A smart solution to leaky pipes

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Like many high-tech startups, the Brownsville, PA-based Conservation Labs was inspired by an everyday problem. In 2014, Mark Kovscek had a leaky valve in his home that was causing a hard-to-detect plumbing issue and running up the water bill. He went looking for a solution, but they all cost more than $1,000 and required a plumber.

Inspired by Shark Tank, his family’s favorite TV show — and drawing on his experience as a scientist and mathematician — Kovscek set out to develop a simple, affordable device that could attach to a water pipe and monitor leaks in real-time.

Mark Kovscek, CEO of Conservation Labs

“It may have stopped there, but I believed there was a significant and growing problem in water and sustainability,” he says. “Such an innovation could make a difference in people’s lives and with the environment.”

The result is H2know, which “attaches where the main pipe enters a property and requires less than 10 minutes to install,” he explains. “No plumber is required. No special tools are required. For about $100, one H2know can protect and monitor an entire house, restaurant, apartment or similar property. A mobile and desktop app provide water flow estimates, leak alerts, water insights and conservation recommendations.” 

Every time you do the laundry, take a shower, or turn on the faucet, water rushes through the plumbing system to that location and creates a unique sound signature. The company has developed a mathematical way to convert that sound into information using artificial intelligence called machine learning. Their data scientists created algorithms that allow the sensors to translate those sound signals into accurate water flow estimates, leak alerts and other insights.

Our audacious goal is to digitize the globe’s water use. When we do this, we can make significant economic, conservation and environmental impact.Mark Kovscek, Conservation Labs

Kovscek founded Conservation Labs in 2016 and is preparing to launch H2know this year. His initial target market is the commercial real estate sector, including large, multifamily properties (500-plus units), and restaurants.

“We are starting to prepare for a residential launch in 2021 and our focus is channel partners,” he says. “[Those] range from insurance carriers to plumbing manufacturers to security companies. As we look even further out, we see a path for H2know to make a difference in industrial, municipal and agricultural markets.”

Conservation Labs got a significant boost towards achieving its goals in November 2019 when it announced a $1.7 million investment round led by IrishAngels, with additional investment from the Amazon Alexa Fund, Serra Ventures, Mountain State Capital and Pittsburgh’s Innovation Works. In 2018, Conservation Labs was one of fewer than 10 companies from around the world that was accepted into and completed the Alexa Accelerator powered by Techstars.

Leaks and unwanted water usage, Kovscek notes, go far beyond the headaches they cause property owners and managers. They cost Americans more than $70 billion a year and waste as much as two trillion gallons of water, an increasingly scarce commodity in many parts of the world.

“Our audacious goal is to digitize the globe’s water use,” he says. “When we do this, we can make significant economic, conservation and environmental impact.”

ELISE VIDER is news editor of Keystone Edge. 

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