It takes 13,737 to 21,926 gallons of water to produce a car, according to the Grace Communications Foundation. Leather shoes require roughly 3,626 gallons. And about 3,190 gallons are consumed in the course of a single smartphone’s manufacture and assembly. Add to that the 80 to 100 gallons of water the average person drinks, cleans with, and bathes in every day, and it’s not hard to see how each year globally, fresh water usage hovers around 4 trillion cubic meters.
That’s a lot of liquid to keep track of. Ketos, a four-year-old San Francisco startup founded by philanthropist Meena Sankaran, is developing a hybrid hardware-and-SaaS solution to streamline the process, and it’s raising capital to further its cause.
Ketos today announced that it has raised $9 million in series A financing from Broadway Angels and Plum Alley, with contributions from the semiconductor industry, as well as Energy Innovation and existing partners Rethink Impact and Better Ventures.
The new capital will be used to expand Ketos’ team, Sankaran said, and as a part of the round, Energy Innovation’s Veery Maxwell will join the board of directors.
“The first step is to measure and understand what is actually in our water at any given moment. It might sound simple, but it is incredibly challenging, and water testing solutions have been unable to give the full picture for decades,” Sankaran said. “Water intelligence that immediately reveals the presence of hazardous toxins, delivers actionable warnings for live decision making while providing proactive metrics and insights is the foundation for smart water management.”
Ketos’ suite of tools — which principally target industrial and agricultural enterprises — leverage sensors and an AI-driven backend to prevent contaminants from seeping into water supply lines, while surfacing key metrics that might otherwise fly under the radar. Its Shield Fabric sensor flags toxins like lead, copper, nitrates, arsenic, and chlorine to ensure water safety, and offers recommendations about proactive (or remediating, as the case may be) repairs. Ketos’ self-powered Wave Fabric product, meanwhile, displays water supply management and utilization data in real time, along with predictive insights on water distribution and over 20 parameters like flow and pressure. (Additionally, because Wave Fabric sites inline in water systems, it can be configured to automatically shut off flow when a leak is detected.)
Ketos’ SmartFabric technology is the backbone of its offering, appropriately dubbed Ketos Hub, that acts as a gateway. Deployed Shield Fabric and Wave Fabric continuously exchange water data over an end-to-end encrypted mesh network via a hub device. Ketos Hub doesn’t require Wi-Fi, enabling nodes to work in areas where the supporting infrastructure isn’t particularly robust (or is nonexistent). Data from the Hub is beamed to Ketos’ cloud for analysis, after which it makes its way to companion smartphone apps and a web dashboard.
“Our secure cloud-based solution empowers our customers,” Sankaran said, “from industrial and agriculture to civic and commercial, with the water data they need to effectively measure, control and optimize our most precious resource … water.”
Ketos claims its customers have analyzed over a million water quality tests across more than 130 deployments in India, Mexico, and the U.S., and that its services have helped to reduce the costs of water sample testing by 90 percent.
Water IT is a larger market than you might think. Some estimates peg it at around $150 billion, and a cadre of startups including Bellingham, Washington-based Apana, which offers an analytics and reporting solution that aims to mitigate compliance risk, and Fluid, which is developing a water meter and app that tracks water consumption and detects leaks, are vying for a slice of investor dollars.
But despite the competition, investors like Tony Stayner, a vocal advocate of clean water initiatives and board member of Pacific Institute and Water.org, are committed to Ketos and its mission.
“Water is both the most powerful and most important compound on earth, and access to clean water is fundamental to health, education and economic development,” he said. “Bringing novel scientific and technological advances into every pipe and grid within our evolving water infrastructure, Ketos is the future of a clean, sustainable global water system.”
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