Not so long ago, Chinnayya Math, a resident of Sarjapur, Bengaluru, and his family, used to be heavily dependent on water tankers for their water needs.
If you happen to live in Bengaluru, this is a common issue in several pockets of the city.
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“We did not receive water from the Kaveri river or borewells. Every month, we consumed almost 2600 to 3000 litres of water and were monthly paying a bill of at least Rs 3000,” says Chinnayya.
Curious about why they were using so much water, he started to look around for ways to measure its consumption.
After failing to find a device which could help him with the task, he put his experience in embedded development and app development to use and started working towards creating one.
During this same time, a friend of Chinayya’s, was between jobs and wanted to try his hand at working with IoT.
“I needed someone who could try and test my design since I hadn’t quit and was still working at the time. So, we set up a small electronic lab in our terrace using the spare room,” explains Chinnayya.
With Ramesh’s help, Chaitanya eventually developed a meter that could not only help keep track of the water being used but also substantially reduce consumption over a period of time.
Named ‘Ni-The Water Saviour,’ this meter is a Wi-Fi-based smart water level controller, designed for individual homes and apartments.
Once fitted on tanks, the meter provides information about the water levels by real-time monitoring, which is accessible to the user through a mobile application.
Also, the water meter has a feature which switches on and switches off the motor, automatically.
In 2017, Chinnayya decided to found Nimble Vision, a startup, to market the meter and was joined by his wife, Vaishali.
Today, Nimble Vision provides end to end water-related solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to B2Bs (individual homes) and B2Cs (apartment complexes, institutions and in buildings that house big companies).
The differences in services are that in case of individual homes, the meter that Nimble Vision provides only monitors one overhead tank. However, in the case of apartment complexes and buildings, they monitor the sump and well as the tanks.
“Many times, what happens is, we switch on our motor and forget to switch it off. And, by the time we realise that the tank is overflowing, a lot of water gets wasted,” says Shrinivas Gowde, a 41-year-old software engineer, who has been using Ni, for over 1.5 years now.
Shrinivas was one of the 30 acquaintances Chinnayya had invited to try out the meter and give them feedback.
“Earlier, I had to manually go and check if the tanker is full or empty, but not anymore! There are settings on the app through which I can set the minimum water threshold in the tank. Once, the water levels are below this threshold, say less than 15%, I immediately get an alert, the motor switches on by itself and I don’t have to worry about switching it off!” says Gowde, sounding impressed.
Gowde says that since there is an app to track their water usage, it helps him understand for what purpose they’re over-using water. This helps him adopt measures to minimise this overuse. There is also a detector which alerts the user over the app on the cellphone in case of leakages.
Sree Krishna Madhvapathi, 50, has also been using the meter. He lives in a villa where water is stored in a sump underground and is pumped into the tank.
“Nimble Vision has automated all the processes. Not only do I get an alert, but the pump switches on by itself. There are several instances where the motor goes bad because it is not submerged underwater and this meter successfully avoids the issue,” he says.
Another solution that they have come up with is the ‘Ni Sensu,’ a product that gives information on the water quality in a pre-existing water purifier which works well for vendors who are selling water purifiers as well as for those who are using them.
For example, vendors can keep track of everyone using their product and the areas they live in. Similarly, customers can keep a track of when the water purifier was last cleaned, the level of TDS (total dissolved solids) in the water and its pH level, indicating how safe the water is for consumption.
Operation and Challenges
Chinnayya says that the initial challenges included finding the right hardware parts and web software to build up the product.
Once the product was in its pilot stage, they tested the product for a year before finally making it available in the market in 2018.
“Initially, there were issues regarding the functioning of the meter in summers when it was too hot at noon and humid in the mornings. However, we gradually overcame them and developed a viable solution,” explains Chinnayya.
Building a team was another challenge, but now, they have four full-time employees (including him and his wife) and five freelancers.
Although based in Bengaluru, this solution has also been deployed in Delhi.
“The water pump sets were plugged to the public tap. There was no fixed timing as to when the water was supplied. The customer asked us if our solution could detect the water availability in the public tap then automatically turn on the motor. While it was a challenge for us, we worked on it and updated the firmware remotely, and it worked! The new firmware was able to automatically detect the water in the public tap and turn on the motor and subsequently, turn it off. This feature eliminated the manual intervention,” he says.
Chinnayya believes that a collaboration between Nimble Vision and the government will help in better management of water.
“Our technology can gauge the water consumption levels of the citizens based on pin codes, locality, district etc. This will help the government and other water bodies to identify the requirement of a particular area for future reference,” he says.
He further adds that their technology can be integrated with the public distribution system and identify leakages.
Up until now, Nimble Vision has sold about 100 units of their meter all across the country. The solution has also been validated by awards like the Bangalore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Best IoT award, the Pune smart city and Niti Aayog smart management Award in October 2018, among others.
So, what’s next for Nimble Vision?
“Our objective is to simplify the way of life by a technological intervention that can meet the needs of the common man,” says Chinnayya. He stresses how Nimble Vision, as an organisation, believes in conserving our natural resources and using them judiciously.
They say necessity is the mother of all inventions. What started out as a need for Chinnayya to conserve and control his water use, resulted in an invention that is going to possibly help several other people who want to do the same.
“We are helping people become more aware of their consumption or wastage with the help of data analytics. We want to play the role of a responsible organisation that helps in achieving sustainability on the face of the earth,” he signs off.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)