Brownsville man launches new biz after inventing smart meter

koseveckWhen most people have a leak in their water system they call a repairman; Mark Kovscek isn’t most people.

For Kovscek, who lives in Brownsville, a faulty boiler valve resulted in spending the summer at Amazon headquarters in Seattle working on perfecting and marketing a new smart home product to work with Alexa.

“It dates back to the summer of 2014. In August of that year my water bill was $50 higher. I kind of ignored it until September when it was $50 higher again,” Kovscek said. “The valve in my boiler was bad and it would fill up the overflow and put it down the drain without me knowing it.”

Kovscek said he researched systems that would detect leaks, but they were all more expensive than the money they would save in most cases. So he began designing his own smart water meter, resulting in the invention of H2know and Kovscek’s company, Conservation Labs.

“I found a way to measure sound waves and to convert them to water measurement,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said each water-using device in a home has its own special sound frequency, letting H2know distinguish between a running toilet and a dripping faucet. H2know records all water usage in the house, not just the leaks, so homeowners can take steps to reduce their water usage if they would like.

“We can tell you not only that the water was running, but that the toilet was flushed seven times and the shower was run twice, and for how long,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said H2know is designed to give homeowners information on how they are using water and can provide customized conservation measures, estimating that most homeowners could save as much as $250 a year through simple measures to prevent waste. The device, Kovscek said, also provides peace of mind by giving homeowners real-time information through a smartphone app and alerts.

“If it’s a catastrophic leak, we want you to know immediately, so you’ll receive either a call or a text,” Kovscek said. “We catch leaks within minutes, and not 30 days later like I did.”

Despite the technology, Kovscek said most homeowners could install the device themselves in a short period of time, clamping it to a pipe and connecting it to their wifi network.

Conservation Labs launched H2know at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Kovscek’s demonstration was seen by people from the Environmental Protection Agency and, unbeknownst to him at the time, by Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban.

Kovscek is currently participating in the second cohort of the Alexa Accelerator in Seattle, a 13-week program sponsored by Techstars Seattle and Amazon for startup companies. There are nine companies, including one from Tel Aviv and one from Cambridge, UK participating in the program. Each is working on its own products with voice-related technologies.

“Techstars has a lot of these programs around the country. The one here is with Amazon, Alexa Techstars Program,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said the 13-week program has been extremely beneficial with workshops to support business growth and working on the technical design to work with Alexa.

“We met a lot of people. These people act as mentors and help us get the product to market. The real tangible benefit is that Amazon and Techstars are investors in Conservation Labs, so that brings money in,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said that at present prototypes of H2know are in a few dozen homes, but he is now testing with companies that reach millions of homes.

“We expect the first pilot-ready devices in October or November. We’re expecting to have the final production run in the second quarter of 2019,” Kovscek said.

The H2know devices may also be pre-ordered through Conservation Lab’s Indiegogo account, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/h2know-iot-water-meter-save-money-avoid-disaster-apps#/

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges