A4 Creates a Plug & Play Data Acquisition Box

A4 Creates a Plug & Play Data Acquisition Box

Despite the booming technological advancements worldwide, there still remains a significant amount of legacy communication equipment in use, or in other words, devices still using 2G and 3G cellular networks. As legacy devices have become increasingly problematic in recent years, A4 Systems set out to find a cost effective solution to upgrade the systems.

A few cities across Canada reached out to A4 this year requesting an upgrade to the communication boxes used in their network of storm drain flow meters. The main issue they had was that their current communication boxes were old — so old they were still on 3G, and some even 2G, cellular networks. 

Not only were they experiencing data transmission much slower than today’s standard, but they realized that 2G and 3G networks were quickly becoming unsupported. In some cases, the clients would have to bring a laptop and cable to download the data that had been captured by the meters. With hundreds of meters, this method could prove to be very problematic moving forward.

The client also realized that simply replacing the equipment with newer, more advanced devices would solve the issue. But at a cost of $20,000 per device, the total price tag would be astronomical. This is where A4 Systems was recruited to develop a low cost box with modern communication capabilities.

The A4 team set out to research a solution and landed on the idea to create a universal data acquisition box — essentially a device to plug into any meter, collect data from that meter, and send it to the client via 4G or LoRaWAN networks. 

Building from scratch, the team at A4 designed a new computer board capable of handling multiple types of flow meter and sensor inputs so that it can be used universally. Additionally, given the nature of storm drain flow meters, an antenna was built to effectively transmit the data from underground without any signal issues. Taking into consideration the issues the client had already experienced with outdated cellular connectivity, A4 also designed the box to be easily upgraded to 5G connectivity when the networks become more readily available.

The final product successfully solved all of the clients issues. The client is now able to simply attach the new A4 data acquisition box to their existing flow meters in order to upgrade to 4G data transmission. All together, the new A4 data acquisition boxes cost them around 90% less than it would to replace the current network of devices. Added features allow the client to schedule data transmission to their needs (hourly, daily, weekly, etc…) and the need to manually download via wired connection is no longer required. 

Given the universal nature of the data acquisition box A4 has created, it will be used for many other applications, not just city storm drains. Any type of meter or sensor needing an upgrade to its communication methods will work with the acquisition box. 

A4 is constantly looking for new ways to innovate and digitally transform clients operations and will continue to find creative solutions to challenging scenarios.