Insightek/Pocatello Public Works To Test Advanced Monitoring System

April 17, 2000
According to Stephen E. Filippi, Director of the Public Works Division, the City of Pocatello will retain the services of Insightek to install a remote monitoring system capable of predicting equipment problems long before they result in a loss of service. Insightek is a recently formed start-up company that was founded with an innovative service concept: using the Internet to deliver forecasts of where and when a process or system is likely to fail. "We currently send inspectors into the field three times a day to make sure that our lift stations are functioning properly," noted Mr. Filippi. "Nevertheless, you can't fix a problem you can't detect, and our goal in the Insightek test is to explore a way of more efficiently utilizing our maintenance staff while simultaneously improving the reliability of our lift pump system. Hopefully, the end result is better service at a lower cost." The Insightek test will involve the installation of advanced sensing devices that measure a variety of operational parameters. The sensors will monitor the pumps as they are running, and will look at factors such as pumping efficiency and signs of impending system failure. This information will be transmitted through a wireless communications network to an Internet site that can be accessed by Public Works' maintenance staff. "The more frequently you can monitor the operation of a critical system, the more likely you are to prevent a breakdown of that system -- but at some point, the costs of doing so begin to outweigh the advantages," said Fred Templeton, Insightek co-founder. "The benefits of our remote monitoring technology are that we can sample operational data frequently enough to see patterns that predict when a problem may occur, and deploy resources on that basis. This represents a much better use of the City's maintenance staff." Insightek's technology is currently being tested in other applications, including agriculture. In an experiment conducted at the University of Idaho Kimberly Potato Storage Research Facility, an Insightek system is monitoring the chemical by-products of disease and decay among stored potatoes. Information regarding the status of the potatoes in various zones throughout the storage area is graphically communicated to end-users through an Internet site, relying on complex software algorithms to determine the likelihood of spoilage long before it can be detected by the human nose. Ultimately, Templeton believes Insightek can revolutionize the way companies and agencies think about preventive maintenance. "If you can allocate your resources based on an accurate prediction of when a problem might occur, you can reduce the current cost structure associated with maintenance and repair."

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