St. Albert is set to benefit from its Smart City Alliance with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) as students at the Edmonton school conduct a research project on smart water meters.
A group of three NAIT students will spend their school year researching, and perhaps even testing, technology that will allow remote water meter reading to see what the best product is for St. Albert.
“We were looking for ways to engage NAIT and they were looking for ways to engage us,” said Gord Coulman, St. Albert’s director of information technology services.
Right now, water meters have to be physically read, so part-time workers only do that every two months, Coulman said.
With the ability to read it electronically, they could move that frequency up to at least monthly, and maybe even daily or several times a day.
“There could be some benefits which include a homeowner being able to go to a web portal and see what their consumption is,” Coulman said.
But the city might also be able to detect anomalies based on water flow, from a leaky toilet to a burst pipe.
Coulman said they could possibly compare the metered water use with the amount flowing through water mains to detect any leaks in the main as well.
Travis Peter, the city’s smart city manager, said the ability to check out water consumption in near-real time could help aid conservation efforts.
“As a resident, you’ll know more about (your) consumption and monitor it. That type of research will encourage them to moderate their use, and that’s a benefit to the community, a benefit to the resident in terms of cost, the environment and so forth.”
Mark Archibald, chair of applied research at NAIT’s School of Information Communication and Engineering Technologies, said this offers students working on their final “capstone” project in pursuit of their bachelor of technology degree an opportunity to do a real-world project.
“They can do a theoretical exercise, but it’s so much more meaningful to the students to do something that’s actually related to what industry or a municipality in this case is needing,” Archibald said.
They recently had their first meeting and the work will continue until the spring, culminating in a report and presentation to the city on what remote water metering reading technology is the best fit for St. Albert.
That report will include research and potentially some testing, depending on the final project’s scope and if St. Albert can contribute some funds, Archibald said.