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SMIP Vida – SCADA Control App for Vida Buoy

Challenge

Buoy Vida, photo Tihomir Makovec, MBP

Buoy Vida, photo Tihomir Makovec, MBP

Marine Biology Station Piran operates under the auspices of the National Institute of Biology and combines scientific work and applicative solutions, in order to gain a better understanding of the marine ecosystem. For this purpose, oceanographic buoy Vida, which has a diameter of 2.5m and towers 5m above the water surface, was manufactured and deployed in 2008. The chains connect the buoy to three concrete anchors on the seafloor at a depth of 22m. It is located approximately 2.5 km from the Piran’s Cape Madona, on the open sea to the west (more about the buoy).

The system consists of a subsystem on the Vida buoy for data capture and a subsystem on the Marine Biology Station for receiving data.

Inside the buoy and on the buoy itself, systems for automatic capture of oceanographic data, service data, data about the state of the buoy, data about the energy consumption of devices are installed, as well as surveillance cameras. The software on the communication modules enables feedback control of devices and remote switching on/off.

The mainland subsystem logs all received raw data into a database that is available to users for further processing for scientific and research purposes.

Although the Vida buoy is energy self-sufficient, the instruments and technically demanding systems require a check-up and maintenance work twice a month, which is conducted by the technical personnel using the appropriate transport vessel. Besides regular cleaning of measuring devices, which are overgrown by the sea fauna, the maintenance of the buoy also includes a regular check-up of energy systems (batteries, photocells and fuel cells), as in the case of a failure, access might not be immediately possible, due to weather and other factors.

The main problems of the buoy’s subsystem are the real-time display of values of all service measurements and statuses of the oceanographic buoy as well as remotely switching on and off individual instruments, when energy production is not sufficient; these are otherwise standard functions of the SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). Due to the lack of a dedicated SCADA software, check-ups and maintenance work is done manually on-site, although the exchange of data about the buoy’s state and operator commands between the two subsystems are supported.

Solution

We created a software app “SMIP Vida” using standard building block of SMIP platform that runs on the cloud and performs the tasks of a traditional SCADA system. The software is intended for the technical personnel and buoy operators. It enables remote access to subsystems on the buoy, monitoring of the operation as well as switching on and off every individual device in the five groups: meters, energetics, buoy state, communication, and cameras. When reaching the critical limits of individual parameters or in case of failures, the software sends notifications. The maintenance workers immediately receive a notification directly to their e-mail addresses.

SMIP Vida – Control panel with traffic light rating system

SMIP Vida – Control panel with traffic light rating system

The main advantage of developing a dedicated app using the standard building blocks of the SMIP platform, instead of buying licences for expensive software packages SCADA, has proven to be a fast execution of a solution for a fairly complex system that works well on a phone, a tablet, or a computer, supports multilingualism (for facilitating cooperation on international projects) and implements all required SCADA functions (displays, alarms, setting fields and administration rights to specific operators). This version does not display graphs (past data), as the received data is not being stored or better yet, is being stored as raw data in an unconnected mainland subsystem’s database.

Results

By implementing the “SMIP Vida” app, we solved the problem with remote monitoring and control of the buoy (it was previously not possible to do that directly from the office) as well as solved a logistic problem, considering that sailing to the buoy only for examining its status is no longer necessary.

As granting user rights allows that every user gets its own level of rights (e.g. limited access to only certain instruments) and authorisations (e.g. cancelling the rights for executing service orders), we were also able to include certain Marine Biology Station’s researchers who only wish to monitor the status of their “own” measuring instruments in real-time.

Furthermore, as SMIP Vida app enables also real-time control over the operation and load of the devices as well as remotely switching off each individual device in case of any events that trigger alarms, new possibilities for using buoy (with few required upgrades) are arising. The oceanographic buoy could be offered as a test platform in a sea environment to external users (e.g. international projects, research institutions all over the world, industry). The ability to connect their equipment to the existing power and buoy’s communication system, in order to perform tests of their measuring and other equipment in a real marine environment as well as monitor test activities with the help of the SMIP Vida control software, could be offered to potential users.