Basic Information

Our Solution

WatchTower Robotics

Our solution's stage of development:


Our solution:

We build robots that can inspect water pipes from the inside to find leaks long before they become catastrophic. 20% of clean water produced daily in the world is lost due to leaks. Our goals are to save water and ensure everyone has reliable access to clean water.

Our pitch:

The problem:

Access to clean, safe water is one of the world’s pressing needs, yet today’s water distribution systems lose an average of 20 percent of their supply because of leaks. These leaks not only make shortages worse but can also cause serious structural damage to buildings and roads by undermining foundations. We need to find and fix those leaks in order to save water and make our communities more sustainable. However, current technologies lack the accuracy to pinpoint the underground leaks or the sensitivity to detect leaks early, before tons of water are lost and infrastructure is damaged. 

Why our solution will solve the problem:

Take Boston as an example. Boston lost $17 Million worth of water per year and millions more on leak related property damages. Currently, water companies wait unit water pipe bursts to respond and fix leaks. They are limited by the available tools. With our Robot Daisy, they can perform effective routine inspections and find leaks months before they get to the point of critical failure. Thus, they can prevent the loss of millions of gallons of water annually and minimize the damage to infrastructure, the loss of water services to homes and businesses, and all associated costs.

Target Outcomes

Our target outcomes:

We expect the successful deployment of Robot Daisy to reduce the water leak loss in our customer’s pipes by at least half. Water utilities will directly benefit from Robot Daisy, as it saves them the money, resource and energy put into producing the clean water. By allowing them to find leaks before critical failure, we help them prevent pipe bursts, and make the water service safer and more reliable for the residents and businesses. Robot Daisy will be leased directly to water utilities’ engineering department, and also provided to them as a service through pipe inspection service companies.

How we will measure our progress:

  • Outcome: 1000 km of underground pipes under service by year 2
    Measurement Plan: Track the total length of unique pipes the robots inspected from the data the robots collect
  • Outcome: Reduce customers' percentage of water loss by 50% after three years
    Measurement Plan: Compare the customers' leak rate by the end of year 3 with that at the beginning (year 0) of the service.

The populations we will benefit initially:

  • Lower middle income economies (between $1006 and $3975 GNI)
  • Low-income economies (< $1005 GNI)
  • Urban
  • Rural
  • Suburban

The regions we will benefit initially:

  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • US and Canada

The technologies we employ:

  • Digital systems (machine learning, control systems, big data)
  • Mechanical engineering and hardware
  • Robotics

Why our solution is unique:

Robot Daisy has two key innovations. The first is its skirt sensor. When passing a leak, it can sense the suction force generated by water escaping from the leak. It can detect leaks too small for any other technology to find. The second innovation is the robot’s soft body design. It allows it to travel through non-smooth pipe networks reliably. It can squeeze to overcome obstacles in the pipes, and bend to go around pipe elbows and junctions. The robot can be deployed through existing fire hydrants, so using it requires no digging or interruption to water service.

Why our solution is human-centered:

In many developing regions, water distribution systems are built with plastic or cement pipes rather than more expensive iron pipes. These regions, including China and Mexico, leak 20% to 40% of their clean water, and there isn't existing technology that can reliably detect leaks on non-metallic pipe networks. Our robot may be the first and only solution they have. Through selling or leasing our easy-to-use robots, we are empowering their local water companies to solve their water leak problems. Our robots will not take away jobs, but make leak detection more effective, and potentially generate demand for pipe repair jobs.

How people will access our solution:

We are targeting the municipal water companies in regions of the world where water supply is under stress due to leaks. Examples of those regions are China and Mexico, where the population is concentrated, water demand is high and the percentage of water leaked is well above 20%. The plan is to sell or lease the robots directly to the municipal water companies in those regions and the pipe service companies serving them. The robots are designed to be low-cost, highly automated and require no sophisticated trainings to operate. Thus all communities can save water fast and cost-efficiently. 

Technology-Readiness Level:

6-8 (Demonstration)
Business Plan

How we will sustain our team financially:

The original development of Robot Daisy come out of our research work at MIT. Now we are ready to take the technology outside MIT and form a startup. We have formed strategic partnership with pipeline service companies in Mexico and China to pilot our robots, and we are continuing to look for domestic and international partners. We are negotiating strategic investments from our partnering companies before seeking seed money from VCs and other investors.

The factors limiting our success:

The main limiting factor is our choice of early adopter. As most water utilities are government regulated, it is common for them to be slow in business execution and lack motivations to change the status quo. If we spend too much of our resources marketing to this type of customer, it will be ineffective and prevent us from achieving our desired impact, which is to save water and protect infrastructure. Thus it is crucial for us to choose progressive customers in our early stages.

How long we have been working on our solution:

5+ years

How long it will take to develop a pilot:

1-3 months

How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:

6-12 months

Our expected annual budget:


How much of our budget we've secured to date:


Partnership Needs

We're looking for partners in these fields:

  • Built Infrastructure
  • Inspection & Monitoring

Why we're applying to Solve:

Through Solve, we wish to reach a greater audience for our robotic leak detection technology. Among the audience, we are looking for policy makers to support our initiative to address the water leak problem, mentors to advise us on effectively doing business with water utilities in different countries, as well as resourceful investors and potential business partners.

Our current partners:

We have two partners now for pilot projects. One is MSD Consulting in Mexico, which specialize in pipeline construction and service projects. The other one is Banzan International Group, one of the largest pipeline supply companies in China. Both partners are bridging us with the local utilities they serve. 

Solution Team

  • DG DG
  • Jonathan Miller CEO, Co-Founder, MIT
  • You Wu Research & Product Lead, MIT
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