Charity: water

How a cloud-based sensor keeps clean water flowing for people in need around the world.

 

Challenge

Right now, there are nearly 785 million people around the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water. To boil that down, about 1 in 10 people are currently drinking dirty, unsafe water, which is directly responsible for nearly 50 percent of the diseases affecting people in developing nations because of a lack of clean water.

Over the previous 13 years, charity: water has tapped into clean drinking water for local villages and communities by building more than 50,000 wells across 28 countries throughout the world.

Once the water is flowing, the challenge then becomes to keep it flowing for years to come. But wells break, and timely maintenance isn’t the norm, resulting in these people going back to the only accessible unhealthy water. These are the realities that many are facing.

Cost of Deploying a Team to Install a Pump

%

of Wells are out of Operation

Months on Average Before a Pump Needs Repair

Average Time a Pump is Broken Before Fixed

The Digital Opportunity

Charity: water had the foresight to envision and embark upon an opportunity that leverages digital technology to address its pain points. Then it tapped into Twisthink’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT connectivity to advance what it wasn’t fully equipped to accomplish on its own. By engaging a partner, charity: water wanted to ensure it could learn, collaborate, and build a reliable and scalable platform for the long term. Beyond building wells, it wanted to transform access to water with a digital solution that could:

  • Monitor water flow remotely anywhere in the world

  • Analyze the data and alert teams to water flow and pump issues

  • Schedule proactive and predictive maintenance for water pumps

  • Deploy teams to address pump issues and restore water flow

 

Solution

By employing a human-centered design process, Twisthink was able to lead a broad team of water experts on ways in which technology could help keep the water flowing and mitigate down-times for water pumps.

Technology Advancements

Twisthink improved and expanded upon charity: water’s original digital sensor efforts by leveraging AI and IoT technology that could capture reliable, real-time data about pump performance, water flow history, repair and maintenance history, and other critical information.

Data from the sensor gets sent to the cloud and is accessible with a digital connection including AWS-powered dashboards, cloud APIs, user alerts, and a mobile app.

Designing for Analytics on the Edge

As a digitally connected edge device, the sensor needed to be integrated or affixed to the pump itself. Through a series of prototypes and gauging the user experience, it was determined that the sensor housing was best integrated as part of the core pump design to ensure a weather- and tamper-proof design that was easy to install. An embedded long-life battery ensures the sensor can run effectively and uninterrupted for up to 10 years.

 

“THE GOAL WAS TO SEE IF WE COULD TAKE A WATER PUMP IN THE MIDDLE OF ETHIOPIA, CONNECT IT TO THE CLOUD, SEE HOW MUCH CLEAN WATER WAS FLOWING REMOTELY, AND KNOW THE COMMUNITY WOULD CONTINUE TO BE SERVED OVER TIME.”

-Scott Harrison, CEO, charity: water

Outcome

Deployed Sensors

People Safeguarded with Clean Water

In the charity: water digital sensor pilot, thousands of sensors have been deployed into the field. By detecting issues and dispatching prompt repairs as necessary, water kept flowing while also being safeguarded for an estimated 100 million people.

Because the sensor housing design did not require any modification to the original pump design, the integration provided considerable costs savings. The cost per sensor, including 10 years of data, is roughly $250 (USD), which is about 2 percent of the cost of a hand pump.

Now the goal is to accelerate the development and distribution of the cloud-based sensors as digital assets to water-based NGOs and ministries to ensure clean drinking water continues to flow around the world.

Here, the science of design meets the art of technology.

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