The Simple Gadget That Could Slash Apartment Buildings' Water Use

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While Sarah Rich and I were driving through the south's startup landscape, we heard about plenty of new companies that we didn't get a chance to meet. Perhaps the most intriguing was Atlanta's Soneter, a member of Georgia Tech's Venture Lab. Here's the pitch. StartupNationbug.png

24 million apartments don't have an individual water meter. Instead, the water bill is tallied by the entire building. That means that it is difficult to encourage efficiency through a price signal because people aren't paying for the water they actually use. In the past, if you wanted to install individual meters for every unit, you'd have to cut into the water pipes and stick those meters inside. That's expensive and time-consuming. The Soneter meter, by contrast, clamps on *outside* the pipe, meaning it's easier and cheaper to install.

The way they like to put it, Soneter is "extending the smart grid to water networks." The hardware works with in concert with management software that can provide real-time feedback to residents about how much water they're using.

This is a cool, sensor-based business that seems to have a clear, addressable market.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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