Tech start-up Chirp and utility EDF Energy have been awarded a £100,000 Innovate UK grant to explore data-over-sound in radio-frequency restricted environments.
Data-over-sound start-up Chirp is partnering with utility company EDF Energy on a project that aims to bring connectivity to areas of power stations that have typically been ‘dead zones’ in industrial IoT terms.
The project will take place at EDF’s Heysham 1 nuclear power station in Lancashire, UK and has been awarded £100,000 by public-sector innovation agency, Innovate UK. Together, the two companies will use Chirp’s technology, which takes data and encodes it into unique audio streams to provide connectivity in radio-frequency restricted environments.
“WiFi and mobile communications are common in most workplaces, but not on our stations,” explained Dave Stanley, a project manager in EDF Energy’s Innovation Delivery Team. “So having a way of getting regular and reliable data from remote instruments in radio-restricted areas will be useful for our engineers.”
Any device with a speaker can transmit a ‘chirp’ and most devices with a microphone can decode it. In the Chirp/EDF project, signals from remote and inaccessible checkpoints on the power station will be transmitted to computer networks as ‘chirps’, enabling workers to monitor instruments from offices and relieving them of the burden of frequent in-person inspections.
This is the second phase of a two-part engagement between Chirp and EDF Energy. The first phase saw the two explore the possibilities of using data-over-sound in nuclear power plants, starting in November 2016 and continuing over the first half of 2017. From this work, a successful proof of concept was delivered to take readings from a gauge.
“The first phase of our engagement with EDF Energy was a resounding success. We were set a serious challenge, to use data-over-sound in a very difficult environment and it passed with flying colours,” said Dr Dan Jones, chief science officer at Chirp.
Phase two, meanwhile, began at the Heysham 1 power plant in October 2017.
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