How to fix a leaky faucet, on a global scale
How smart leak detection software can save a river's worth of water.
What does computer code have to do with saving water? Turns out, plenty.
TaKaDu, an Israeli company that's working with existing infrastructure by creating smart software, is answering the call for more freshwater resources. Knowing that worldwide, about 20 percent of the world's fresh water is lost to inefficient storage and transport (leakage, in layman's terms), CEO Amir Peleg wanted to do something about it.
"What drove me is that there is a different type of scarcity in the water sector: Innovation," Peleg told an audience at a conference last year (see below video for more from Peleg). "Not enough new ideas are flowing to drive ... new solutions," he said. Which is why he created TaKaDu (he calls himself "chief plumbing officer"), a software company that has proven effective at reducing water waste.
In many cases, old-fashioned methods of leak detection (like using leak-detection systems that rely on sounds heard from above-ground) are still commonplace. Most existing monitoring systems use sensors on pipes to look for changes in usage, and ping the people who are keeping track when something pops up as an alert. It's an industry ripe for smarter solutions.
"We have ability to predict the expected behavior of the water network, meter by meter," Rotem Shemesh, TaKaDu's director of marketing, told From The Grapevine. "Then it can compare predictions to the actual behavior."
The difference, Shemesh said, is the predictive power the system has, based on complex algorithms that learn over time. This makes TaKaDu's systems much more accurate than simplistic threshold-breach method, which other systems use. That means when an alert pops up, it's much more likely to indicate to (human) monitors an actual problem. "Because it’s all based on statistical deviation, rather than looking at thresholds, it really reduces the amount of leaks and is much more accurate," said Shemesh, adding that the company is the first in the industry to use statistics for water networks.
Because it's a smart system, that also means that it learns local peculiarities over time. "The system looks at expected behavior compared to historical data, but also as a part of the rest of the network. So if everyone in the city is using water on the same day, this becomes the new normal. The system sees it as just another type of behavior, not a problem," said Shemesh. Since the software learns over time, it gets more efficient and better at detecting leaks. It's also a cloud-based solution ("like Gmail," said Shemesh), so users from all the countries the company works with get the same software. The company learns from the data from all of the utilities and sends updates every couple of weeks to make the systems continually more effective.
Currently, TaKaDu's software is being used by water companies in Chile, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Israel, and Sydney, Australia, and they're looking to break into the North American/U.S. market. Hagihon, Jerusalem's water utility (and TaKaDu's first customer, in 2009), is down to wasting less than 10 percent of its supply (remember, by comparison, most utilities waste about 30 percent of their fresh water) according to Bloomberg news.
"We want TaKaDu’s software to become a central solution that could provide us with a bird's-eye view of our multiple distribution systems," said Félix Parra, general manager of FCC Aqualia, a Spain-based company that is working with TaKaDu. "I believe that with TaKaDu, we will be able to improve our customer service across our networks.”
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