How Opti Leverages the IoT to Improve Stormwater Management

By deploying networked water-level meters, the company can help municipalities or private contractors to right-size their storage infrastructure and speed response times to possible overflow events.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

“Our goal is to make it easier to build connected products,” says Particle’s CEO and co-founder, Zach Supalla. “We enable customers to get products to market quickly and to help them from getting stuck in early stages of development.” Particle handles the SIM card provisioning, data plans and communication device management functions, which are managed through Particle’s cloud-based platform, used to publish data, events, and alerts securely to the customer (or, in this case, Opti). The Particle Cloud is also used to push over-the-air firmware updates to the Opti hardware to which the Particle communication module is mounted.

Particle's Electron module
Thus far, Particle’s Electron cellular module and Photon Wi-Fi module have been installed or are being installed at around 40 of Opti’s customer locations. (The Photon modules are used only in deployments with underground stormwater storage tanks, where the modules along with a Wi-Fi access point with a cellular backhaul, are used to monitor levels of those aboveground tanks.)

The hardware uses line power, where available. In remote locations that lack electricity, the hardware is powered by a solar panel and rechargeable batteries.

Particle’s Supalla says there are two integral parts to an IoT project—the business logic platform, which includes the application software and tools for managing and analyzing data; and the connectivity layer, which is needed for device management and to ensure a fleet of physical devices can “talk securely to the web.” Most IoT vendors want to handle the business logic platform, “because that is where the value is created.” But, he says, device management, which Particle provides, is vital because it provides the critical link to remote access. “It’s where the largest technical risks are,” he says.

The business partnership is arranged such that Opti pays Particle a monthly fee based on the number of events transmitted between a sensor module and the cloud, as well as the quantity of data transmitted. Opti then incorporates these costs into the periodic service fees it charges its customers.

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