Water management

not a lack of willingness or ability, just the sheer scale of the job when done manually.

Healthcare estate engineers or even designated carers and nurses are sent to tour washrooms and turn taps on and off at well-used and under-utilised outlets, take temperature readings using a probe or thermistor at sentinel points each month, or perhaps even on a weekly basis. They then need to record the data and email or manually input it into whatever collation method the organisation is using, such as an electronic logbook.

Traditionally an estates engineer recording data could have thousands of temperature readings to sort through, analyse, and, where necessary, respond to with remedial action each week. Not only is this strategy open to human error, but inordinate amounts of time are spent by staff who could be otherwise more valuably engaged.

Yet the worst-case scenario of getting things wrong, in addition to time and cost, is the very real threat of legionella outbreaks in buildings that are already housing more vulnerable people.

Harnessing the IoT

One innovation that is already changing how care homes are managing water systems is an operating system comprising physical hardware connected to a cloud-based IoT portal. Working closely with leading software developers, our R&D team has created an intelligent temperature monitoring unit. LinkThru TMU delivers automatic wireless monitoring, providing real-time temperature readings on the management user’s computer screen, in order to track and monitor hot and cold water temperatures in pipework systems – critical to risk assessments. Each connected ‘black box’ temperature monitoring unit is designed to be retrofittable, and to fit onto washbasin pipework, any pipe with an access point, behind a panel, under a sink, on a sluice, or by a boiler and is powered by a lithium metal cell battery with a lifespan of three to five years.

The unit takes a reading every ten seconds, and then sends temperature and flow event data to the cloud on an hourly basis. Recorded data includes

maximum, minimum and average temperatures.

The sensor also records any flow events, such as taps being turned on. The data readings are analysed by the device’s inbuilt software, batched and sent up back to the cloud, and then on to the user interface which might be a phone, tablet or PC. The system currently uses the Sigfox network, a long range, low-power, low-bandwidth wireless technology which is

advantageous because it employs stand- alone radio signalling with no disruption to an organisation’s local area network (LAN) of wifi.

The power of data

In developing the perfect marriage of cloud-based data storage and analysis technology to robust, specialist hardware for remote sensing and monitoring of water temperatures and outlet usage, we have tried to counter each of the challenges that currently face healthcare estates teams: to ease the burden on time and labour and to eliminate the potential for human error.

The worst-case scenario of getting things wrong, in addition to time and cost, is the very real threat of legionella outbreaks


However, it is the power of the data where the system truly comes into its own. Legislative requirements are of course a primary concern - in developing the system we continually referred to HTM (health technical memoranda) guidelines, for instance, in setting the software’s recommended default temperature ranges for outlet types. HTM and HSE L8 ACoP guidance also emphasises the need to ensure water does not stagnate, and of accurate record-keeping. This means LinkThru users have peace of mind that they are monitoring and recording what they need to in order to best protect against the threat of legionella.

Yet the system goes way beyond that to offer previously inaccessible information in real time and for those who want to really maximise use of the data, reports can be set up to indicate how water is being used - not being used - in specific rooms and extrapolating this one step further, can profile user behaviour and deploy optimal resource solutions.

For example, if a report shows that most of the activations of a particular TMV (thermostatic mixing valve) are early in the morning or early evening, it may give an estates manager a good idea of when to send in the cleaners or schedule water quality sampling at appropriate times. • May 2020

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