Dikes have been keeping the Netherlands safe for centuries. To keep it that way, also in the future, smart solutions are called for. Like the one from Jos Karsten, owner of JLD Contracting bv. Ten years ago, he had a futuristic idea: anchors to reinforce the dikes. Anchors with the added feature of a sensor monitoring the pressure. In October 2018, the first anchors were installed.
"It’s an overall concept", says Jos Karsten. "We reinforce the dike with anchors. In addition to that, the sensors provide us with additional information. An app platform, specially designed for this purpose, collects all this information. It helps water authorities assess the condition of the dike." The anchors look like steel hooks that (literally) anchor themselves in the ground. They are driven deep into the dike and tightened with a long draw bar. The more anchors, the sturdier the dike. And the more data becoming available by means of the sensors.
To interpret the data, smart software is a must. Jos was acquainted with Dirk Tuip of FacilityApps from a previous project. He turned out to be the right person to fulfil Jos’ requirements. "We developed an app platform for companies that have staff working on location," Dirk explains. "It collects huge amounts of data and interprets that flow of information. Since a few years, we have also been experimenting with smart sensor solutions. The basis of what JLD was looking for, was therefore already available. We built on that with specific modules."
The app platform provides the water authorities with real-time information about what’s happening inside the dike. The system measures water pressure and the tension of the dike. If the pressure on the sensor is too high or too low, the platform issues an alert. In this way, the water authorities immediately know that action is required. How high or low the pressure is allowed to be, can be regulated by the water board itself. In this way, the platform supports them in their dike monitoring duties.
Cooperating with Vodafone
To gather the data from the sensors onto the FacilityApps platform, a strong network connection is required. Not that simple, for the sensors are placed underground. "Our tests proved that normal networks weren’t strong enough", Jos says. "3G, 4G and 5G fell short. What did work, though, was Narrowband-IoT, a network especially designed for applications in the field of Internet of Things (IoT). Vodafone is one of two providers offering this technology. After a few talks, we decided to enter into a partnership."
Jos is very happy about the cooperation. "Vodafone is extremely knowledgeable and very flexible into the bargain. Last week on a Friday afternoon, we called them from a test location where the mast transmitters weren’t in operation yet. Come Monday morning and everything was fixed. Quite something for such a major organization. This three-way collaboration brings out the best in all of us in an unprecedented way. Everyone goes all out."
Temperature and vibration
Water tension and pressure are two important parameters to assess the dike’s condition. But they are not the only ones. "The more data you have, the better your conclusions can be", Dirk explains. "That’s why we intend to collect even more data on the platform. For example by putting temperature sensors or vibrometers in the anchor. In this way the dike becomes even smarter. But for the time being we focus on this first project. That is challenging enough as it is."
Ready to launch
One kilometre of dike on the Ringdijk in Amsterdam serves as the first official testing ground for the system. On 8 October, the first anchors were installed in the dike. "At the moment, we insert fifteen anchors a day", says Jos. "We will continue to do so until we reach seven hundred. That many, because we want to collect as much information as possible in this phase. I expect this number can be reduced in future projects. We have worked flat out these past few months towards this moment. Now we are ready to launch."