Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Case study: IoT provides flood warnings in Argentinian village

Steve Rogerson
July 11, 2018

Libelium and its Argentinian distributor Rack2 have developed a permanent flood monitoring system based on IoT technology in La Emilia, a small village in the north of Buenos Aires.
Its location next to a river has been subject to several flood alerts throughout its history. With the last flood in 2017, three-quarters of the population were forced to evacuate, one person died and more than 3000 people were moved to several evacuation centres.
The final objective of the authorities was to have a permanent water monitoring system, not only for risk alerts but also to produce a satisfactory water flow, to control and record its behaviour. Rack2 has implemented an early flood detection and warning system using Libelium technology.
La Emilia is next to the Arroyo del Medio river and has been subject to several flood alerts throughout its history. In 1966, La Emilia was hit by a massive flood after a period of heavy rain leaving more than 400 litres per square metre and causing two deaths. Local authorities suggested the construction of retaining dykes to avoid future flooding.
Unfortunately, these infrastructures were neither high nor strong enough to dam the water of the Arroyo del Medio during the heavy rains of the austral summer of 2017. In January, when three-quarters of the population of La Emilia were forced to evacuate, the dykes collapsed and flooded the village, creating a swimming pool effect that cut off roads and railways for days.
The local government rapidly implemented a plan to manage flooding and prevent future tragedies. Ideally, the best way was to regulate the flow rate by constructing a dam upstream. This was very costly and would have also affected other areas that would be submerged so was automatically dismissed. Local authorities finally decided to increase the height of the dykes as well as implement an early detection and warning system for flood prevention in the river basin.
Rack2 has implemented the early detection and warning system. This corporation has specialised in IT and telecommunications for more than 15 years and has a growing interest in the IoT sector. Rack2 offers complete IoT services thanks to the combination of its Sense2Cloud software platform with Libelium’s wireless sensor platform technology.
A preliminary study was carried out by specialists to find out which were the most relevant locations to have sensors installed along the river, from the source to the mouth in the Parana river, with special emphasis on the riverside municipalities.
The deployment of an early flood detection and warning system was the main target of this project, a reliable and stable structure in terms of communications and the accuracy of readings. The Water Authority of the Province of Buenos Aires required a permanent water monitoring system, not only for risk alerts but also to produce a satisfactory water flow, to control and record its behaviour.
The wireless sensor platform has been installed in four locations to monitor the river: La Emilia, Buenos Aires; Puente Figueredo, Buenos Aires; Conesa, Buenos Aires; and Peyrano, Santa Fe.
The main parameters to be studied are the river water level and the forecast and observation of the weather using Waspmote Plug & Sense Smart Agriculture Pro. For that purpose, four units were installed in the area, including the following sensors:

  • Ultrasound
  • Temperature, relative humidity and air pressure
  • Pluviometer
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
The ultrasound sensor measures the distance between itself and the surface of water. This sensor is frequently used in similar applications, such as measuring liquid level or detecting presence. The sensor emits ultrasonic waves that rebound in the water to provide the distance between the node and the water. The water level of the river can be known by applying simple calculations.
The system included a double telecommunications technology base due to the requirements of the area. Rack2 deployed and implemented a private LoRaWan as the principal communications protocol for those municipalities where telecommunications infrastructure was not stable enough and 4G as a redundant communications protocol.

The data gathered by the sensors were sent to the Rack2′s Sense2Cloud platform where they can be visualised and analysed. The Sense2Cloud dashboard allows the user to check the status of the sensors every 30 minutes and receive warning alerts in case the parameters’ thresholds are exceeded.
This project fits the needs of all the stakeholders, the early warning system offers the population real-time information about the condition of the river and the water authorities have access to data to create and study statistics.
The programme does not have a monetary return on investment itself, but is a project with high political and social impact for the community. The early warning system has been created to solve a problem that the population has to deal with regularly.
Marcelo Silvestri, CEO of Rack2, highlighted the fact that monitoring the river was essential.
“The possibility of preventing risks and informing the population thanks to the early warning system offers optimal results,” he said. “Measuring river levels as well as controlling weather parameters were mandatory. Additionally, the context of the deployment demanded redundant communication protocols to assure the information to be received in the warning centre, in case of flooding.”