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The New Indian Express

Tech tonic for thirsty Chennai. Using Artificial Intelligence and smart meters, four entrepreneurs from India innovate feasible solutions to monitor consumption and wastage in water-starved Chennai.

As Chennai grapples with its worst water crisis in years, entrepreneurs are wooing residents by offering solutions to quench the city’s thirst. Navkaran Singh Bagga, a Kolkata-based entrepreneur, is hopeful that his innovation is the answer to all water problems. AKVO, his product, provides safe and pure drinking water using the Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG) technology, which replicates condensation by simulating a dew point, which allows it to make water continuously, even in low humidity conditions.

Many schools in Chennai are adopting this technology, said Bagga, who has requested the Chennai Corporation to use it too. Manasa T Pillai, principal of Vailankanni School, said, “The technology is providing the school with 100 litres of water for daily use; it is unique and we were impressed by it.”

Talking to Express, Bagga said, “The machine costs `2 lakh, and it is a solution for Chennai’s water crisis. The machine runs on power and generates 1,000 litres of water. The power consumption will come to `5,500 to `6,000 a month.” But, the main limitation is that it depends on humidity to generate water.

Smart water meters
Meanwhile, Thiruthakkathevan S, a postgraduate from IIT-Madras and founder of VKCPL has invented aiTANK, an artificial intelligent water level management system. “This will help curb wastage of water. Almost all houses operate borewell or sump water, pump manually. There is a chance that they might forget to switch off the motor. Hence it overflows frequently and we end up wasting millions of litres of water every hour,” he said.

aiTank is a multi-parameter sensing technology with an AI control system. “aiTANK manages the pump and water tank as a human being would,” he said. “We invented and developed the product with our funds and technologies. We completed a pilot run with customers in Chennai. We have also released the product to a limited local market.”

Going smart
Citing a survey by the UN’s State of the World Population report in 2007, Vivek Shukla, co-founder and CEO of SmarterHomes Technologies said that by 2030, 40.76 per cent of India’s population is expected to reside in urban areas. Water utility providers all over the world are striving to bring efficiency in demand and supply optimisation, leakage detection and reducing demand. Vivek’s company provides smart water metering that measures water consumption in real-time.

“With cities growing vertically to accommodate the increasing population, there is a need for a solution that can measure water usage in each apartment in high-rise residential complexes,” he said. “With the sudden rise in the number of apartments and residential complexes in cities, there is a glaring gap between demand and supply of water.”

An average Indian family of four, living in an apartment, consumes about 800 litres of water every day. An urban family only needs 135 litres per head per day. Therefore, it’s proven that most families waste roughly 35%-40% of water, he said. “Most apartment complexes charge a fixed water fee from their residents. They are unaware of their consumption behaviour which makes the residents insensitive towards water wastage in their homes.

A water meter can solve the inequitable usage of water and billing,” he said. “Smart meters such as WaterOn are capable of reading individual consumption and offer readings to the consumer in real-time and help prevent water wastage by detecting leaks and shutting off the water supply. The detailed information helps consumers alter their behaviour to bring in savings.”

Conscious decisions
WeGoT Utility Solutions is another platform that helps measure water usage, demand, and make informed decisions relating to water consumption. “At this point, most problems are solved using technology. ‘Save water’ is not a new message but the question is how do you start saving?,” said Abilash Haridass, chief of growth at WeGoT. When people are asked how many litres of water they use, they are not sure. “The challenge with water is that we do not have the mindset to pay for it. Everyone is careful with electricity but water is a community bill. We have built a technology that helps to gather information in real-time that will be available on your mobile phone.”

The platform will not only provide information about the usage of water but also leakage alarms that can shut off leakage remotely from your mobile phone. It will also help facility managers to evaluate demand and efficiency of the water infrastructure in apartments and make better-informed decisions.“People who use our solution have reduced their water consumption by 50%,” he said. “When they have an idea of their consumption, they tend to make conscious decisions.

The only way forward is for us to either increase the supply or decrease the demand. Unlike electricity, where you can create sources, there is no unlimited source of water. We have our water management platform installed in 25,000 homes and 20 million square feet of commercial real estate in Chennai and Bengaluru. We are expanding to other cities as people have woken up to the importance of water.”

SmarterHomes Technologies’ analysis of their customer data proved that apartments that implemented individual metering reduced their overall water consumption by 35% and also saved energy costs because lesser water was pumped to overhead distribution tanks.