Manually recording utility data from meters is tedious and error-prone, especially for industries. It is also considered a sub-optimal use of resources, leading to higher expenses and unnecessary wastage. To address this challenge faced by enterprises, Gill Instruments has come up with the Wi-Fi device, Gill Sense.
The depletion of natural resources like fossil fuels and water has raised concerns. So innovators are leveraging technology to come up with solutions to reduce resource wastage. Bengaluru-based Gill Instruments has created a device called ‘Gill Sense’ that enables offices, factories and industries (in fact entire buildings as well as cities) to record the readings from energy meters, water meters, diesel generator sets and similar appliances, in real-time. The benefits for users include substantially reduced utility expenses, reduced effort through automated data logging and preventive maintenance of appliances.
The inception of Gill Sense
Be it in factories or homes, manual recording of utility data from meters can be tedious, inconsistent and erroneous. In the case of factories, the records being stored in physical registers could get lost or damaged. Moreover, the designated person for the job may change, which may require re-investments in training new people. Gill Sense has been designed to address these challenges.
Gurjit Singh, founder and managing director, Gill Instruments, says, “We wanted to come up with a device that would enable the auto-storage of data on the cloud for a lifetime, so that users can access the data from anywhere, without the risk of data loss or damage.
Moreover, we wanted to deliver something that can provide trend statistics using historical data.” These thoughts were the basis for subsequent R&D and the product’s design, finally leading to the Gill Sense Wi-Fi gateway.
How the gateway is used
The Gill Sense Wi-Fi gateway is a portable device that connects with appliances like water meters, electric meters, diesel generator sets, water tank level-gauges; temperature, pressure and humidity sensors, and so on, to store their data on the cloud. This database is used for real-time analytics, so enterprises can be aware about their consumption patterns and optimise their operational expenses in the process.
Singh explains, “The device follows a three-fold approach – to sense, connect and manage. This approach will fit in with any smart premises – be it the manufacturer’s shop floor, a smart building, a smart city or even a healthcare unit. All kinds of utility and environmental parameters can be measured with this product.”
When configured with the Wi-Fi network of the premises, Gill Sense first takes inputs from the connected utility meters. In the second step, it uses Wi-Fi to establish connectivity with the cloud on Amazon Web Services, where the input data is securely stored. In the final step, the data is processed, analysed and managed on the cloud. A software application displays the data in a dashboard, providing the necessary usage insights. Using the software mobile application, users can access this data remotely, at any time.
Gill Sense was designed using widely accepted industry standards. As a result, it will be compatible with meters from any manufacturer or vendor, if they comply with the set standards. It enables connectivity with legacy metering devices as well.
Singh adds, “Gill Sense can also help identify any system malfunction. For instance, let’s suppose that 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 run the analytics to diagnose or find the source of the excess energy consumption and manage it immediately. The app can generate alerts and send notifications in such cases.”
Gill Instruments has entered into a partnership with the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA), Bengaluru. Gill Sense is being deployed across the Electronics City Township for smart city applications. The company has an office onsite to monitor the meter readings in real-time.
Overcoming the obstacles
As Singh recalls, designing the multiple facets of the product–the hardware, connectivity to the cloud, the app, the UI, etc—and getting them to sync properly within a compact and easy-to-use form factor was challenging. It was also a challenge to design the scalability of the product so that it could be used in a variety of scenarios like smart cities, smart factories, building management or in hospitals.
Gill Instruments has set up its own small-scale manufacturing unit to kick-start the production of Gill Sense. This took considerable time and required a lot of effort. Singh recalls, “Before starting Gill Instruments, I was working in an MNC. The culture of an MNC was not satisfactory for me, especially because of the slow pace of solving internal problems. 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 five years.”
At the moment, the manufacturing unit has a production capacity of 100 units per month. The company plans to ramp up production to 10,000 units per month, for which it is in talks with local EMS companies. “We need to join hands with third parties to promote our product in India as well as worldwide. Marketing the product is a big challenge,” says Singh.
Gill Sense is being sold on the basis of a product-cum-service model. Singh explains, “The cost for the service depends on the scale of requirements. 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 analytics dashboard and interface. The cost will cover all these considerations.”
The hardware will be a one-time purchase, with different costs for application-based variants. For instance, the hardware unit for water meter monitoring is ₹ 6000, for the energy meter the price is ₹ 7000 and for DG set monitoring, it is ₹ 10,000. The look and feel of each variant will be the same.
Singh adds, “Interestingly, during my 18 years in the electronics industry, 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 save money and natural resources. It is something that I’ve always wanted to achieve.”
The strategy being adopted is to expand the reach of Gill Sense nationally first, starting with Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. According to Singh, digital marketing will have a big role to play, as the team will plan its sales based on the demand across geographies.
The thoughts of an entrepreneur
“When we start working on something, we should spend more time in understanding what we want to achieve eventually,” Singh says, while talking about being an entrepreneur.
“In my case, I was involved in technology, infrastructure, training programmes and many other areas of business, dividing my focus across multiple domains. However, if you spend too much time delving into multiple domains, you will never be able to consistently focus on what you want to achieve ultimately. The focus has to be on a single activity, which is your strength, and that should help you achieve your goal,” he concludes.