June 19, 2024

We are probably all guilty of using too much water. However, most water wastage happens prior to the precious resource entering our homes. That is because national pipe networks are riddled with leaks — and water scarcity is a growing global problem. Could AI be part of the solution?

For instance, the UK wastes more than three billion litres of perfectly good quality drinking water every day. Meanwhile, Italy and its ageing water infrastructure loses 42% of drinking water yearly. Globally, daily water loss is estimated to be 45 billion litres. 

HULO.ai, a startup from Leuwarden, the Netherlands, is looking to reduce water loss by connecting smart sensors with its advanced AI algorithm. Essentially, the cloud-based solution can optimise sensor positioning and detect and localise water leakages within water distribution networks in real-time. 

“If a leak is not being detected in real-time, it could be there for a long time, so you lose a lot of water. That’s one part,” Robbert Lodewijks, HULO.ai’s co-founder and CEO, tells TNW. 

“Another part is that sometimes when a leak is happening, and you cannot find it soon, the damage that the leak can do gets bigger over time,” he continues, referring to potential sinkholes, railways washing away, or hospitals being flooded — to the detriment of both finances and reputation of water utility providers. 

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Improving leak detection accuracy

Essentially, the technology minimises the need for extensive physical infrastructure checks. Normally, the understanding and control of pressure, flow, and leakage throughout a water distribution system is done through what are known as DMAs (District Meter Areas). By utilising an approach of closing certain valves and setting up flowmeters, the utilities’ company can determine how much water is lost before it reaches the consumer. 

While water can also get “lost” due to non-metered consumption, fire hydrants, or metre inaccuracies, approximately 90% of all water loss comes from leaks. HULO.ai’s technology narrows down the highest potential area of a leak without the need for a DMA. 

“In a network of around 20 x 10 kilometres, we could narrow it down to areas of 250 square metres, where we could say ‘Hey, this area of 250 metres is where the leak is happening,” Lodewijks says.  

Additionally, HULO.ai says it can tailor its solutions to the specific client and their needs.

Expanding water loss tech to the world

The startup — a spin-out from the Wetsus sustainable water technology research institute — just raised €800,000 from VC firm LUMO Labs and the Netherlands Enabling Water Technology (NEW) Fund. The money will go towards enhancing the company’s cloud-based solution and making it highly scalable and adaptable to different market needs around the world, including those were water scarcity is the most critical. 

“The growing global demand for sustainable water management solutions is as urgent as it is important,” Andy Lürling, Founding Partner of LUMO Labs commented. “We are drawn by HULO.ai’s potential to lead and transform the water management industry on a global scale with its cutting-edge AI technology.”

Screen shot of Hulo.ai AI solutions for combatting water waste