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  4. Water Leak Detection Service, which detects water leaks at an early stage
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With aging water and sewage pipes threatening to cause roads to subside, NEC's ICT technology is being used to combat their deterioration

  • YamasakiThe drive-by method eliminates the need to install repeaters and base stations. Also, because the sensors incorporate powerful magnets, they can be installed by simply lifting up a manhole cover and attaching them to something iron like a valve. That makes it quick and easy to install and remove them. This is convenient when you want to use a small number of sensors, and change detection locations over the span of a month, for instance.
  • MitaHow about the permanent method?
  • YamasakiIt requires construction work such as the installation of receivers, but you don't need to go to the site to gather data, so data collection is extremely easy. For example, this is suitable for cases where the water supply pipes at an important public facility are deteriorating but can't be replaced, and action must be taken quickly if something happens. It is a very effective method for ongoing monitoring of a fixed-point measurement.
  • MitaWhat do you do with the data collected?
  • YamasakiWe have developed cloud-based analysis software, so the data is sent there via packet communication and analyzed.
  • MitaDoes this cloud-based analysis software mean that the data can be accessed anywhere?
  • YamasakiThat's right. You can view results from anywhere using a computer or tablet. That means you can see data collected from water supply pipes in Hokkaido while in Tokyo. This is the actual main screen (shows Ms. Mita the tablet screen.)

FigureMap screen as seen on a computer
*The screen above is just a demonstration, and not actual data

  • MitaDo the suspected leak points in red on the map show places where water may be leaking?
  • YamasakiExactly. The green points are locations with no abnormalities.
  • MitaHaving all the suspected problem areas visible at a glance should make things far more efficient! I guess this does away with the need for those conventional inspections!
  • YamasakiNot quite. The Water Leak Detection Service narrows down Suspected leak points from a wide range to an area of a few meters, but the final verdict is given using a conventional inspection.
  • MitaOh, so the conventional inspections are still carried out, huh?
  • YamasakiThat's right. However, some locations are hard to inspect using the conventional method. For example, pipe lines passing under railway tracks or in places with strong winds are difficult to inspect by ear due to the surrounding noise. The same goes for leak prone areas. Because local governments are responsible for places like these, we have them use our Water Leak Detection Service.
  • MitaI see.

The dangers that leaks present

  • MitaYou'll have to excuse me for derailing the conversation a bit here, but can you tell us about the problems that water leaks cause?
  • YamasakiThe most significant problem is that water leaks can cause secondary damage. The larger the water supply pipe, the greater the force of the water that flows through it, and this also applies to water leaks. For example, if a gas pipe was close to a leak, it could be damaged by the earth and sand lifted up along with the water. That would result in a gas leak occurring at the same time, possibly even harming residents living nearby.
  • MitaI see. So water leaks can lead to other incidents.
  • YamasakiBecause water supply pipes are placed under roads, another threat is that a water leak could wash away the earth supporting a road, causing it to subside. It is also possible for the large volumes of water flowing out to flood roads.
  • MitaI've seen reports of that happening on news programs. I didn't know that water leaks could cause roads to subside, though.
  • YamasakiIt costs local governments an enormous amount to repair the damages from secondary accidents like these. Another factor is the risk of throwing away the immense costs involved with purifying and transferring water so we can use it safely and securely. That is why it is very important to reduce water leaks and eliminate waste.
  • MitaI think I have a good sense of how important it is to prevent leaks now. Keep up your efforts.

FigureOverview of Water Leak Detection Service

Over 3,000 cases of roads subsiding a year due to aging sewage pipes

  • MitaNow I'll be talking with Mr. Akaike about NEC's Sewage Pipe Management System. First, can you tell us about the current state of sewage pipes?
  • AkaikeTo start with, unlike water supply pipes, sewage pipes are constructed to use gravity to carry away domestic wastewater and sewage (water from the toilet or bath, etc.). The pipes themselves are laid to form slopes, with a pump installed at regular intervals to raise the sewage up and send it down the next slope. This process is repeated to carry sewage to treatment plants.
  • MitaI wasn't aware of how the system worked.
  • AkaikeA total of about 460,000 kilometers of sewage pipe have been laid in Japan. That's enough to encircle the Earth more than 11 times. The chances of concrete sewage pipes decaying or cracking increase after about 30 years.
  • MitaWhat kind of issues does that cause?
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