Stories
From buoys to rubber ducks

From buoys to rubber ducks

How 5G clarifies the quality of our water

Biomark monitors the quality of water. This is done by means of buoys – large floating devices with measuring equipment. Entrepreneur Mark de Wit: "They are large because of a huge battery.’ This will change due to the energy-efficient 5G. ‘Now everything fits into a probe the size of a rubber duck."

Partners Biomark and CollectionConnection are conducting a pilot within 5Groningen: the testing ground for the latest generation of mobile internet. Here, entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organizations work with experts like VodafoneZiggo to develop use cases with 5G.

Permanent supervision
Water is the source of life, but can also be life-threatening. When it contains blue algae for example, a bacteria that can cause serious harm. It's for good reason that our inland waterways are regularly checked for it. This is done manually with two possible outcomes, blue algae or no blue algae. If the bacteria are on the verge of breaking out, it escapes notice. De Wit: "The permanent sensors we put into the water, not only identify blue algae, but also recognize the circumstances preceding it. Like temperature, penetration level of sunlight and acidity of the water. It helps you anticipate a breakout so you can take measures to turn the tide. And should the breakout happen anyway, you are almost instantly aware of it."

Always on
Wout van Wezel, Partner and IT specialist, adds: "Our sensors can also be used to identify chemical pollution. For example due to a leakage at an industrial site. Surface waters are usually checked by hand on the basis of random samples. Time-consuming, expensive and far from effective. The contrary is true for our sensors. They save lots of money and time, are accurate and versatile and work 24 hours a day. And if some level goes through the roof, immediate measures can be taken. In this way, a lot of damage can be avoided."

Smaller and more refined
It is clear that the buoys of the Groningen-based company Biomark are doing a great job en work just fine. But there is always room for improvement. Van Wezel: "Our pilot is aimed at using the capabilities of narrowband-IoT: the 5G network for the Internet of Things. It will make our systems so much more energy efficient that we can produce much smaller and cheaper measuring probes." The size of a rubber duck, so to speak. In reality, these probes – equipped with a SIM card, battery and various sensors – are approximately fifteen centimetres in diameter. De Wit: "One of the advantages is that we can deploy lots more of them. As a result, we can now monitor an entire river or an area like the entire Biesbosch. We not only measure on the surface of the water, but also on and in the bottom. This leads to an unprecedented amount of useful information."

Good goal
De Wit continues: "Our pilot is aimed at developing a properly functioning measuring system. First in water barrels, then in a lake here in Groningen and the ultimate test: in the sea. We are now in the first phase and everything goes like clockwork. When 5G becomes more widely available, we will be ready." Van Wezel: "There is só much information to be gathered from the water. Eventually, this is really going to change our world."

Lessons from the water
Jarmo Wilkens is involved in this pilot on behalf of VodafoneZiggo. He is very enthusiastic about the cooperation, which had a successful start. Asked about the contribution by VodafoneZiggo, Wilkens explains: "In the first few weeks of the project we were in constant contact to get the connection with our NB-IoT network up and running. Something Van Wezel proved to be quite skilful at! We also provide support and SIM cards. And with our help the University of Groningen made a server available to process all the data." Now it is up to Biomark to get the most out of those data and to investigate various scenarios. Wilkens: "We also learn a few things from this pilot ourselves. How our network functions underwater and at a great distance from our masts."

Read more about 5Groningen.