How these Mackay software engineers built the world's smartest water system

October 2020

Director at Tyeware, Steven Tye believes customers from around the world are looking at solutions founded in the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday region

 

Data is one of the world’s most valuable commodities, but managing the information generated by a system as complex as a city’s water supply needs more than just good software.

Steven Tye is a software engineer by trade, but his approach to project management has seen his company push the boundaries of what’s possible with water data.

About 10 years ago, his company Tyeware took on a project with Mackay Regional Council to build a smart water application known as MiWater.

MiWater uses a network of smart water meters and sensors provided by Taggle Systems in a customer portal called myH20 which informs residents about water leaks and high-water usage. 

The application runs behind the scenes to crunch the numbers on water usage across the town’s water network, helping Mackay Regional Council make better decisions with its water supply.

“This proposal was the first of its kind, so we knew coming in there was a clear picture of where we wanted to go but how we would get there needed to be figured out in partnership with the council,” Mr Tye said.

Tyeware decided to develop the application using an approach called agile software development where small chunks of the product are built, deployed and tested to make incremental improvements before the final application is delivered.

“For the first three years we started with small chunks of work to the reporting system then tried out some visualisations while slicing the data in different ways.

“We then took a step back, evaluated progress with our colleagues at the Council, then moved forward with a new design,” Mr Tye said.

Developing the application in small chunks meant by the time MiWaterwas ready for deployment, it was already tested under real-world conditions rather than a small team of engineers.  

“If we were simply building a box that could plug into the smart water system, we could have handed over the application, but since we were building something completely new, we needed to work with the Council to understand the full value,” Mr Tye said.

MiWater now collects one reading from 43,000 water meters every hour, sending notifications to more than 60,000 homes and businesses when there’s a water leak or if their water usage is too high.

According to Mackay Regional Council, the application has helped identify leaks totaling six billion litres of water, saving residents hundreds of dollars every year from their bills.

MiWater has also helped regulate water consumption for the town’s population, helping the Council reach its original target to reduce annual water consumption by 10 per cent. 

Tyeware now works with Taggle Systems to commercialise MiWater, now renamed Aqualus Water, which is now being resold internationally under a partnership agreement with US conglomerate, Honeywell.

But new insights continue to occupy Steven and his team with more ways to improve how Councils and water authorities manage water. 

“We were really surprised to learn how water consumption differs between suburbs.

“Learning when households use the most water and why has helped the Council improve their behaviour-change campaigns,” Mr Tye said. 

“MiWater is an example of what can be done in our region with the right people who identify and manage risks, but who don’t shy away from the problem they’re trying to solve.”

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