IoT for Good: SweetSense Provides Clean Water to Developing Countries

Posted by on May 2, 2018 at 5:00 AM Carmi Brandis  
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Evan A Thomas, Chief Executive Officer / Co-Founder of SweetSense, spoke at our San Jose headquarters last week. And when Evan speaks, folks generally tend to listen.

As an Associate Professor at Portland State University, Evan has a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder; is a registered Professional Engineer in Environmental Engineering in the State of Texas; holds a Master’s in Public Health from the Oregon Health and Science University. Evan also worked as a civil servant at the NASA-Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where he was a principal investigator and project manager in the Life Support and Habitability Systems Branch working on flight hardware for the Space Shuttle, the Space Station, and concepts for Moon and Mars spacecraft.

Today, Evan travels the world educating and implementing measurement technologies and practices using IoT to improve access to water and sanitation for underserved rural communities. Here is his story.

SweetSense in Action

Every day, companies use the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve efficiency and provide targeted, effective service to their customers. But developers aren’t simply content to use new technology applications to enhance business efficiencies. The opportunity for IoT to have a positive impact on the world is immense, and problems that have seemed intractable in the past are being surmounted using granular data collection, real-time alerting systems, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication processes.

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In many developing countries, access to water is one of the most precious resources. Drought and machine breakdown are constant challenges that tax community services and leave many without reliable water access. To combat these problems, government offices and non-government organizations (NGOs) have teamed up to increase the average water coverage rate and reach millions more people worldwide.

Joining with public, private, and non-profit organizations, IoT company SweetSense has deployed a platform that combines sensors with cellular and satellite internet cloud reporting connectivity to manage water infrastructures across east Africa. According to the GSM Association, an estimated 125 million people in Africa have mobile coverage yet lack access to safe drinking water. Globally, more than a billion people within the reach of cellular networks have unsafe sanitation. With such a large population that stands to benefit from the use of cellular IoT infrastructures, SweetSense sees an opportunity to improve transparency, accountability, and the cost-effectiveness of remote water, energy, and infrastructure projects to improve health and quality of life. Their goal is to contribute to the universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.

Faster Repair Cycles and Sustainable Processes

With the assistance of foreign aid agencies and implementers such as the Millennium Water Alliance, developing countries invest in water and sanitation programs in an effort to directly impact public health outcomes. However, real and measurable positive effects often are hindered by distorted metrics, limited monitoring systems, a lack of sustainable service delivery models, and high maintenance costs. SweetSense aims to change this reality with an IoT solution that closes the information gap and enables improved decision making, response time, and financial sustainability.

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The SweetSense platform is based on low and self-powered transmitters for electrical pumps, water tanks, handpumps, flowmeters, and water quality. The impact of the solution has been different in each region, but systems using SweetSense have seen marked improvement in both functionality and service.

For example, Living Water International installed hundreds of SweetSense sensors on handpumps across Rwanda and measured the impact on functionality and system downtime. Using the SweetSense IoT solution, the average time between repairs dropped from more than 200 days to less than 20 days, with an average functionality increase from 56% to more than 90%.

Lodwar Water and Sanitation Co. in Turkana, Kenya serves more than 200,000 customers with 12 groundwater boreholes. Before deploying SweetSense, borehole uptime met only 60% of demand. Working with SweetSense, they now are targeting an increase in services and cost recovery.

In the past 30 years, the Rift Valley in East Africa has seen a 30% decrease in rainfall from historic norms, leading to unreliable water sources for millions of people and livestock in the region as climate change and drought worsen. In the region, the Afar Regional Water Bureau serves more than four million people across 72,000 square kilometers and 200 sites, yet reports that its boreholes have a 50% average downtime. Teaming up with a host of local governments and NGOs, SweetSense is monitoring the water supply to immediately respond to breakdowns, improving community feedback and borehole maintenance to decrease downtime.

Finding Water in the Desert with SweetSense and Aeris

As a corporate goal of working and helping those with greater needs, Aeris is proud to assist SweetSense on a mission of clean water and better sanitation. With SweetSense’s systems installed and running on our Aeris network, water pumps across developing communities are monitored on a daily basis. Our carrier-agnostic network and the AerPort Management Platform allow SweetSense to analyze device performance and receive custom reports on traffic handled by each device wherever it is deployed. Aeris global SIMs can be pre-installed on SweetSense sensors so they are ready upon arrival, and they significantly cut down on local deployment problems by offering device management from one location.

Looking to the future, SweetSense is working with local partners to develop sustainable and cost-effective operations and maintenance service models. And, as Evan stated, “As long as SweetSense continues on the Aeris network, we have the support we need to meet our goal of fixing the Internet of Broken Things and improving reliable access to water.”

To learn more about how SweetSense uses Aeris in their efforts to provide universal access to safe water, read our SweetSense case study. To find out how Aeris IoT connectivity can do good for you, contact Aeris today.

Topics: water monitoring, waste management, SweetSense, sanitation