How a Bengaluru start-up is trying to reduce water wastage through smart metering

Smarterhomes Technologies has designed a meter that measures water usage in real time

water Representational image | File

Consider these facts: an average Indian household, living in an apartment, with a family of four consumes about 1,000 litres of water every day. The World Health Organisation's (WHO) prescribed water consumption is 150 litres per person per day which translates to 600 litres per day. Therefore, it's proven that most families waste roughly 35-40 per cent of water. From accidental leaks to utter negligence, there are many ways people squander water. Smarterhomes Technologies, an IoT (Internet of Things) company from Bengaluru, feels that this 35 per cent of water that is currently wasted can be saved if the consumers are conscious about their usage and pay for what they consume.

The company that has been funded by Macquarie Bank, London, was founded in 2014 and is aiming to turn water problems into business opportunities and has designed a smart water meter that can measure water usage on a real-time basis. Smarterhomes core product ‘WaterOn’ is a smart water meter that is capable of reading individual consumption and offer readings to the consumer in real time. It also helps prevent water wastage by detecting leaks and can shut off the water supply remotely to the individual apartment. The detailed consumption information helps the consumers alter their behaviour to bring in savings. Broadly speaking, the meter is specifically for high-rise buildings and allows each individual household to keep track of their water usage and reduce wastage. This meter also helps beat the standard practice of collecting a common flat rate from all houses as water bill, regardless of usage which is usually the norm in an apartment complex. 

smart-water-meter The smart water meter developed by Smarterhomes Technologies

The company's founders Vivek Shukla and Kasturi Rangan had worked together at Wipro earlier and were neighbours in an apartment complex in Bengaluru. They faced water crisis in their apartment complex, which promted them to work on developing this technology on a need basis. “During our stay in that apartment complex in Bengaluru we faced regular water problems. Sometimes, during peak summer months our complex had to rely on external water tankers. With all the tanker charges put together the water bill sometimes mounted to more than Rs 2,000 per month for water alone. Despite this, some households in the complex used to argue that they were consuming less water and yet, had to pay the high amount. Since there are different water inlets in an apartment complex, it is very difficult to have an individual water meter for each household say from a municipality or the water department, unlike individual houses where there is only one main water inlet in the house. So this further complicates the water metering system in apartment complexes,” Shukla who is the CEO of the company told THE WEEK. 

Shukla feels that when people are aware of the amount of water they consume and have to pay for what they use, there is an immediate behavioural change to bring down the consumption. Interestingly, the data from the water meter can be monitored through Smarterhomes mobile app and the dashboard allows the customers to see their supply and consumption statistics, their averages, lowest and highest consumption and also compare their usage with their neighbours.

Smarterhomes currently has around 7,000 installations in India and is planning to expand in the middle east particularly in Oman and Kuwait. The WaterOn water meters come in various variants for different applications. For high rise buildings there is a hybrid variant of wired meters and wireless communication hub called Nuclious. The meters connect with each other with a special purpose cable which not only manages the data transmission but also powers the devices for real-time operations. The meters also has a long life battery and electronic storage of consumption counts. 

“Our meters can store approximately 45 days of consumption records in its local storage. The meters count each consumption and at the end of it, sends the data to our cloud server through Nuclious. The Nuclious and meters are powered by solar power pack making them completely isolated from building resources. The platform in turn manages the data for billing purposes. The dashboard allows the customers to see their supply and consumption statistics, their averages, lowest and highest consumptions and also comparisons with others. The meters are installed at each water inlet in an apartment. Once installed there’s no need to go to them and take readings even though they have a physical counter. WaterOn has sensors, it generates real time data and allows consumers to take decisive actions such as shutting off water supply in an event of a leak. We also have WiFi and GSM based meters even for individual house owners allowing them to measure the water consumption in real time and also prevent damages to their property due to a leak,” said Kasturi Rangan, the chief technology officer. 

The company is currently offering two models one that costs Rs 9,500 and has remote leak plugging and shuts the water supply completely if the family is not at home and the other that is priced at Rs 7,500 that alerts the family of consumption on an hourly basis apart from generating other data. The company also has a monthly subscription plan between the range of Rs 60-100. 

“There is huge potential for our technology as there are approximately 15 million apartment units across 55 cities in India and on the international front, there are more than 40 million apartment units worldwide that have an apparent need for a metering solution. If all high rise buildings that currently do not have any kind of metering adopt smart water metering solution, it can result in tremendous savings,” said Shukla.