A device for preventing water leakage and improving water management systems has been commercialised by Derbyshire-based instrumentation specialist Technolog.
WizKey, which in its development stage won the Instrumentation category in the 1995 Manufacturing Industry Achievement Awards, is an intelligent valve key designed to identify, record, and control the operation of valves on water distribution systems.
In 1993, Technolog, together with South West Water and Yorkshire Water, began looking at alternatives to paper-based geographic and bar-code management systems. The system had to be usable with existing valves. It also had to minimise opportunities for operator error.
‘A major problem to solve was the system of recording the turning of the valve key,’ said Technolog’s managing director Claude Yonnet. ‘Using the earth’s magnetic field, combined with magnetic sensors in the valve key, a patented rotational detection system was devised to record each turn of the WizKey only activated when the key is located on a valve head containing a data capsule.’
The WizKey has an alloy and stainless-steel valve-key body. It has a logger and LCD display at its top. Valves on which the WizKey is to be used are capped with a uniquely profiled ‘false top’ embedded with a data recording capsule.
When placed on a valve, WizKey reads the capsule. Its display panel tells the operator the valve location, size and identification number. It also identifies the valve type, water main served, normal valve status, which way the valve turns to open, and its last position.
To help reduce water surge damage, valve closing speeds can be recorded. Data is presented as events against time vital for operation and control of the system.
All operations of the valve are held in the Wizkey’s datalogger. Each operator and valve is assigned a security level. If an operator places the key on a valve with a higher level, the display screen shows a warning. The valve can still be rotated essential in emergencies but WizKey will record the time and date of the operation.
At the end of the working shift, valve data from each WizKey is downloaded to a central database. Data can also be transferred over a mobile phone or radio.