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Swiss integrator Oratek has worked with Astrocast to add satellite connectivity to the Access to Water Foundation’s water filtration equipment in Senegal. The use of the plug and play Astronode S+ enabled a rapid, low-cost development to collect vital information about water quality and equipment usage that will support both proactive maintenance and strategic planning.
The United Nations classifies Senegal as a water-poor country with around 20% of Senegal’s population not having access to clean water. Water is scarce, fluoridated, polluted, and often salty, especially in rural areas: water resources are less than 1,000 m3 per capita in Senegal, while countries such as the USA have almost 10,000 m3 per capita.
Access to Water is a Swiss foundation dedicated to improving access to drinking water, health, education, and job creation in regions suffering from water stress. Since 2012, its projects have distributed more than 150 million litres of clean water to Senegal and the foundation is increasingly leveraging innovative technology to improve access to water. The latest generation of water purification filters can treat dirty, polluted or brackish raw water with up to 4g of salt per litre. Depending on the conditions, each filter can produce up to 1,500 litres of osmosis drinking water per day and up to 3,000 litres of household water, ideal for dishes, laundry, showering and hand washing.
In addition to producing clean water, these water filter units collect an array of important information, including usage and water quality, as well as any problems with the equipment. Capturing and sharing this information is key to Access to Water’s on-the-ground team, providing vital insight to support proactive maintenance and address any problems that could affect water supplies. With many of these rural locations several days’ drive apart, it is essential to optimise the time spent in each village.
“Because these locations are extremely remote, they are not accessible by any standard communications network. The only way to collect and share this information is through a satellite connection, an approach that until recently was deemed too expensive for this type of use case.”explains Aurelien Essig, Founder, Oratek
To provide connectivity to the water filter machines, Oratek opted to implement Astrocast’s nanosatellite solution, which provides an extremely cost-effective approach to achieving satellite connectivity. Developed in partnership with Airbus, CEA-Leti, the European Space Agency, and Thuraya, the Astronode S+ is a cutting-edge module featuring low profile L-band antenna, ultra-low power consumption, and a small form factor.
Critically for Oratek and Access to Water, the Astronode S+ is ready to connect – automatically sending messages, ensuring they are acknowledged and receiving control commands. With no need to invest in electronic or radio frequency design, Oratek was able to fast-track the project. The company faced one challenge, however: the water filters are typically located inside buildings – and satellite antennas require line of sight to the sky to achieve a connection.
To overcome this problem Oratek created an efficient two-stage model: the water filters are connected to the Lora Wide Area Network, where information is consolidated and then sent on to an Astronode S+ module located on a nearby roof. Using Astrocast’s DevKits and onboarding videos, Oratek was able to rapidly undertake the custom software development required to enable the information exchange between the Lora hub and the Astronode S+, with no need for any additional consultancy or support. The data collected from every water filter device in each village can now be shared through a single Astronode S+ device.
“The decision to use the Astronode S+ was straightforward. There was no need for complex design or systems integration. The plug-and-play approach ensured we could rapidly deliver the integration and quickly get connected to the water filters.”confirms Aurelin Essig, Founder, Oratek
In addition to being extremely lower power, Oratek’s Astronode S+ solution uses solar power to ensure communication of data from the water filters even during one of the frequent electricity blackouts experienced in remote areas. Reliable satellite communication will provide Access to Water with regular consumption, quality and maintenance information. This will support the team on the ground to maximise the performance of the filters and ensure people in remote areas of Senegal gain access to as much clean water as possible.
The information will help Access to Water to continually assess the performance of the filters, ensuring projects are on track. It will also provide investors, including leading financial institutions, with trusted data about the impact of these projects such as the number of people who now have access to clean water.
“Using Astrocast’s IoT connectivity solution, the Access to Water Foundation can deploy its water treatment points anywhere and contribute to the effective fight against diseases related to dirty or polluted water, including in remote and rural areas not covered by local telecom network.”says Renaud de Watteville, Director of the Access to Water Foundation
The installation of these water points in strategic areas of Senegal will bring the opportunity to provide almost 5% of the Senegalese population to get drinkable water.
“Oratek has designed a satellite communication solution for the Access to Water Foundation that is low cost, efficient and self-sustaining and will help to ensure clean water is accessible to as many people as possible.”says Aurelien Essig, Founder, Oratek
In addition, the development of the Lora WAN/Astronode S+ gateway is a powerful solution that can be used in any internal building that lacks access to a telecom network.
“We are excited about this collaboration and the opportunity it represents for Astrocast to contribute to improving people’s lives by leveraging our technology.”adds Gildas Seimbille, Customer Success Manager, Astrocast
Furthermore, Oratek has proved the value of satellite communications in connecting even the most remote and deprived communities across the world.