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A Call for Code global finalist from India provides AI-powered water quality information to impoverished communities


Saaf water is the winner of the 2021 Call for Code Global Challenge. The team will receive USD $200K, open source support from the Linux Foundation, and deployment support with the Call for Code ecosystem.

Many of us take for granted that clean, safe drinking water will be instantly available when we turn on a tap in our home. But 2 billion people around the world lack access to safely managed drinking water, and in order for that to change by 2030, the current rate of progress would need to double in 129 countries. The issue is especially challenging for remote communities who have to gather their drinking water from unreliable sources. Helping these communities make informed decisions about their drinking water can greatly mitigate the risks.

For the team in India behind Saaf water (“saaf” is a Hindi word for “clean”), the inspiration to take on the issue of clean drinking water was personal. Team member Hrishikesh saw firsthand the danger of unsafe drinking water when his mother became ill by drinking from her village’s groundwater supply that was assumed to be safe. Even though the team members are all from different villages, they all have friends or family members impacted by contaminated water. They realized that communities need data and information about their local drinking water to be able to make safe decisions about purification and consumption.

Their 2021 Call for Code Global Challenge Finalist solution is an IoT and AI platform designed to regularly monitor the quality of groundwater and clearly communicate any issues — not just to the authorities, but to local citizens as well. A low-power, cellular-enabled hardware component, designed to be universally compatible with various community pump types, monitors water characteristics such as total dissolved solids, turbidity, pH, electrical conductivity, and temperature. Then a Node-RED back end on IBM Cloud collects these parameters via MQTT for water quality estimation, and the data is then stored in an IBM Cloudant NoSQL database. If water problems are detected, the back end sends data back to the hardware device to activate an onsite visual indicator, as well as to an intuitive Saaf water dashboard that can be viewed in a web browser, and out through text message to subscribed users. This makes it easy for community members to receive warning of contamination issues, even if they don’t have an active internet connection. The Saaf water dashboard displays water quality estimations and recommended purification methods, and includes an interactive map powered by Esri’s ArcGIS that helps users understand neighborhood water quality. The team hopes to build in features to predict seasonal groundwater quality anomalies and to perform onsite biological contamination detection that would reduce the need for lengthy and expensive manual lab tests.

The Saaf water team saw how the 2018 Call for Code Global Challenge winning Project OWL solution had been successfully deployed with the support of the Call for Code open source community. The team was inspired to participate in Call for Code because they saw it as a path to creating a real solution that could receive deployment support, allowing them to address a critical problem that impacts so many people, both in their own communities and around the world.

Attend the Call for Code Awards to find out who will win the 2021 Call for Code Global Challenge.