A new water meter claims to be able to save users not only from accidental overuse of the precious resource but from the damage caused by burst or leaky water pipes.
“Water can be one of the biggest causes of property damage,” according to Lior Hertz of Israeli smart-meter start-up Aqua-Rimat. “When a pipe bursts inside a wall or underground, a homeowner may not know about it until water starts seeping out of the wall or through the floor – and by then the burst pipe will have caused thousands of dollars in damage, or maybe more.
“Our smart water meter uses a unique intelligent data system that ‘listens’ for water usage patterns, so it can detect a burst pipe or a leak inside a wall within hours, alerting the homeowner and turning off the water automatically until repairs are made. And of course, it helps to save water and money for users,” said Hertz.
“Our system determines what we call your ‘waterprint,’” he explained.
The Flowless system consists of a small meter placed next to a water meter attached to the pipe, which measures the flow of water using a variety of methods, including sensors that “listen” to the flow of water and predictive analytics.
“We learn the patterns of usage, for example what a shower in a home uses up or how much water is flushed down the toilet each day in an office,” said Hertz.
“We compare that information to time of day, to the number of people at home or in a facility at the time, and to other data that gives us a full picture of water usage. When water usage strays from that pattern, we detect it, and the sensors determine where the unusual usage is – and then we alert the homeowner or building manager via our app.”
Since it’s connected to the water meter, the homeowner or manager can turn off the water remotely in order to prevent waste or damage, added Hertz. The data is uploaded via a 3G or 4G cellular network connection built into the sensors.
Beyond preventing waste, the system can also generate tips and ideas on how to use water more efficiently, providing precise information on how water is being used – for example, how much is being used for showering versus how much is used on average among other users of the system. “Our algorithms are smart enough to figure out how water is being used, and even where it is being used, so we can provide a full picture of how water is being used, in a small apartment, a home, or an entire office building,” said Hertz.
The information is available via the app, or on a private website homeowners or water managers can log onto to keep track of their statistics. The app uploads anonymous usage data to Aqua-Rimat’s database to build a general usage profile for each type of customer and usage. While there are other smart water meters on the market, said Hertz, none dig as deeply as Aqua-Rimat’s.
Established commercially just about a year ago, Aqua-Rimat boasts a who’s who of customers in Israel, including the Jewish National Fund, the Ra’anana Municipality, construction firms like Solel Boneh and Dana Sibus, and hundreds of home customers. The company has also been running a pilot program with HP in Israel, which has been successful enough to be expanded to HP sites overseas.
Hertz sees the opportunity for a major expansion abroad in the coming year, based on negotiations the company is conducting with several potential customers.
Last year, the company was recognized at the European Utility Week Conference, considered one of the world’s most important conferences on energy and water efficiency. The conference, which hosted top executives from companies like IBM, TATA, Toshiba, Ericsson and Siemens, presented Aqua-Rimat with the conference innovation award in the Smart Home and End User Engagement category for its Flowless line of smart water meters. The device has won a number of other awards, including an innovation award from Israeli business daily Globes, and first place at an international design conference sponsored by top tech firm SolidWorks.
And the system could one day be pushed by water companies or insurers who would give discounts to customers who install the system.
“We have a pilot program running with a town here in Israel to install the system in 500 homes in a community. The installation is being done on behalf of the water company that serves these customers, so there is a potential that we could be recognized one day as an official water meter for legal purposes. But we would much rather work in the private market,” said Hertz. “Property owners are smart enough to appreciate what our system can do on their own.”