Kenya Tech firm unveils “Vipimo Smart” meter that regulates water use

Vipimo is a pre-paid meter system that allows users to load “credit” into their account in order to be supplied with water.

Upande CEO and Founder Mark de Blois

A new technology, Vipimo Smart, has been introduced by Kenya tech firm Upande Ltd aimed at regulating water usage. The technology is an unconventional meter gauge that ensures the amount of water being used can be monitored in real time.

Upande Ltd – CEO Mark de Blois, explains that Vipimo is a pre-paid meter system that allows users to load “credit” into their account in order to be supplied with water.

“The new system will eliminate the flat rate system used currently meaning that people will start paying for water upfront and only for what they have consumed. This will make users more careful with their water,” he says.

The system is token based and amount expires or get depleted as per usage.

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Upon expiry, the system generates an alert notification and sends a message to the users via SMS or WhatsApp. Users will also be able to query their own credits as well as top up to make sure they do not get disconnected.

According to Mr. de Blois, the flat rate system does not encourage water conservation as people use unlimited amounts knowing that the amount paid is constant regardless of units used.

“Paying for every cubic meter used will encourage cautious usage as one will have to think first before using any amount.”

Mr de Blois says the system will encourage water conservation as consumption will go down hence leading to water sustainability.

The smart meter reader looks like a conventional meter by design and is assigned to individual consumers or households.  It is installed with an inbuilt valve that can be remotely shut using wireless frequency. The valve is closed when one’s credit runs out or when payment is not made in time. It automatically unlocks upon crediting the account.

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De Blois explains that the valve is linked to a radio frequency that is connected to a sensor which is linked to the Internet through cloud servers where the user has an account.

“One can query through a USSD code, online or by sending an SMS to a short code, which we are finalizing on. The number will get checked against the database to see if water is still available in terms of your credit and send the response back through SMS,” he says. This is possible through built-in sensors and loggers that can communicate the data whether water in stock is sufficient or running low. Currently there is no way to check that.

“The meters will be double the price of normal meters. We are testing it and expanding it to new locations and it is working well,” Mr de Blois says.

Upande Ltd has also unveiled, Vipimo Water Level sensor, another technology that remotely monitors water levels in tanks or reservoirs by getting updates on the status of water held.

As Mr. de Blois explains, the sensor is a metal rod, which measures the pressure of air below and above it  and  is connected to a data logger through a wire that has a radio transmitter that uses a frequency to send the information to the cloud with an App that lets the user access live readings.  The sensor is placed in the tank and suspended from the bottom to take water pressure readings.