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Smart manholes

Published: 24 January 2022


Prep for big weather events takes brains from across Napier City Council, its contractors and partner agencies. But it also takes smart technology. Across Napier, 50 manholes are getting their own ‘brains’. Sensors are being installed inside manholes to warn Council staff when a drain is getting too full, or reaching its capacity. This can be an indicator of a blockage or malfunction further up the system, or higher than usual flow.
If the sensor thinks there’s an issue it alerts the environmental and depot teams through their cellphones.
“Thanks to the sensors we’ll know there’s an issue before it’s an issue!” explains Paul Davison, the engineer leading the project. “Before this we’ve been blind to what’s happening minute by minute, area by area in the underground network. This will give us pre-emptive info so we can act immediately.”
The sensors are relatively inexpensive and are housed in boxes made in NZ using a 3D printer. They send signals to a satellite which in turn sends a message to the monitoring system. There are 20 currently installed with thorough testing now taking place. A similar system has been trialled and installed in Tauranga and Taupō.

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