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Sep 16, 2011

Great Israeli innovation

Israeli innovation has come through once again.

An Israeli start-up has found a solution to leaky pipes that cause a lot of waste of water.

From The Wall Street Journal:
An Israeli start-up is hoping to help solve one of the world’s most pressing problems, the extraordinary amount of fresh drinking water that is simply wasted.

TaKaDu, based in Yehud on the fifth floor of a modern office block, tackles the problem of automating the detection of leaking pipes and burst mains for companies thousands of miles away.

In what other industry does 40% of its product simply soak away at a cost to the global economy of an estimated $14 billion a year, according to a 2006 report by the World Bank.

Horowtiz: knew had to be global from day one
And although many utility companies have invested in telemetry and display technologies that allow them to see some of what is going on in their networks, what other current systems cannot do is interpret that data automatically; it requires trained engineers to analyze the reports.

Although it is tempting to think that the company’s background in water is somehow related to Israel’s strategic position, in fact it is just coincidence says Guy Horowitz who was an Israeli Venture Capitalist at Gemini before quitting to join as head of marketing.

“The CEO, Amir Peleg, comes from a telecoms background. He had sold his company and was looking for a tough problem to crack. Understanding networks he looked at applying what he knew to other systems, such as water.”

The aim was to help the water companies identify problems in their networks automatically. “We approached the water utilities, and they said ‘it can’t be done’.

“They said that water systems were all about hydraulics and no two systems were the same. It cannot be productized, they told us. And there isn’t enough data.

“So when we asked them for their data they were very happy to share it. You won’t find anything they told us.”

Like many utilities the water companies have a surprising amount of data from flow meters, pressure sensors, even water quality devices.

What TaKaDu did was to take their data, combine it with geo data to locate the sensors, and then row in all sorts of other sources such as the weather and even things like sports events which could affect normal patterns. For example, says Mr. Horowitz, it is the rugby world cup in New Zealand. That means that people will be getting up earlier, making tea, having showers, using the bathroom at abnormal times in London. The system has to know this.

Mr. Horowitz wouldn’t go into detail of the science underpinning the math, but he did say that the drew from a very wide range of academic subjects, including statistics and intriguingly computational biology.

“Everything just floated out,” he said. “It was like the Matrix; suddenly the numbers were telling a picture” TaDuKu’s software was able to identify leaks, pressure anomalies and a whole range of issues that had previously taken experienced engineers to identify.

In order to work out where something is deviating from the norm which would indicate a problem, you have to know what the norm looks like. So TaKaDu’s systems learn what it should expect based on historical data and is able to correlate seemingly random events.

“If you get a change in one part of the system and at the same time you get a similar change in another, and that repeats itself, then there is a link. You don’t have to know what the link is, just that that is what normal water flow looks like.”

Mr. Horowitz plays down suggestions that this is an example of either “The Internet of Things” or “Big Data”. “Actually it isn’t a huge amount of data, and you don’t need to have an IP address attached to every sensor to get value from it.”

Already working in London, TaKaDu now has a contract with Thames Water of London to create a central nervous system for the city’s water pipes. The company is also operating in Rotterdam, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as in Chile. How does a small team based near Tel Aviv support such a diverse client base?

“We knew that from day one we had to be global. We are a SaaS and cloud model. There is no way a small Israeli company can travel the world supporting installations. It doesn’t scale.”

What they also did was to build a network of channel partners around the world to help sell them and to give them a presence they could not otherwise hope to acquire.

The company has met with great success. As I walk into their office the CEO Amir Peleg was literally on his way out of the office to fly to China, the company was selected as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer last year and Mr. Peleg was on his way for this years presentations in Dalian and to take part in a global panel on New Solutions to Water Management.

So what next? Would the company be branching out into handling other products, such as oil or gas? “There are 150,000 utility companies globally. We think that is a big enough market,” said Mr. Horowtiz, before pausing and then adding, “for now.”
Great Israeli minds!

1 comment:

  1. This is truly excellent news. I wish that TaKaDu would set up shop here in Jersey, in the English Channel Islands.

    Although we are located off the coast of northern France, as an island of 116 square kilometers (45 sq. miles)and a population of ~90,000, our water resources are extremely limited.

    Because of our location we labor under the illusion that we are "water rich"; nothing could be further from the truth. TaKaDu could do much to help our island government become much more aware of the need for משמעת מים and to bring that old Israeli slogan "חבל על כל טיפה" to islanders' attention.

    If any readers should happen to visit Jersey we have a thriving בית כנסת at La Petite Route Des Mielles, St Brelade, Jersey, Channel Isles, JE3 8FY.


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