Remote Monitoring of the Infrastructure in Rural Alaska with LoRaWAN®

TheThings Network

The Things Network Global Team

Posted on 30-06-2023

In the vast and remote landscapes of Alaska, providing essential services like healthcare, clean water, and sanitation systems to rural communities is a complex challenge. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) has been at the forefront of addressing this challenge by leveraging innovative technologies like LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) for remote monitoring. LoRaWAN technology, with its long-range capabilities and low power consumption, has proven to be invaluable in improving the efficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of remote monitoring systems in Alaska's unique environment.

ANTHC’s Rural Energy Group, in partnership with communities, focuses on implementing energy-efficient and renewable energy projects to reduce energy costs for rural Alaskans. LoRaWAN-based remote monitoring systems play a crucial role in achieving these goals. By continuously monitoring facilities and providing real-time data, these systems help prevent system failures and enable remote maintenance workers (RMWs) to address issues promptly. As a result, energy costs are optimized, and expensive repairs or infrastructure damage can be avoided, saving communities significant expenses.

In remote locations like Akiak, on the Kuskokwim River, where the community's water systems vary from fully piped to haul systems, LoRaWAN-enabled remote monitoring provides valuable insights into the functioning of critical infrastructure. Sensors installed throughout the water treatment plants and distribution networks collect real-time data on parameters such as temperature, pressure, and flow rates. Operators can set normal operating ranges for these sensors, allowing them to receive alerts when anomalies occur, such as freezing temperatures that may lead to pipe bursts. With early detection and intervention, catastrophic failures can be averted, ensuring the uninterrupted supply of clean water.

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How LoRaWAN brings value to this project:

Saving time and resources with remote maintenance: By leveraging remote monitoring systems, RMWs can access real-time data and remotely troubleshoot issues. This capability eliminates the need for extensive travel and reduces response times, ultimately saving valuable time and resources.

Accessible monitoring and prompt alerts: RMWs receive instant notifications when any sudden problem arises, enabling them to investigate and address the issue promptly.

Energy efficiency: The high energy costs in Alaska, where one kilowatt hour of electricity can cost over a dollar, makes energy conservation a priority. Remote monitoring systems help track fuel and electricity usage, providing valuable data to identify energy-saving solutions.

The technology

To implement the solution, ANTHC uses Ellenex PDT2-L pressure transmitters, Elsys’ ELT Lite and ELT2 sensors, Spire EF-40 BTU meters for retrofit cases and Spire T-MAG meters for new water plant or clean energy installations. Dragino LPS8 gateways are used where there is internet available, and Cloudgate Micro CM0125 with a SIM card is used in places with no internet, but with cell coverage.

ANTHC uses The Things Stack to transmit the sensor data. The Things Stack LoRaWAN Network Server enhances the accessibility and convenience of remote monitoring. With its user-friendly interface, operators can easily monitor remote systems through publicly accessible web pages and receive real-time alerts via mobile devices.

Through the implementation of these systems, ANTHC has saved millions of dollars in avoided catastrophic failures and protected valuable water and sewer infrastructure. Remote monitoring not only ensures the provision of clean and efficient services but also contributes to ANTHC’s vision of making Alaska Native people the healthiest in the world.

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Watch the video about how Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium works to improve the health of the people we serve by partnering with communities to support water and sewer systems in rural Alaska: