There was a time when Roti, Kapda and Makaan were the core necessities of every individual. Now we have apps to order Roti, buy Kapda and search for Makaan. 2014 has seen a surge in the concept of Internet of things and lot of startups have come around it. Yet, the true application of internet of things still remains more of a talk. Smartrhomes - a startup which has been working in the field of automation, control and monitoring the use of water is contributing in a significant manner to this subject.
Vivek Shukla and Kasturi Rangan, two neighbors who often used to brainstorm ideas while carpooling to work, started Smartrhomes. Both Vivek and Kasturi were looking to startup and break out from the corporate rut. They jotted down many ideas and started going through them. However the one idea they finally chose to work on was not even on the list. Having worked in the energy department of Wipro, it was quite easy for both of them to recognize the problem, Vivek says,
"The housing complexes which don’t have any sub meters for water installed, charge their residents a flat fee per month. This is not the best thing to do as the consumption is different for different households. We have gone to association meetings and came across otherwise friendly neighbors, fighting with each other over cost of water. The challenge with the installation of meters is to do with the way water is supplied in high rise buildings. The shafts which carry these pipes don’t have any access to install the meters and take readings. "
In a socialistic system, where all the residents bill is calculated by dividing the number of households by total bill. Everyone tries to get the most out of the amount they pay and end up using more water then they ought to which drives up the entire bill for the housing complex. The device is connected to water inlets outside the house and thus monitors the usage. Once we install the device, users can access a dashboard on the website and configure their daily usage. The device also reports abnormal usage and can be used to control the water flow.
In the event when the occupants are out of station and leave the tap open by mistake, the device will alert the user on the phone and people can close it remotely with the help of an app.
The concept is quite intuitive and incorporates all measurement, analysis and control in real time. The meter also incorporates billing and helps people change their habit of over consumption by incorporating prepaid mode and usage quotas in the device.
The team says adoption and marketing has never been a problem as people are receptive and easily get what it is all about, Kasturi narrates an incident when they went to pitch the device to one of the apartment complex.
"We were talking to a high end apartment complex few months back. The President of the Association (a renowned and senior advertising professional) looked through the brochure, understood the concept and was immediately sold that this is the kind of solution he needs. He made a comment - “square feet do not consume water, people do.” So stop billing a flat rate for water. Even though, we couldn’t install the solution due to the complexities in the plumbing design of their building, he is still helping us by referring us to lot of other places."
According to a report by Business Insider, by 2019, around a billion devices in smart home energy automation are expected to ship around the world which shows a great opportunity in this sector Coming to India there might be many challenges, especially in energy sector as a lot of Government regulations come into picture. And if things don't change soon it might hamper the growth of startups in this sector which otherwise have a huge potential to scale considering the market.
At present there are few startups in the IoT space in India, which are solving need based issues instead of developing feature rich applications. When it comes to water consumption, accountability is a big issue which needs to be addressed and Smartrhomes is doing a great job at it.