- Cable Theft – A serious, compounding problem
South Africa is currently in an unacceptable wave of cable theft that has a detrimental effect on the economy, morale, as well as expected asset life of electrical equipment and devices. All indication is that load shedding will remain a problem for the immediate future. Load shedding opens the opportunity to cut high-voltage cables that would otherwise make it very difficult and dangerous to attempt to remove.
Cable theft has moved from petty crime for its copper content to serious organised crime. Currently 11kV cables are removed in relatively long lengths. Firstly, the removal of a section of feeder cable disrupts a large downstream network and end users irrespective of vulnerability or importance of society. Secondly replacements of these cables are very time-consuming and expensive – cables of this size and voltage are not supposed to be joined. Unfortunately, history dictates that a newly installed cable is an invitation for a second and third attempt to steal the same cable.
- First step to Smart Cities
Connected devices is not a new concept. Business entities are making use of telemetry, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s) and SCADA systems or even simple logic to monitor and control processes. Security systems are all about connected devices and are getting more and more sophisticated. The limiting factors has always been the range of communication and the power demand on the sensors.
It is only very recently with the development of ultra-narrowband data communication that the roll-out of networks for the protection and care of infrastructure assets became useful due to its simplicity and low operational cost. This game-changing protocol was developed to send and receive very small packets of data over a long distance while keeping the power demand very low. LoRa® (short for Long Range) was commercialised, and smart cities, smart buildings and smart electrical networks are now a possibility with battery powered sensors.
- Omicron IoT solution for cable theft
No single solution will completely eradicate the problem of cable theft; the challenge is far too vast in terms of geographical area and length of network cables. The approach for a technology solution to cable theft is two-fold:
- Early detection of illegal activities:
In a city it is unpractical and not possible to detect all attempts to remove cable in the whole network. It is thus required to identify vulnerable areas with:
- high possibility of attempts,
- areas with repeated attacks
- cable that has a high asset criticality (critical for service delivery).
This solution is to install a vibration / movement sensor from Omicron IoT in the ground above the cable, slightly below the surface. The sensor will send an alarm when activities are detected above ground. The receiving side is set up in a way to ignore a single passer-by and distinguish when digging takes place in that area. Obviously a direct hit on the support frame and sensor will be confirmation of an event. A silent alarm trigger will be forwarded to all dedicated devices, via the front-end rules’ engine.
The sensor gives a single ping every day to report a health- and battery status.
- Tracking and tracing of stolen cable
A tracking device is now available to be attached to the cable in such a way that it cannot be removed easily, or not recognised as a tracking device. The assumption is that most of the removal of the cable takes place at night and attaching a tracking device anywhere on the cable might just go undetected. This sensor can also detect vibration and movement. Should this signal be detected, the security team will know for certain that the cable was compromised.
- Typical Architecture
Although there are a few communication protocols to choose from, previous experience is convincing that LoRa® and thus LoRaWAN® is the most appropriate for monitoring and control over larger areas. LoRa is a low power modulation technique that make it possible to send very small packets of data over a long distance with minimum battery demand.
The schematic diagram explains the architecture in the typical LoRaWAN network. The end devices (sensors) are all buried underground and will communicate to the gateway placed at a strategic high vantage point. The data are directed and managed to any number of screens and mobile phones. It is therefore possible to forward notifications to any third party or organisation in the response team.
- What Services do Omicron IoT provide?
Omicron IoT is a Managed Service Provider (MSP) focussing to provide the best possible IoT solution for technical challenges. A wide variety of sensors are available to select from. Omicron IoT are focussing on functionality and best communication in the network. A services’ agreement can be negotiated for a mutual acceptable period. The MSP takes responsibility for the hardware and batteries, communication, software and making sure the end-user get sensible information to manage their assets. Asset care at its best!
- Quo Vadis?
The technology is totally scalable. It is possible to start small by monitoring a few cables and grow the network into the smart city of the future by adding more and different types of sensors. Start with the end in mind!
It is possible to set up a proof of value (PoV) demonstration site. To make contact us via phone call or email: https://omicron-iot.co.za/contact/