Vivek Shukla believes the world is already facing a water crisis and the only way to avert major disaster is to manage our water resources and curb wastage as much as possible. Vivek Shukla is CEO of SmarterHomes Technologies, a company he co-founded in 2013 for the specific purpose of using technology to control water wastage. Their flagship product is WaterOn, a smart meter installed at the main entry of water in apartments to primarily measure water consumption. The device provides real time data and enables consumers to manage their consumption as well as shut off supply in case of leak via a companion app.
Vivek speaks to Networked India about how WaterOn works and its success in enabling water consumption management as well as the interest they are getting from foreign countries.
Networked India (NI): The smart water meter was born out of the founder’s frustration at water wastage in his own residential building. What was the particular problem and solution?
Vivek Shukla (VS): As neighbours in an apartment complex, we experienced the pain of inaccurate water billing process and the lack of water metering. Most housing societies today either charge a flat fee or a fee based upon apartment area on water bills. Even though the water consumption is different for each household, the bill is calculated by dividing the number of households by the total amount. This means that some residents pay for others’ usage as well. We experienced this problem within our apartment complex and decided to come up with a solution.
WaterOn is the world’s first 100% automated smart water meter offering accurate metering, leak prevention (detection and control) and long life. It’s the only end-to-end solution providing real time readings to the consumers to help them prevent wastage and save money.
NI: A process of development, trial and prototyping over almost two years led to the eventual IoT-driven smart meter. Enlighten us some more about this technological journey.
VS: We started with a few constraints – that the meters should be connected devices, that they should be independent of local power supply, that they should be able to help in proactive maintenance. Added to this, we also had a target cost in mind. Prototyping of the electronics, the enclosures, etc., was very exciting, and based on intense discussions and feedback.
We worked on Zigbee, GPRS and wired alternatives. We also made self-powering water meters, where the battery gets charged by the water flow. However, some of these are not economically ideal products. Over a period of time, we have built product variants that suit different requirements. For example, the high rise buildings are better off with a wired variant (WOS) and a Nuclious that is solar powered. Independent homes in a society are better off with the GPRS meter (WOM) and so on.
Most design changes were tightly bound to learnings from the field. We tried to have a very quick reaction time to make, test and deploy changes.
NI: How does the WaterOn smart meter and app work together to help reduce wastage?
VS: WaterOn water meters come in various variants for different applications. For high rise buildings the most cost effective and easy solution is a hybrid variant of wired meters and wireless communication hub called Nuclious™. The meters are IS4064 Class C, OIML and MID certified offering unprecedented accuracy and long life even in Indian water conditions. The meters connect with each other with a special purpose cable which not only manage the data transmission but also power the devices for real time operations. The meters also have a long life battery and electronic storage of consumption counts. It can store approximately 45 days of consumption records in its local storage.
Meters count each consumption and at the end of it, send the data to the 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 comprehensive dashboard allows the customers to see their supply and consumption statistics, their averages, lowest and highest consumption and also comparisons with others.
Meters are installed at each entry point of water in an apartment, out in the service ducts. Once installed there’s no need to go to them and take readings even though they have a physical counter. An IoT product, as it has sensors, generates real time data and allows consumers to take decisive actions such as shutting off water supply in the event of a leak. The most significant advantage is that when people look at their own consumption data, they start taking conscious steps to optimise their consumption and bring in water and cost savings.
NI: Give us some background into the two founders.
VS: Kasturi Rangan is the Chief Technology Officer of SmarterHomes. A mechanical engineer with over 25 years of professional experience, Kasturi enjoys building products and intertwining them with solutions and wrapping service around them. Prior to starting up, Kasturi has worked as Head of Solution Engineering at Wipro EcoEnergy. He has also worked as a General Manager- Operations at Welfab Technologies and as a senior manager at Spatika Information Technologies. He is passionate about quizzes, short stories, humour, social welfare and technology’s application to real world.
Vivek Shukla, CEO, SmarterHomes Technologies. With an MBA in General Marketing, IT and E-commerce from École des Ponts Business School, I have experience of 19 years across fields like Marketing, Product management and Business Development. Prior to starting up, I worked as a Sr. Product and Marketing manager at iCRM for more than 4 years. I have also worked as Marketing Manager at Wipro EcoEnergy and as a Product Manager at JobStreet.com and TimesJobs.com. I am passionate about design, automobiles, ambient intelligence, connected devices and analytics which can change the way we live and improve quality of life, unobtrusively.
NI: Tell us about the response from building societies and management where WaterOn has been installed.
VS: We have met a lot of apartments and RWAs while creating the product who also became our early customers. We are referred to their friends who need a water metering solution. Besides, we have an effective sales team in Bangalore and Hyderabad to reach out to customers and help them fulfil their needs.
We aim to work with anyone who wants to implement a water metering solution. For builders and developers to offer this product to their customers, their customer will need to ask them if the project has water meters or not. Most proactive customers work with the developers to implement this solution. We have installed nearly 800 units to date and more installations are happening as we speak. We have executed projects in Bangalore and Hyderabad so far and we are developing channel partners in other cities of India.
NI: What other products, solutions does SmarterHomes offer?
VS: We are on the path to establish SmarterHomes as the most advanced metering technology company offering end-to-end solutions for high rise multi dwelling units. We now offer water meters across technologies (wired, RF, WiFI, GSM/GPRS, and Modbus).
NI: Some of your products have been exported to the UK and Netherlands. What kind of awareness do these countries have about India’s IoT, smart technology capabilities?
VS: In our opinion, technology is universal even if it’s created in India. The whole point of creating technology is to make it globally relevant, accessible and beneficial. Most European countries show greater willingness to adopt new technology which can be useful to them. WaterOn offers features which no other product is offering especially the way it is offered combining metering, monitoring and control along with billing automation.
NI: You have exciting plans to take SmarterHomes and the smart water meter to other countries. Can you share some details about this?
VS: The world is facing unprecedented water crisis and most countries are responding to it quite aggressively. We are in talks to take WaterOn to few African countries, SE Asia and Australia. Few Latin American countries have also shown serious interest in adopting WaterOn. We are building a partner program for roll outs.