Top 5 tips for capture requirements and why it’s so important to get them right

Date: 06/06/23 | In: Channel, Sewer Network Monitoring

by Arron Rodgers

Aside from shifting business priorities or a change in objectives, one of the top reasons projects fail or get held up is inadequate information gathering. Poor capture requirements are one of the key issues faced by not only Detectronic, but each of our peers in the global wastewater monitoring industry.

Ensuring you have the correct capture requirements should be a relatively easy task but, more often than not, it’s a task that’s either not fully completed or the wrong capture requirements for the project are specified.

So, how do you make sure you’ve got the right capture requirements in place? And why is it so important to get them right? Here are our top 5 tips for capture requirements.

1. Clearly define your customers’ objectives

When it comes to implementing a wastewater monitoring project or scheme, it’s important to first understand the objectives of the monitoring itself. Understanding and agreeing these objectives and the outcomes demanded will then help to inform the capture requirements.

Gathering capture requirements is the process of creating a list of functional, system and technical requirements from all of the stakeholders involved including the client and their technical team, data analysts and project managers. Everyone should have the opportunity to have their own input. Only then can the ALL of the capture requirements be discussed and agreed. If any key individual is missed out at this stage, then some of the necessary capture requirements may be omitted.

2. Create a list

When it comes to the physical capture requirements themselves, they are always specific to each project because no two projects are ever the same. And this is where our project management expertise comes to the fore. Since we take a bespoke approach to every project, the overriding capture requirement for us is to manage expectations.

This is imperative, not only when discussing and agreeing the core capture requirements such as sensor data – that could be flow, level, water quality, temperature – but also signal strength. The comms you think may be available on the site may not be. Prior assessment of the signal strengths both inside and outside of the manhole, alongside manhole size and traffic management requirements, must be fully evaluated.

For example, one water company we work with has specific constraints on manhole size. They will only allow entry into manholes that are 575mm x 575mm and manholes come in all different sizes! This is both a functional and technical capture requirement and it has a distinct bearing on the bespoke solution we proposed for this project. So, whilst you may not think that manhole size is a key capture requirement, it most definitely is.

3. Look beyond the obvious

In order to ensure you have all the correct capture requirements, it’s important to ask the right questions. First off, what existing comms are there already in place and how could they affect data transmission? It’s vital to check what primary and secondary comms are being used.

We consider primary comms to be LTE and secondary comms to be 2G. Are both available or just one? It’s also imperative to look at all three radio comms protocols namely RSSI, RSRP and RSRQ. Many companies will only assess RSSI and that will not provide a clear picture on its own (see our RSSI reporting blog post.) And a top tip, actually check all of these for yourself because sometimes what a client thinks is in place actually isn’t!

While you’re evaluating data transmission, at the same time, take time to study the site. Could there be a risk of temporary loss of comms due to parked cars or tree canopy growth? If so, how will the risk be captured and reported on? It’s at this point that we will usually undertake discussions around how to effectively calculate response time to cascade data to client intervention teams. This provides the opportunity for all parties to understand and agree an event triaging policy and decide on the respective response teams and how interventions will be cascaded.

4. Prioritise requirements and select the correct equipment

Next, find out what exactly what equipment is needed to satisfy all the capture requirements. A logger and a sensor are both a given but is there anything else that could further enhance capture? Sensors usually incorporate an internal antenna but, if signal strength is quite poor and the site is suitable, an external antenna can be added to potentially improve capture.

The best way to enhance capture, however, would be if comms providers released more lower end frequencies. They’ve been talking about doing so for many years and, hopefully, one day this will become reality.

Finally, consider the environment and catchment in which the monitoring is required. Ask: are we protecting a Cat 1, 2 or 3 watercourse? Is the catchment hydraulically stable or flashy, causing sub- or super-critical flow patterns between DWF and WWF conditions? What network storage is available? What is the access to the sewer like? By working together with the client at every stage, answers to these questions should be relatively easy to ascertain.

5. Revisit with the customer

Before you progress to the concluding stages, always revisit the original objectives with the customer and establish if the capture requirements will deliver on the objectives demanded by the project. If they do, then great, if not you must go back to the drawing board and look again.

When signing off the capture requirements, it can be useful to employ a project management technique such as MOSCOW:

  • Must have
  • Should have
  • Could have
  • Won’t have

Get capture requirements right first time, every time

By following all of the different tips outlined above, you should be able to gather all the fundamental capture requirements you need for a successful monitoring project, one that will engender robust and highly accurate data and meet your objectives. By completing all of the steps, you will end up with a comprehensive brief that everyone can refer to and adapt if required.

If you have any questions relating to capture requirements or you’d like support with your next wastewater monitoring project, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 01282 449124 or email: