Inside San Francisco’s Smart Sewers - SFPUC & Ayyeka

In a city synonymous with tech and entrepreneurship, San Francisco’s public utility is embracing its role as an early adopter and innovation leader. Decades prior to the Flint crisis, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) was one of the first utilities to remove lead from its water infrastructure. San Francisco now oversees numerous water reuse and reclamation projects, and is nationally acclaimed for the way it manages its wastewater and stormwater.

As a coastal city, San Francisco is in an ongoing battle with seawater creeping into the city’s sewer lines. Too much salt water can corrode the pipes, and worse, reduce the capacity of the sewer resulting in sewage overflows. High salinity also poses a problem at the treatment plant. The salt content can lower the efficiency of the treatment process and significantly raise the cost of treating and reusing wastewater.

Recent salt water infiltrations have made monitoring sewer conditions a priority for SFPUC. In October 2016, SFPUC began piloting a remote monitoring device from an Israel-based startup, Ayyeka. The installation of the Ayyeka Wavelet transforms the city’s underground sewers into a smart network providing reliable, low-cost, and accurate data without extra labor costs.

“Strengthening wastewater management in our collection system helps us achieve our recycling goals,” said Dan Truong from SFPUC, “as well as protecting public health and the environment.”

With Ayyeka’s cyber secure, low-power devices, SFPUC can measure the sewer’s fluctuating salt water levels in real-time. For a city where 80 million gallons of wastewater is collected and treated daily, managing wastewater is a critical part of the utility’s operations. The data from the Ayyeka Wavelet allows SFPUC to detect changes in water quality, get minute-by-minute notifications, and ensure regulatory compliance.

Photos by Nick Otto

“Ayyeka's Wavelet is transforming the way dispersed assets are monitored. The Wavelet generates data from places where no one has ever transmitted before. This includes manholes and underground wells as well as the deep sea,” said Ayyeka CTO, Dr. Yair Poleg.

Ayyeka, an Imagine H2O portfolio company, is in the midst of raising a Series B to finance global growth. In addition to monitoring sewers, Ayyeka’s technologies can identify infrastructure leaks, manage drinking water quality, and monitor groundwater levels. The company recently partnered with SIGFOX, creators of long-distance smart network communications, to ensure their devices can transmit data from remote regions. With SIGFOX base stations and Ayyeka’s Wavelet devices, operators can set up smart water networks and begin transmitting data from pump stations, tanks, pipes, and sewers in a matter of hours.

For SFPUC, the Ayyeka pilot is just the beginning of a broader initiative to deploy promising new technologies and build a next-generation smart water network for the city. As more innovations come to market, SFPUC is playing a critical role in testing and validating these technologies for widespread adoption. Innovation depends on early-adopters, and San Francisco is taking the lead.

Ayyeka is a 2016 Imagine H2O Water Data Challenge Runner-up. To learn more about how Ayyeka is creating smart cities, visit them at www.ayyeka.com.

SFPUC is an Imagine H2O Beta Partner. This exclusive channel of early adopters enables IH2O companies to validate and scale their businesses globally. Learn more here.