WaSTeLeSS – using AI and IoT to track every drop of water

Water is a valuable commodity: Dr. Michael Burry, who predicted (and profited from) the sub-prime crisis, famously turned his attention to investing in water thereafter. By 2050 the United Nations World Water Development Report predicts that nearly 6 billion people will suffer from clean water scarcity.

In an effort to minimize the waste of water, Swiss scientists have come together in a unique collaboration to deploy the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, creating the smart grid of water channels. Experts from Droople SA, based in Puidoux, the Embedded Systems Lab (ESL) of EPFL and Altis Group in Valais are working together on WaSTeLeSS.

By employing sensors at points of water use, and gathering the resulting data to create systems of analysis and prediction, the WaSTeLeSS team hope to optimize water use in residential and industrial contexts like never before

“We can deploy this technology in showers, sinks – anywhere in a building,” explains Ramzi Bouzerda, CEO of Droople, “you don’t need to have access to electricity.”

“This project has been very interesting to us because it involves both hardware and software challenges,” says Prof. Atienza of ESL. “We were able to install the devices developed by Droople, but we then had to expand the AI capabilities of these systems to detect actual events in the buildings.

“Sensors typically generate too much data, so we were trying to compress the data flow, to maximize the density of useful information from a minimum amount of data.”

Collaborating with industrial partners in real world situations is highly beneficial for EPFL researchers, according to Dr. Miguel Peón of ESL: “This allows us to understand the really hard problems that are faced by industry, and by society in general. It keeps us in the loop, and pushes us to find solutions that go from academic, theoretical knowledge to industrial applications. We can then observe their impact on society.”

Ramzi Bouzerda sees many potential applications for WaSTeLeSS technology. “What is exciting about what we are developing with ESL is that it could be applied to electrical energy, gas, and many other domains.”

In the shorter term, big players are already taking note: “Some of our customers have been taking real interest in the results achieved by WaSTeLeSS, including Proctor and Gamble.”

With phase one complete, phase two of this exciting project is underway: keeping track of every last drop.

Text: John
Images: Alex