Depleting natural resources like fuel and water has raised much caution. As immediate remedial actions, innovators are leveraging on technology to come up with solutions to reduce resource wastage. Bengaluru-based Gill Instruments has created a device called ‘Gill Sense’ that enables industries, buildings as well as cities to measure readings of energy meters, water meters, diesel generator sets and similar appliances, in real-time. It can bring a major positive impact on the environment. Collateral benefits for users include substantially reduced utility expenses, reduced effort through automated data-logging and preventive maintenance of appliances.
Conceptualising Gill Sense
Be it in industries or households, manual recording of utility data from meters can be hectic, inconsistent and erroneous. In case of factories, the records being stored in physical registers are prone to loss or damage. Moreover, the designated person for the job may change, which may require re-investments in training new people. The Gill Sense was ideated to address these challenges.
Gurjit Singh, founder and managing director, Gill Instruments, says, “We wanted to come up with a device that will enable auto-storage of data on the cloud for a lifetime, so that users can access the data from anywhere, without the any risk of data loss or damage. Moreover, we wanted to deliver something that can provide trend statistics using historical data.” These thoughts started R&D and design, finally leading to the Gill Sense WiFi gateway.
The Gill Sense technology
The Gill Sense WiFi gateway is a portable device which connects with appliances like water meter, electric meter, diesel generator sets, tank level gauges, temperature, pressure and humidity sensors, and so on, to store their data in the cloud and produce real-time analytics on them.
Singh explains, “The device follows a threefold approach – sense, connect and manage. This approach will fit in any smart premises – be it an industry floor, smart building, smart city or even a healthcare unit. All kind of utility and environmental parameters can be measured with this product. In the first step, it takes inputs from all such sensory devices. In the second step, it uses WiFi to establish connectivity with the cloud. We have partnered with Amazon Web Services, where the data is securely stored and processed. In the final step, the data is processed, analysed and managed on the cloud. A software application displays the data in a dashboard”.
Gill Sense was designed using widely known industry standards for operating. For instance, it uses the Modbus protocol for energy management. For water meter readings, it incorporates the RS-485 meter standard. Other standards include RS-232, PWM and more. As the device is standardised, it will be compatible with meters from any manufacturer or vendor that also complies with the set standards. It enables the connectivity of legacy meter devices as well. Using the Gill Sense mobile application, users can access their consumption data remotely.
Singh further explains, “Gill Sense can also help identify any system malfunction. For instance, suppose a factory’s daily energy consumption pattern is around 100 units per day. If suddenly, for a couple of days, it goes up to 200 units, the owners can take immediate action to find the source of the excess energy consumption and manage it immediately. The app can generate alerts and send notifications in these cases.”
Gill Instruments has won a partnership with the Electronic City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA), Bengaluru. Gill Sense is being deployed across the the Electronic City Township for smart city applications. The Gill Sense team has an office there, where they monitor the meter readings in real time.
Defeating the obstacles
As Singh recalls, designing the multiple facets of the product – the hardware, connectivity to the cloud, the app, the UI – and getting them to sync properly within a compact and easy-to-use form factor was challenging. It was also a task to think about the scalability of the product, to be used in a variety of use cases, like smart cities, smart factory, building management or even in hospitals.
Gill Instruments have set up their own small-scale manufacturing unit to kickstart the Gill Sense production. This step was time-taking and required a lot of effort. Singh recalls, “Before starting Gill Instruments, I was working in an MNC. The culture of MNC was not satisfactory for me, especially because of their slow pace of solving internal queries. Innovators cannot sit idle for even one minute. That is why I wanted to ensure we had all the facilities in-house. Procuring land, getting official approvals and registrations for the company was challenging too. Setting up the production facility has taken almost 5 years.”
At the moment, their unit has a production capacity of 100 products per month. They plan to ramp up their production upto 10,000 units per month, for which they are in talks with local EMS companies. “We need to join our hand with third parties to promote our product in India as well as worldwide. Marketing the product is a big challenge”, says Singh.
The purchase model will cover a product-cum-service model. Singh explains, “The cost for the service depends on the scale of requirement. Some customers may require only the mobile/desktop application, while some others may want the APIs too to access the data and customise their own analytical dashboard and interface. The cost will cover all these considerations.
The hardware will be a one-time purchase, with different costs for application-wise variants. For instance, the hardware unit for water meter monitoring is Rs. 6000, for energy meter the price is Rs. 7000 and for DG set monitoring, it is Rs. 10,000. The look and feel of each variant will be the same.
Singh expresses, “Interestingly, during our 18 years tenure in electronics, the Gill Sense is that product which has finally satisfied me as an entrepreneur and an innovator. It will be able to help a large number of people in saving expenses, natural resources as well as in critical conditions – something which we always wanted to achieve.”
Gill team’s strategy for Gill Sense is to expand nationally first, starting with Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. According to Singh, digital marketing will have big role to play, as they will strategise their sales based on demands across geographies.
“When we start working on something, we should spend more time in understanding what we want to achieve at the end”, Singh speaks about being an entrepreneur.
“In my case, I was involved in technology, infrastructure, training programs and many other areas of business, dividing my focus across multiple dimensions. If you spend too much time delving into multiple dimensions, your focus will never be consistent on what you want to achieve ultimately. The focus has to be on a single activity which is your strength, and that should help achieve your goal”, he concludes.