By Ruksana Hussain, California Business Journal.
In the world of clean technology, efficiency is paramount. No one knows that more than Sanjay Poojary, President and CEO of Los Angeles-based Saya Life, and the creator of a smart water management system that is the only submetering artificial intelligence (AI) platform to effectively detect anomalies and prevent catastrophic losses.
Poojary comes from 20 years of experience in the Internet of Things (IoT) and technology space, and working for large companies like Cisco. But he felt attention was lacking toward some of the most basic things the public takes for granted such as air, water, and energy.
“There’s a very close relationship between water and energy — you need water to generate energy and energy to transport water,” he says. “I wanted to build a solution using the power of IoT, machine learning (ML), and AI for something productive.”
In January 2016, he started Saya Life to do just that — using technology for life solutions. The focus on water rose from the fact that not only is water conservation a priority, given California’s ongoing drought, but the state’s earthquake prone conditions make real-time remote control of water, and even gas and energy, a timely advantage.
“The goal is to find out everything about water to create data to improve water usage and consumption, no matter the customer. Research shows almost 17 gallons a day is wasted so if we can address that, there are a lot of related benefits,” he says.
Saya Life’s market is residential and commercial buildings, insurance and utilities companies and homeowners. The Saya system consists of water quality sensor, water detecting flood sensors, a smart remote shutoff ultrasonic flow meter and a wireless gateway that can send analytics data to a mobile device or dashboard. The meter is installed at the entry point of a location, flood sensors where appliances are. The gateway connects to a network onsite and wirelessly communicates with all of these nodes.
Long-range technology ensures up to 1,000 meters and more can be covered. “As there are no moving parts, maintenance and repairs are at a minimum,” Poojary says.
California’s SB 7 law requires multi-unit rental property owners to submeter all units constructed after January 2018 for responsible use and conservation of water to address the state’s drought. For a property manager, the Saya system does so much more than that. A single dashboard provides an overall picture of any anomalies even if they have 500 units to supervise, and only one gateway is needed for an entire community.
An issue in a specific unit can be addressed beforehand proactively and fixed. They can also do billing or resolve disputes using the data provided. Costs for deployment depend on the scale of each property but amounts to a better deal overall as Saya is priced competitively yet offers many added features.
Lewis Homes is one of Saya Life’s biggest clients with a large multi-dwelling residential project in Chino, Calif. Other tractions include a submetering energy efficiency program with Walmart and a pilot project with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where Saya Life is installing meters with humidity sensors for smart irrigation.
Saya life is also part of two accelerators (https://usgbc-la.org/programs/net-zero-accelerator/ and https://www.moveupward.city/labs. Poojary is banking on using these working examples to garner prospective clients and further scale operations.
Single-family homes are the company’s focus in 2020 with Utility and Insurance rebates in place.
While they all agreed the technology was groundbreaking, the state wouldn’t spare the dollars — at least then. Instead, they preferred data extracted from Saya’s installations. The majority of 2016 was witness to discussions, conferences and more, until the path of exploration led to Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), an economic development initiative by the City of Los Angeles and the Department of Water & Power (LADWP), where Saya Life is now a portfolio company in the current cohort, working toward creating an inclusive green economy.
The submetering market is saturated with existing players –” yet none offer our benefits. We started developing to be a certified submetering product first,” he says.
LADWP played an integral role helping with standards and certifications through The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). “There is a whole engineering team here that helps us understand plumbing codes and requirements.”
Saya Life is certified by IAPMO for NSF 61 and also NTEP certified by National Conference on Weights and Measures, earned upon successful completion of evaluation of a device.
Enticing as Saya’s proposition is, moving to the next level posed concern. For one, as a small startup, skepticism on deployments and project success were common. “Initially we were hitting a brick wall but since submetering for new construction is a law, building our value around that requirement gives a better chance for success,” Poojary says.
Now it’s about execution. “We need to get in early, when a new construction happens, and be part of their design,” he says. But it isn’t part of the code to have a leak detection system in place necessarily, so convincing installation of an additional product is an issue — one might simply opt for the cheapest system, however inefficient, to satisfy the submetering requirement.
Poojary is hopeful however, stating leak detection might well be part of code requirements in the very near future. And then, of course, all of that is dependent on investment.
Originally self-funded from savings, Saya Life is now looking to raise $3-4 million from a first round of funding.
“We have a pipeline of projects we need to deliver on,” Poojary says, “so how we execute next is going to define success for us.”
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