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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

From meters to sensors, startups come up with unique solutions to beat Chennai water crisis

The companies have come up different innovations to help conserve water and stave off a major crisis.

Written by Shivani Ramakrishnan | Chennai | Updated: July 16, 2019 6:49:04 pm
Water meter, Chennai water crisis Start-up companies have come up with water meters to help monitor water usage and encourage conservation. (Smarter Homes)

With Chennai grappling with an acute drinking water crisis since April, startups in the state have come up with several innovations to help conserve water. However, many of them are for use at the consumer end of the spectrum, helping consumers conserve water and reduce their water costs.

Tracking water usage through sensors

Based out of Chennai, WEGoT Utility Solutions was founded by engineering graduates Abilash, Vijay, Sandeep and Mohideen in 2016. Headquartered in Chennai’s Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR), the company came up with VenAqua, an end-to-end water management solution.

“Water shortage is not new to Chennai and it was this reason that brought us together”, said Abilash, one of the founders of WEGoT.

VenAqua is a sensor, which when installed in the pipeline of a commercial building, gives data regarding the usage of water by individual units, amount of water wasted and even detects a leak in the taps.

“Each sensor has a unique ID and sends real-time data to consumers via a mobile application regarding water consumption. This is extremely useful in apartment complexes since families need to only pay for the water consumed by them, as opposed to paying a standard amount irrespective of the size of the family,” said Abilash.

According to Abilash, the company has helped save 550 million litres of water and has brought down the demand for water by 50 per cent. This has been achieved by helping manage properties better through supervision of Water Treatment Plants (WTP), Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) systems and tankers.

Wegot solutions, water meter, Chennai water crisis WeGoT Utility Solutions has come up with VenAqua, a water meter that tracks water consumption through sensors. (WEGoT Utility Solutions)

WEGoT provides the sensors for free and charges customers a fee of Rs. 140 per month per home. The technology used is user-friendly, keeping in mind that most of the users belong to an older age group. “The sensors have a life span of 7 years, with a failure rate of one per cent,” said Abilash.

Each household is provided with three sensors — one for the kitchen and one each for two bathrooms of a household. Once the sensors are installed, it networks the water consumption of the household and sends updates to the user in real-time through the app.

“Currently, we are focusing on commercial buildings such as apartments, schools, hospitals and companies. We are working on developing a sensor for individual homes which should be available in three to four months,” Abilash said.

However, Abilash said getting people to agree to install sensors in an apartment could be a challenge. “There can be only two reasons for people not wanting to install a sensor. One they are consuming too much water or two, the sensors are expensive. Since we give the sensors for free, the only people who are against the sensors are those who consume too much water. We install the sensors if 50 per cent of the residents give us their assent,” he said.

The company currently operates in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai and is aiming for a pan India presence soon.

Remote control of leaking taps

From an idea that originated seven years ago to a company that has been functioning for the past five-and-a-half years, Smarter Homes provides households in the city with meters to monitor water consumption by residents.

Founded in Bangalore by Wipro EcoEnergy colleagues Kasturi Rangan MR and Vivek Shukla, the idea for a water meter came after the duo faced the brunt of the water crisis in Bangalore. “Seven years ago, we personally felt the crisis since our apartment had water-related issues. While we were coming up with the idea of a water meter, we realised that the implementation is easier said than done, since installing a meter would involve a lot of re-plumbing,” said Vivek Shukla, co-founder of Smarter Homes.

The duo came up with a water meter that uses remote technology to monitor and measure water consumption and tested a prototype at Wipro. They later implemented the prototype in their apartment and found that the meter reduced costs and enabled people to pay for what they consumed in addition to lowering the demand for water.

Smarter Homes, Chennai water crisis, water meter Smarter Homes has developed water meters that use remote technology to track water consumption and even turn off leaking taps. (Smarter Homes)

The meters are procured from Honeywell, following which Smarter Homes installs a piece of equipment that reads the meters. According to Vivek, the advantages of installing the meters are:

  1. The meters send consumption data to the cloud service for billing and send real-time data to the customer via a mobile application.
  2. The meters also detect any leakage in the household’s tap through an algorithm.
  3. Since they come fitted with a remotely-operable valve, any leaking tap can be switched off through the application from anywhere at any time.

“Moreover, the meter enables volume-based rationing,” said Vivek. Currently, the meters are installed at a cost of Rs. 1800. The company then enters into a 10 to 15-year contract with households at a monthly fee of Rs 60 or 90 per month. “The user-friendly meters work seamlessly and do not require any maintenance,” said Vivek.

Smarter Homes currently operates in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune, with more than 30 projects having been completed in Chennai till date.

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