Ketos raises $18 million to monitor drinking water quality with AI

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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 five-year-old San Francisco startup founded by philanthropist Meena Sankaran, is developing a hybrid device-and-software-as-a-service solution to streamline the process. (Sankaran grew up in India, where she studied electronics and communications; her family only had a few hours of water supply per day, and water filters weren’t affordable.) Ketos’ suite principally targets industrial and agricultural enterprises and leverages sensors and an AI-driven backend to prevent contaminants from seeping into water supply lines. It surfaces key metrics that might otherwise fly under the radar, employing a sensor called Shield Fabric and machine learning models to flag toxins including selenium, arsenic, chromium, manganese, iron, and nitrates.

“The Ketos platform has the ability to correlate time-series data across a wide variety of vectors, contamination sources, and water sources like well water, surface water, and watersheds that are location-mapped,” Sankaran explained in an email to VentureBeat. “This ability allows for advanced contamination models with the potential to study health impacts across a ZIP code over decades. AI and machine-based learning also provides better historical context to water operations, process optimization, and advanced diagnostics for maintenance-related predictions. To date, we have collected over 13 million data points across a variety of applications including agriculture, industrial, and municipal in the U.S. alone.”

Broadly speaking, Ketos offers recommendations about proactive repairs, and the company’s self-powered Wave Fabric product displays water supply management and utilization data in real time. Ketos can deliver predictive insights on water distribution and over 20 parameters like flow and pressure (plus issues related to chemical treatment, public health, process control, food processing, and effluent discharge compliance). Because Wave Fabric sites inline in water systems, it can be configured to automatically shut off flow when a leak is detected.

Ketos’ SmartFabric is the backbone of Ketos Hub, which acts as a gateway. Shield Fabric and Wave Fabric continuously exchange water data over an end-to-end encrypted mesh network via Hub. Ketos Hub doesn’t require Wi-Fi, enabling nodes to work in areas where the supporting infrastructure isn’t particularly robust. 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.

Ketos claims its customers in 13 U.S. states, India, Mexico, and Canada 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%. Last September, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Las Vegas Valley Water District introduced a pilot program to monitor the region’s drinking water for toxins and heavy-metal compounds using Ketos’ EPA-compliant platform. More recently, agriculture technology company Dramm Corporation and water treatment solution provider Water Engineering inked strategic partnerships with Ketos to offer insights to facilities for stakeholders across the Canada and Midwestern U.S. And Ketos says it’s partnering with institutions including Columbia, Stanford, and the University of California, Berkeley to “make contributions with a broader societal impact,” like the water safety kit the company created for home, business, and school users.

“The pandemic with COVID testing has certainly brought the ‘power of remote controlled monitoring systems that can accurately measure results comparable to a lab as a necessity and not a nice to have,’” Sankaran said. “It has also highlighted the need for sanitation and how water is a quintessential resource affecting so many countries and low income communities that didn’t have clean water not just to drink but even wash their hands regularly for safety reasons.”

The series B round in Ketos was led by Motley Fool Ventures with participation from Citi Ventures and Illuminated Funds Group, as well as existing investors Ajax Strategies, Better Ventures, Broadway Angels, Plum Alley Ventures, and Rethink Impact. It includes $3 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank, taking Ketos’ total funding to $30 million since the company’s launch in 2015.

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This post was originally published by at Venture Beat

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