Development of radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors suitable for smart-monitoring applications in sewer systems

Water Res. 2021 Jun 15;198:117107. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117107. Epub 2021 Apr 5.


Sanitary and stormwater sewers are buried assets that play important roles in the prevention of diseases and the reduction of health risks for our societies. Due to their hidden nature, these assets are not frequently assessed and maintained to optimal conditions. The lack of maintenance can cause sewer blockages and overflows that result in the release of pathogens into the environment. For cities, monitoring sewer conditions on a large-scale can be costly, time-consuming, and labor-intensive if using current low-throughput technologies, such as dye testing or closed-circuit television. Alternatively, smart sensor systems can provide low-cost, high-throughput, and automatic data-driven features for real-time monitoring applications. In this study, we developed ultrahigh-frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID)-based sensors that are flushable and suitable for sanitary and stormwater pipes quick surveys. 3D printed RFID sensors were designed to float at the water-air interface and minimize the water interference to RF signal communications. The optimal detection range was also determined to support the design and installation of the reader in various utility holes. Field trials demonstrated that the UHF RFID system is a low-cost, high-throughput, and robust solution for monitoring blockage, illicit-connection, and water flow in sewer networks.

Keywords: High-throughput monitoring; Passive UHF-RFID sensors; Radio-frequency identification (RFID); Sewer blockages; Smart sewer networks; Surface flow rate.

MeSH terms

  • Cities
  • Radio Frequency Identification Device*
  • Technology