter backwashing needs.
It’s a great system, as are similar systems from other manufacturers, but I personally believe there’s still another level we should be looking to achieve.
Looking to the Future
I am currently working with a company outside the industry that builds control systems for “smart cities” around the country. In meetings with their staff, they have expressed great interest in working with our company, and indeed our industry, to advance water maintenance and security. Basically, they set up command centers where a wide range of security and infrastructure systems are monitored from a central location by a variety of technical means, including video and remote sensor monitoring.
If that level of sophistication were to be applied to the aquatics industry, we could create a class of service professionals that work in a way that’s far closer to that of a symphony conductor than a glorified janitor. For people charged with maintaining multiple bodies of high-use water, this type of control is the surest path to avoiding bad water quality and facility downtime.
We are currently working to pair aquatic process instruments to a platform that will enable us to monitor and control multiple locations and a comprehensive set of chemical constituents and system functions. Where this differs from other pool control systems is a range of factors we want to target. It’s quite a list that includes water temperature, calcium hardness, flow rate, filter pressure, and much, much more.
Those systems can also provide history logs that can be used for analysis and study whenever needed. I also like the idea that such a system can also provide Skype-like video connections that operators can use to discuss issues directly with on-site staff.
That’s all obviously a tall order and to be sure, not every system would require monitoring and controlling of all those functions. Still, when you look at the control technology that’s being used outside our industry, it’s not at all unrealistic to think that we can have systems that monitor and control everything we need and do it instantly from anywhere.