Chirp and EDF Energy secure £100k Innovate UK funding to trial data-over-sound solutions in nuclear power plants

Heysham 1 nuclear power station

Chirp, a data-over-sound provider, along with partner EDF Energy, has been awarded £100,000 (€114206.50) by Innovate UK to trial a new project taking place at the company’s Heysham 1 power station.

EDF Energy is working with Chirp, using their data over sound technology to create solutions for use in radio-frequency restricted environments. The new system will see sound carry signals from remote and inaccessible check-points on the power station to computer networks and allow station staff to monitor instruments from offices, alleviating engineers from having to make continual hands-on inspections.

Achieving connectivity in otherwise restricted areas has a number of beneficial outcomes that could enable:

  • Information boards and status tags to be updated remotely
  • Tablet devices having positional awareness without using any transmission technology based on the electromagnetic spectrum or GPS. This could prevent people working on the wrong piece of equipment
  • A system to rebroadcast Chirp transmissions across a number of devices until the message connects to an existing network

Dave Stanley, a project manager in EDF Energy’s Innovation Delivery Team, said: “Wi-Fi and mobile communications are common in most workplaces but not on our stations. So having a way of getting regular and reliable data from remote instruments in radio-restricted areas will be useful for our engineers.”

Dr Dan Jones, chief science officer at Chirp, added: “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.”

EDF Energy and Chirp originally began exploring the possibilities of using data-over-sound technology to deploy in nuclear power plants in November 2016 and in the first half of 2017, the two companies worked together on a successful “proof of concept” to take readings from a gauge.

Phase two of the Chirp and EDF Energy project started in October 2017, which will see the collaboration between the two companies continue and further testing of this innovative system take place at Heysham 1.

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