Photo courtesy of Uponor.

Home water systems are about to get a lot smarter

Uponor and L.A.-based Belkin International partner to create an intelligent water system that protects from leak damage, among other uses

By Brian Martucci

Uponor Corporation, a Finland-based water systems company with a major presence in Apple Valley, recently announced what it calls “the next wave of the smart home”: an “intelligent water solution that protects family homes and businesses from leak damage, enables mindful conservation, and enhances household water usage with automated and anticipatory controls.”

Uponor calls this new solution Phyn. It’s actually a joint venture between Uponor and Belkin International, a Los Angeles-based conglomerate best known for its Belkin-brand consumer electronics and Linksys wireless Internet equipment. It’ll be structured as a standalone entity that merges Uponor’s liquid expertise with Belkin’s impressive electronics and Internet of Things background — a corporate meeting of the minds, with upsides for both backers.

So what exactly does Phyn bring to the table? Data, and lots of it. Old-school water systems are built to measure consumption and, at least in municipal systems, charge for usage. But they don’t do much else with the data they collect.

Phyn crunches far more data than the systems it’s angling to replace. It uses the information it collects to detect and resolve leaks before they realize there’s anything afoot — and well before they receive that first eye-popping water bill. According to Phyn, some 14% of daily household water use is lost to leaks — real money leaking out of real wallets.

Phyn’s proactive solution is clearly an environmental boon, particularly in arid and drought-prone regions. It’s also a major time- and money-saver for utilities, which devote substantial resources to investigating and fixing leaks (and broken infrastructure responsible for leaks). And it’s a great selling point for builders with the foresight to build Phyn’s solution into new-construction homes.

“Plumbing has essentially provided the same function for centuries,” says Bill Gray, president, Uponor North America. “We must find a better way to use our water more intelligently and with purpose.”

“Water is a precious and vital natural resource, but there has been a fundamental lack of technology dedicated to protecting and preserving it, especially for home users,” adds Chet Pipkin, Belkin’s founder and CEO.

For what it’s worth, Phyn is Uponor’s highest-tech project to date. The plumbing industry is fundamentally conservative, and while Uponor isn’t shy about embracing innovation, it’s had the luxury of playing in a pretty stable sandbox. But after California’s water crisis, Flint’s leaden shame, and Minnesota’s less dramatic rural water quality woes, something clearly needs to change.