Southern Water, a utility operating in the south of the UK, is testing the Xylem subsidiary’s ‘SmartBall’ to detect leaks in its pipe network.
The device is equipped with an acoustic sensor that can detect small variations in the flow down a pipe, which might indicate the smallest of leaks or even a crack that has yet to leak. The device’s acoustic sensors can 'hear' a leak of as little as 0.11 litres per minute. Other detectors inside the ball detect unevenness in pipes and pockets of air in a pipe.
Housed in a foam packaging, the SmartBall is squeezed through a valve on a water main and is pushed along by pressure for up to 12 hours. In Southern Water’s current trials, SmartBall stays in the pipe for shorter periods and transmits data to the surface where it is collected by computer. The ball can then be grabbed at another valve or caught with a net where the pipe pours into a reservoir.