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Smart parks, a future vision or reality?

No we are not talking about automatic opening access gates (although that is possible) or increasing path light levels when somebody is approaching (although even this is possible) but we are talking about bringing maintenance of parks into the 21st century.

Maintenance of parks goes far beyond what the average person considers maintenance i.e. moving the lawn and keeping the paths clean. You all know that there is much more to it than that.

Listing just a few of the various tasks shows that there is indeed a lot involved in maintaining parks.

The tasks

  • Maintaining the lawn involves the following:
    • Irrigation control
    • Lawn mowing
    • Fertilising
    • Applying wetting agent
    • Applying herbicides
    • Soil moisture sensing
  • Getting water to the area can involve:
    • Operating bore pumps
    • Operating recycled effluent tanks
    • Operating potable water valves
    • Water quality monitoring
    • Power use monitoring
  • Providing path and/or floodlighting involves:
    • Maintenance of lamps
    • Providing access to club rooms and floodlights
    • Coordinating use of the lights and charge for them
    • Power monitoring
  • When the area contains a lake you need to:
    • Keep the water free from algae
    • Maintain the fountains and/or aerators
    • Monitor the power used
  • If it is an area with lots of electric BBQs you may want to:
    • Be aware of faulty units
    • Control the utilisation period
    • Prevent vandalism
  • And all of this needs to be accounted for through
    • Asset management
    • Detailed accounting
    • Capital expenditure
    • Operating costs

And maybe you can up with even more activities. Fact is that this is a long list and involves many people from different departments in your typical local government set-up.

Thanks to ever improving mobile communication and the "Internet of Things" it is now possible to bring many of these function together and make them available on PC’s and mobile devices.

There is even now a directive for local governments to use only Australian based data centres for the storage of all their information. Who would have thought of that 10 years ago!

The benefits of cloud based control

Should you decide to move with the times and investigate how you can bring most of these functions under the one umbrella, you can expect a lot of benefits. And not just in the reduction of administration time but also in the substantial increase in efficiency of your staff or contractors. And last but not least it will make your job a lot easier.

Example

Take the example of a park supplied with recycled effluent for the irrigation of the lawn.

In this case the last two stations of the irrigation controller failed to function with the result that the grass could turn yellow fairly quickly in the middle of summer

  • Rather than doing his normal run past 5 or 10 parks, the maintenance person gets to the park first thing in the morning since his mobile phone received a text message overnight that station 21 & 22 failed to operate
  • On site he uses his tablet that indicates where station 21 & 22 are located in the park and how these are connected to the controller in the field.
  • Using his mobile phone, he goes to inspect the two stations and decides to turn the pump of remotely so that the doesn’t get wet
  • The coils are operating properly, so now he turns the pump back on, steps back a bit and watches the sprinklers do their thing. In the process he can monitor the current drawn by the pump on his mobile phone and read the pressure in the line.
  • This now proves that the sprinkler system works so why did they fail last night?
  • He then moves to the control panel to inspect the level in the tank and notices that this is currently 80% full. He can read this since the controller has a colour touchscreen that lets him diagnose many items in the park.
  • This still doesn’t solve the problem so he uses his trusted tablet again to connect to the cloud server and inspects the filling graph of the tank. And bingo, the fault is discovered.
  • It proved that the tank was empty at 3 am. He then checks the incoming flow meter graph and notices no interruptions in the supply of water. This is therefore indicating that the fill rate did not match the draw rate of the tank.
  • Using the flow rate collected on every station over the past irrigation cycle, he now uses the grouping function on the controller to reorganise the stations.
  • The next morning, he inspects the same park on his mobile phone where the logged events indicate the program ran without a hiccup.

This is just one example of how a fully integrated park management system can save time and money for local councils. And there are many more benefits that can be achieved by having better monitoring and control function.

Here are some more:

  1. Avoid annoying phone calls from the public that the irrigation was still on while it was raining.
    1. Solution: install one or more weather stations and distribute their data to individual controllers
  2. Improve power usage
    1. Solution: Dim path lights after 11 pm
    2. Solution: Turn BBQs off after early evening
  3. Improve water consumption
    1. Solution: Install an automatic wetting agent injection system and monitor the result via ethernet based soil moisture sensors
  4. Improve asset management
    1. Solution: Use an asset management package that lets you put in all technical details of your equipment complete with detailed drawings and item costs

Future vison?

Not really, a system like this is currently in place in Port Hedland and operating to the full satisfaction of the council involved.

To demonstrate some of the functions, I now (with the approval of Port Hedland) will link directly to the site and run you through some of the features mentioned in my presentation.

Live internet display (5 min)

Recommendation

When considering an upgrade to your park management system, here are some of the items to look out for when selecting a system:

  1. Ensure that the system can be upgraded to new mobile phone frequencies when they arrive (4G, 5G). This will normally result in the communication part being separate from the controller
  2. Confirm that the proposed data centre is based in Australia
  3. Check that the displays provided though the cloud based system are self-adjusting for PCs, tablet and phones
  4. Ensure that the system can grow with you once more complex requirements are encountered
  5. Make sure that the proposed new system will communicate with other existing software

Acknowledgement

The Town of Port Hedland and in particular Grant Voss have put their trust in us to deliver the system we have been able to install. A system that grew in complexity with every additional month of installation and has resulted in a modular system that truly provides Smart Parks.