Imagine H2O recently announced the 10 finalists from more than 90 worldwide entrants to its Water Data Challenge. The 10 companies have already achieved a milestone in that they are entered into Imagine H2O’s Accelerator Program, which supports burgeoning startups in a mutual quest to bring much-needed, high-impact technologies to the water sector. In particular, data and analytics is becoming an increasingly vital component for water and wastewater management.
"It will be impossible to tackle the global water challenge without basic data about our water resources," asserts Imagine H2O's VP of Programming Tom Ferguson.
While Imagine H2O will name a single overall winner in March, all of the finalists have technologies with disruptive potential, or the ability to replace the status quo, and are thus worthy of attention.
Here’s a brief overview of each company and what they offer, aided by input from Ferguson and cohorts at Imagine H2O.
Specializing in heavy metals monitoring, ANDalyze has developed an EPA-approved, handheld DNA sensor that runs samples in just two minutes and can measure trace metals (such as lead) to parts per billion. According to the company, testing can be done at the “push of a button … in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional heavy metals testing methods.” An automated monitoring system is in development, with organic chemical detection potentially on the horizon.
As drought and water scarcity issues trend alongside global industrialization and population growth, a water-conservation imperative emerges. With APANA’s real-time water management solution, commercial and industrial facilities can immediately pinpoint water waste, whether it’s through bad business practices (misuse) or structural/mechanical failures (e.g., pipe leaks). The ‘complete solution’ is a package of propriety technology, analytics, and software that, according to APANA, saves customers an average of 20 percent on annual water/sewer costs and typically provides return on investment (ROI) within 18 months.
Any water system can be transformed into a smart, cyber-secure water system with Wavelet from Ayyeka, which offers modular, plug-and-play, remote monitoring to promote optimization and resource efficiency. Wide-ranging capability would seem to be another selling point, as the small, energy-efficient monitoring devices can analyze and communicate water/equipment conditions for virtually any water application.
Ceres Imaging caters to the agricultural sector, enabling more efficient (and environmentally-friendly) use of water and nitrogen by providing data via spectral imaging processing — pulled off by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Ceres Imaging’s business model is data as a service, whereby data is provided periodically for recurring revenue, delivered over the cloud. At current, over 100,000 acres in California and Australia are benefiting from the service.
Water and food are inextricably linked, and both require an influx of supply-side innovation to remain sustainable in terms of production and environmental impact — a reality evident in Imagine H2O’s selection of finalists. FarmX does its part by helping farmers save time and resources through FarmMap, which utilizes instrumentation technology, cloud-based data collection, and real-time analytics to drive precise farming recommendations. Critical soil, plant, and environmental variables are measured by proprietary sensors and interpreted by state-of-the-art machine learning processes, arming farmers with actionable intelligence to increase production and reduced costs.
In this age of smart-phone connectivity and consumer-savviness, it only makes sense that water customers should have household water-consumption data at their fingertips. FLUID brings this capability to the fore easily and elegantly, without the need for a municipal AMI network or utility involvement whatsoever. A simple metering device latches to the water service line — no tools required — to monitor and “learn” water use. It itemizes consumption data for fixtures and appliance, and gives alerts for “erratic” water use and leaks.
If you’re a farmer in the tropics reading this, you’re in Ignitia’s demographic. With standard weather forecasting historically unreliable in tropical regions, Ignitia developed a new methodology based on atmospheric modeling rather than differences in pressure or temperature. Results are then delivered to customers at chosen intervals via SMS (text) messaging. In a trial conducted in Ghana, forecast accuracy rate was measured at 82 percent, compared to the 39 percent for the existing standard. As small-scale farmers in the tropics know, such reliability greatly enhances informed decision-making, efficiency, and crop yields.
“Environmental Compliance Made Easy” states Mapistry’s website, while the analogy shared by Imagine H2O’s Ferguson was that “Mapistry is TurboTax for environmental compliance.” How so? At the enterprise or single-facility level, the program streamlines compliance with environmental regulations and saves money for clients by eliminating the need for consultants. This is achieved through the development of a customized, mobile-friendly platform containing all the needed information and resources to stay organized, accountable, and compliant. Right now, the focus is on stormwater regulations — apparently a $600 million revenue opportunity for Mapistry. Platforms for more regulations are sure to follow.
NJBSoft provides software asset management (SAM) solutions for compliance management, water quality data management, asset management, training, and a range of custom needs. Local requirements for utility compliance are built into programs such as SAMSWater, SAMSWastewater, SAMSIndustrial, SAMSStormwater, and SAMSWaterOptimization — in short, the whole water gamut. Capabilities stretch beyond just water, however, with programs designed for various tasks inherent to civil, environmental, and municipal engineering.
Sourcewater has created the first online exchange for trading and recycling water, as well as for hiring services such as trucking, treatment, storage, and disposal. It was created with the unconventional oil and gas (e.g., hydraulic fracturing) market in mind, but is useful for others connected to water, including water utilities. For instance, wastewater plants with spare capacity can sell their services and the treated water. For energy companies, the marketplace reduces operating costs and helps allay water supply concerns. Just as importantly, Sourcewater transactions can reduce the environmental and community impacts of energy production.
The Water Data Challenge is among a number of programs initiated by Imagine H2O — a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization — to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in the water space. The Challenge awards $50,000 in cash and entry into the Imagine H2O Accelerator program, which offers introductions to leading investors, utility partners, and beta customers, as well as visibility at the largest industry conferences and tradeshows.