Startup Mines Data To Solve Global Water Crisis
The following article from Forbes illustrates brilliantly how crisis and opportunity can mean the same thing based on your perspective
U.S. intelligence services agree: A major global water crisis is less than ten years away. Some time in the second decade of second millennium, countries important to the United States will start to suffer shortages and other water-related problems leading to instability and potentially failed states.
Within the next 30 years, the agencies warn, the supply of fresh water will not keep up with demand without more effective management of water resources. “Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth,” the Intelligence Community Assessment states.
It’s a dire forecast, and for ambitious technologists, an enormous opportunity.
Amir Peleg, a serial entrepreneur with a passion for data analytics, had already founded three companies when he decided to make water delivery his next project. Peleg was intrigued by the fact that utilities around the world were already collecting the data they needed to identify leaks, bursts, and other malfunctions—they just weren’t putting it to good use. Meanwhile, between 40 to 50 percent of the water being produced in the developing world was being lost, according estimates by the World Bank.
Peleg, who had sold his previous company, YaData, to Microsoft, recruited a group of data scientists and programmers to build TaKaDu, a cloud-based service that would analyze the raw data from the sensors and meters already built into water systems. By focusing on minor variations in the data and comparing anomalies to historical patterns, TaKadu is able to paint a broad picture about what is happening in a utilities’ network, he said.
“We are a like a 24/7 watchdog,” Peleg explained.
Founded in 2009, TaKaDu began offering pilots of its service in 2010. In an initial test, Thames Water, which supplies water to 14 million customers across London and the Thames Valley, identified small leaks up to nine days earlier than with other methods and spotted big bursts 3 1/2 hours faster. Thames Water has since deployed TaKaDu throughout its network.
“We are very proud to be early adopters of the TaKaDu tools—the first in Latin America,” said Marco Kutulas Peet, general manager of Aguas de Antofagasta, a utility that serves more than 100,000 customers in northern Chile, one of the earth’s driest areas, during a video interview at a recent TaKaDu user forum. The utility measured a 50 percent increase in the efficiency of repair crews and a 100 percent increase in the amount of water saved from repairs by using TaKaDu.
“What TaKaDu has that is unique is a much more sophisticated set of algorithms on the back end that can evaluate, classify and geolocate any issues,” said Ryan Rogers, global business manager for water infrastructure renewal at 3M. Rogers said TaKaDu’s “big data” approach is complementary to more traditional leak detection methods, like acoustic leak detection or hydraulic modeling, which can provide additional inputs into TaKaDu’s algorithms. This fall 3M made a strategic investment in TaKaDu. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.
Peleg is hoping that relationships with companies like 3M will help TaKuDu get traction with slow-moving utilities. To date, less .01 percent of 250,000 local water distribution networks worldwide have adopted TaKaDu. “Water networks have been run the same way for decades,” Peleg said. “Why should they change? They are very conservative, very skeptical.”
But Peleg says TaKaDu is winning them over one utility at a time by offering fast deployment and measurable results. During the last year, TaKaDu’s deployment time shrunk from six to eight weeks to just four weeks. After trying TaKaDu for a year, Spanish water utility Udal Sareak, which serves 61 municipalities in Basque Country, agreed to a four-year contract in November.
Peleg says the company is ending the year with customers in eight countries and is hoping to sign up its first U.S. utility in 2014.
Read more about TaKaDu by visiting their website