Clean Tech

It’s ‘app’ening: Saving water can be as easy as clicking a button

Dakshiani Palicha Shreyal Jain | Updated on April 02, 2020 Published on March 11, 2020

How two start-ups use the Internet of Things to provide smart solutions for water related problems

Few things make people as wrathful as their water bill: In residential complexes across the country, fights over water consumption and billing can turn friendly neighbours into sworn enemies. And the fights only get uglier during crisis times — such as the water scarcity that gripped cities across India in 2019.

The problem is something we are all familiar with: We don’t really know how much water we consume, say, for a day/month, and worry that we may end up paying more. While the water crisis drove home the importance of conserving this precious resource, how do we actually go about it? Now, this is where we come into the picture, say a couple of start-ups.

“It all started as a personal problem we were facing in our apartment…people used to fight over trivial issues (related to water),” says Vivek Shukla, co-founder and CEO of Smarterhomes, a Bengaluru-based start-up established in 2014. The “trivial issues” referred to the division of the water bill, which was deemed disproportionate to the actual size and usage per family.

Kasturi Rangan, Chief Technology Officer and Vivek Shukla, CEO, SmarterHomes Technologies.

 

For another start-up, WeGot Technologies, the problem was more about water conservation.

“We tell people to save water, but realistically, we don’t give anybody a chance,” says Abhilash Haridass, co-founder and chief of growth and strategy, WeGot Technologies. The problem, Haridass says, is that there is no accurate system which helps collect data to establish a baseline for water consumption by an individual/household in a day.

WeGot Technologies' team: Abilash Haridass, co-founder and Chief of Growth & Strategy; Sundeep Donthamshetty, co-founder and CTO; Vijay Krishna, co-founder and CEO; Selva Kumar, Sales Head; Mohamed Mohideen, co-founder and COO (From front to back)

 

The traditional water meters that people deploy to measure usage has many flaws: the turbine in the meter does not correctly record water flow since it is subjected to both water and air pressure. Without the option of a reset, it continuously records water, making it hard segregate the per-month consumption. And this is the aspect that both Smarterhomes and WeGot attempt to address, with the help of new-age technologies.

IoT-based devices

Smarterhomes’ WaterOn app records and monitors water consumption in real time and generates a monthly bill. “Our meter is not very different from a traditional water meter, but there is an added ability of communicating without having to go to the meter,” says Shukla. Interestingly, Shukla and his partner Kasturi Rangan (chief technology officer), implemented the first prototype of their device in their own apartment, to solve the water bill issue. Soon, word spread and their idea is now a full-fledged company. Till date, the company has installed 67,000 meters across southern India and saved around four billion litres of water.

Track every drop Water meters from Smarterhomes

 

The Chennai-based WeGot also uses IoT. But its device is quite different from a water meter. “We’ve come up with a device that has no moving components at all…there are two elements at each end, with a fixed diameter and a fixed distance. We calculate the time difference, in nanoseconds, that takes from water to go from point A to point B, thus giving you the exact volume of water,” says Haridass.

To complement their device, WeGot has designed an app, VenAqua, which allows the user to “slice and dice” every aspect of his water usage. WeGot has saved one billion litres of waters across 25,000 homes and 20 million sq ft of commercial space, and is on track to save 10 billion litres by next year. The company also has plans to venture into government-owned spaces, such as railway stations.

Water system by WeGot Technologies

 

Tackling leakage

Both WeGot and Smarterhomes also focus on finding solutions to optimise water management. They particularly try to address the problem of leakage.

“The WaterOn app detects leakage/potential water wastage and sends an alert to the user,” says Shukla. “Water wastage accounts for 18 per cent of total consumption. It’s a common thing…a simple flush, if not fixed, can waste 600 litres a day. A leaky tap wastes 25-30 litres a day,” he adds.

WeGot also has a similar option in its VenAqua app. In addition, when it comes to water management, VenAqua also focusses on other challenges. “The person managing water in a building faces completely different challenges. Where does water come from, infrastructure, how much to pay, how to detect pilferage, etc,” says Haridass.

“The app notifies when something is off the threshold. It tracks overhead tanks and underground water sources, and audits the entire water system in real time,” he adds. “We make sure borewells don’t go dry. We guarantee and manage everything automatically through a user’s phone,” adds Haridass. While these companies are doing their bit towards water management, government support is also needed.

“Just like how solar adoption was given huge push, water management also requires huge investment and subsidies to encourage businesses like ours,” says Haridass.

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Published on March 11, 2020
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