Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Aqua Digital is flowing with Israel's cleantech industry

Karin Kloosterman

Clean technology is the latest buzzword in Israel. For decades Israelis have been developing low, mid and high-tech solutions to battle the country's water shortage and drought. Today, Israelis are not only applying their clean tech water solutions on home turf, but are becoming international leaders sought after by industry and governments everywhere. While sexy innovative companies from Israel are now taking the spotlight -- consider the water companies Checklight or Aqwise -- there is a solid industry in Israel built on pipes, parts and valves that deliver and monitor water. These products, although less glamorous, are the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts solutions that enable smart, effective and immediate changes that benefit not only Israel, but the world over.

Many of these "enabling" solutions were showcased recently at the 12th Annual CleanTech conference and exhibition at Airport City convention hall just outside of Tel Aviv, and included products for solar energy, recycling solid waste, agriculture and green building.

There was also a "green" art exhibit that featured environmental design and recycled products at the event.

Focused on the local market, those highlighted have their hopes set on entering the international scene. One of those companies is Aqua Digital, a six-month-old start-up located in the Kinrot Incubator, and supported by the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel.

"Water metering used today is a very old technology," says Avi Pauncz, the CEO of Aqua Digital. Only in the last 10 years, he explains, has America started adding digital components that can transfer information about water consumption.

However, most of the water meters consist of an add-on device that converts the mechanical registry to a digital output. Aqua Digital is doing something else, he says: it is building a cost-effective solution that provides a digital reading directly from the meter.

"It's a plug and play solution," jokes Pauncz, who says the easy-to-use low-tech/high-tech device doesn't require an expert to install (fitting between two pipes), and is suited to municipal, industrial and agricultural water consumers. It could provide immediate benefits to the emerging economies in developing nations as well, given its low cost.

Pauncz says that such a rapid and accurate output can be a tool for helping people save water and to know exactly where the water is going. In a factory, for example, this kind of information is very useful for increasing productivity, especially since the cost of water is rising, and water insecurity is on every nation's mind.

It will also be useful for American homeowners who can obtain discounts on sewage bills if they can prove that the water they are using is going to a pool, for instance, and not down the drain.

The problem with existing mechanical solutions is that they are based on rotating parts, where friction causes wear and tear and the need for maintenance. Beyond that, wear causes a loss in accuracy, and mechanical solutions suffer from sensitivity problems at low flow rates, says Pauncz, who not long ago was the CTO for Arad, an industry leader in providing water metering and billing solutions.

He says his new water meter, which hasn't yet been named, contains no parts that can wear and tear. Plus a simple add-on can remotely monitor water flow and volume. This will save water companies money because billing can be done - even in remote locations - without the need of a water meter reader.

Simply put, Aqua Digital is hoping to make water monitoring simple and smart. It is looking for a strategic investor to help take it to market, and could very well be part of American homes and businesses by the end of next year.

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