Change the world

13/11/2019

Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Stemming from a simple desire to curb water bills for the disadvantaged, Neo Mabunda and Zain Imran designed a water meter prototype that scooped two awards at the 2019 Sita ICT Public Service awards held in Durban last week.

The pair, who are the founders of Hedge SA, are studying electrical engineering at Nelson Mandela University.

They designed a water meter that detects water leaks and monitors water quality — a solution which, they believe, could be implemented by local government.

They were named first runner-up for the GovTech 2019 government hackathon* under the local government category, which came with a R50,000 cash component, as well as first runner-up in the digital innovator category.

Mabunda, 22, said while he was growing up in a township in Pretoria his family’s water bills would be more than R200,000 a year.

“Our water bill was always high and my parents had no clue how that debt came about,” Mabunda said.

“Most of the streets, in our area, had water running down them for months on end without the municipality responding to reports.”

He said he had later learnt that some people had bad teeth because of the poor water quality in their area.

“In some cases, you can almost tell which area of Pretoria someone is from by just looking at the discolouration of their teeth.

“I learnt that the discolouration was caused by long-term consumption of unhealthy or substandard water supplied by the municipality,” he said.

Having engaged Mabunda on water issues, Imran said they should build a device that could solve most, if not all, the water problems.

Imran said: “The water meter is a one-of-a-kind prototype module that can be used to retrofit current municipal meters into smart, prepaid meters.

“A proprietary firmware and at least six sensors are used to remotely monitor and control water consumption, do leak detection and real-time water quality monitoring.

“Remote throttling is implemented to reduce severity of unbilled consumption.”

The two initially developed their idea as an engineering design project and later improved it through the Propella Business Incubator.

Mabunda said the early prototype had taken at least six months to build, and a year of research and development to get to final prototype stage.

“The device has been labtested in ideal conditions.

“Plans to field-test are in development pending seed funding from the Technology Innovation Agency (Tia) and State Information Technology Agency (Sita),” Mabunda said.

The pair’s prizes include commercialisation of the product and funding for the fieldtest trial.

* Included in their Hackathon team was Kelvin Langwani, also an Electrical Engineering student, pictured left with Neo and Zain (right) below.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 8 November 2019 written by Zizonke May

 

Contact information
Mrs Beverley Erickson
Digital Communication Consultant
Tel: 041 504 3357
erickson@mandela.ac.za