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eToilet –India’s First Electronic Toilet

eToilet which is user-friendly, unmanned, automated and remotely monitored has brought in a paradigm change in sanitation sector in India.

Photo of Midhu S.V
26 19

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With India, gearing up to achieve the objectives of “Clean India campaign” it is inevitable that a proven self-sustained model is available in India to address the ensuing demand. Having been in the sanitation sector since the past eight years, we have reckoned the fact that Eram Scientific Solutions should drive a revolution to adopt futuristic self-sustaining and resource generating sanitation infrastructure for the common man.

About eToilet (Patent Pending)

eToilet is an innovatively designed and engineered sanitation model that involves unmanned operations, clean and hygienic facilities, easy and continual operation of the toilets while minimizing unnecessary maintenance costs.  The eToilets incorporate a full-cycle approach in sustainable sanitation by integrating electrical, mechanical and web-mobile technologies. eToilets have multiple revenue options which ensures sustainability of operations.

Made of Stainless Steel/Powder coated mild steel, eToilets have electronic systems for enhancing user experience and for tracking the health status of eToilets. eToilets have automated access control systems using either coin based entry or switch entry for free access, sensor enabled water minimization, self-washing and floor wash mechanisms.

eToilets have customized variants for the General Public, eToilets for Schools, Communities and Slums, controlled premises such as hospitals, IT parks, commercial spaces, factories and She Toilets for women.

Features- Snapshot

  • Easy to install
  • Consumes less water- sensor based water minimization
  • Power efficient- automated exhaust fan and lights
  • Enhanced cleanliness through auto flushes & floor washing
  • Unmanned operations
  • Automated access control- coin/free entry
  • Automated Pre flush, post flush and floor wash mechanisms
  • Solar integration possible
  • No regular manual cleaning/ maintenance required
  • Remote monitoring via GPRS and generation of online reports
  • eToilet Mobile App for user and authorities 
  • Outdoor advertising space on eToilet  panels for income generation
  • Free warranty of 6 months & 1 year insurance coverage
  • Well-defined maintenance plans

 

The interiors of eToilet provide a high ambience in terms of look, feel and functionality. The well-lit interiors with LED lights glows only when a person enters and has ample natural ventilation as well as offers privacy and safety.

These sleek and modular, unmanned self-cleaning eToilets have simple user interfaces which ensures that the eToilets are clean and hygienic for every user. The  eToilet has a facility of pre-flushing before entering, automatic flushing once usage is done, in-built water tanks, sensors for water and electricity conservation, automatic platform cleaning and power back-up with coin operated/free entry. 

The eToilets are connected over a GPRS network, which ensure real-time monitoring of the usage and health status of the eToilets. This can be viewed and managed over a web interface for ensuring minimal downtime and standardized maintenance operations. A dedicated team of Service Engineers attend to technical troubleshooting of the eToilets.

The eToilet, though it has integrated several electronic technologies for its smooth operations, does not provide any complex electronic interface for the common man. The electronic systems are purely utilized for effective management of the eToilets.

The eToilets incorporate a full-cycle approach in sustainable sanitation by integrating electrical, mechanical and web-mobile technologies.

Eram Scientific carries out projects involving large-scale deployment of eToilets on a turn-key basis. Eram Scientific undertakes supply, installations, commissioning and maintenance of eToilets. It has a robust customer service mechanism to ensure that the eToilets are maintained clean and hygienic for constant public use, beyond the installation stage. It also envisages innovative revenue streams by way of advertisement income and user charges, so as to make eToilets self-sustaining in the long run.   

Over and above the utility aspect of eToilet, the Company has also integrated various technology enabled features for enhancing the both the user and Client experience. Leveraging the GPRS based tracking facility of the eToilets, Eram has developed a unique concept of CeTI, which has been a distinguishing feature of public eToilets unlike its conventional counterparts. delightbharath.com provides  information on the performance of eToilets with individual login access to Clients such a Municipal Corporations, Govt. Agencies etc. It provides a host of real-time data on the performance of eToilets like number of usages, timestamp of usages, number of coins collected, water low indication, flush counts, complaint registration, and report generation along with graphical representation of these data.


eToilet Mobile App

Eram Scientific also launched a new eToilet Mobile App for electronic Toilets in India, as part of establishing a new Connected eToilet Infrastructure (CeTI). The eToilet App is freely downloadable for Android users from the Google Play Store by typing the keyword “etoilets”. Its unique features include locating the nearest eToilets via Map & Address Listings, understanding the mode of operations, mode of access and information on facilities such as napkin vending machine, incinerator etc., and sharing feedback on the user experience of eToilet along with image uploading. Through this App, the public can also suggest new places for eToilets, if it’s not available there.

With the launch of the eToilet Mobile App, the benefits will trickle down to the general public more easily through their smart devices. The eToilet App and CeTI are unique attempts to bring in the novel technology concepts like Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data etc. for revolutionizing the sanitation sector in the Country. 

Technology can show its miracles in the whole WASH sector. We have started with the frontend, the toilet. Now the focus will be on technology application in the treatment part, then the integration of the toilet and treatment, making it a single, compact solution that is scalable. Then comes the water segment, where technology can be employed for its conservation, treatment.

The ultimate goal would be to integrate all these elements with the power of technology, with focus on the Millennium Development Goals.

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Scaling phase

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

As more than 50% of India’s population defecates in the open, children are widely exposed to infections transmitted by faeces, such as environmental enteropathy, a condition resulting from the ingestion of bacteria, which results in reduced ability to absorb nutrients. Because early life health shapes adult cognitive achievement and productivity, ending open defecation is a priority for both economic and health policies as well.

eToilet is indigenously developed and has already scaled up on a massive scale. eToilets have already been replicated across 19 states in India with over 1600 successful installations. We have also deployed model variants for women, schools, disabled and general public. Chennai is the first city in India with the largest number of public eToilets. The largest deployment of school eToilets which was done for TCS happened in a span of just 3 months with over 600 eToilets deployed across Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

The eToilet model is a self-sustainable one. We have addressed the core issue of sanitation, ie. Lack of manpower, with technology intervention. These greatly reduce dependence on guards and cleaners. When compared to the Capex-Opex of conventional or portable toilets, the operational expenses is very low and TCO is less for eToilet.

eToilet has a comprehensive AMC plan which includes the aspects of preventive and corrective maintenance. Monitoring the maintenance mechanism is also important to ensure sustainable operations. The maintenance services are monitored over an online system for transparency.

We have not gone for a technology fancy model, , rather we have identified the breakpoints and applied technology to address those. eToilet is positioned as a sustainable sanitation technology that is clean and hygienic with less operational cost and a well-defined maintenance plan.

Our present research focuses on making the eToilet completely off-grid with power generation through solar and water recycling. This will ensure a complete, standalone and sustainable sanitation model which can be deployed on a massive scale in less time-span.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

Our research focuses on developing water recycling, power efficient, hygienic toilets that can generate resources of its own for its functioning and which does not have any external dependencies. The eToilet is fully capable of adapting to this vision, however, we plan to conduct further research in the line of safe water recycling options through dependable waste treatment technologies. The project aims to make commercially available eToilets + STPs which are self-sustainable, creating its own energy and water for its functioning and also powering the external environment and generating revenue in addition to user fee collection and advertisement revenue. We seek financing/ grants for conducting the above research and testing in India with the eToilet as the front end and taking the final result across geographies. Also we would like to seek financing support in setting up infrastructure for R&D and maintaining the facility to develop the next generation eToilets.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

With water scarcity in locations being the critical limiting factor for the development and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure in India, we look at devising a business model centered around reusing water/other resources that are regenerated from the waste from eToilets. Thus a sustainable business model supported by advertisement model will be envisaged. Since, we do not offer much competence in these sectors, we look forward to working closely with expert organizations in the wastewater treatment and water recycling to generate resources from the waste to balance the proposition for a self sustaining model.

The advertisement model which we have been promoting through our eToilet model has not been explored much until now by the government departments, private parties, ad agencies etc. We seek to invite CSR sponsorships, ad agencies/ corporates to advertise on the eToilets. This model can be showcased both as a revenue-generating maintenance model and a business model.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

Primarily our focus has been on public sanitation in the urban context. Though primarily a urban solution, we have found that the eToilet is the single resort for a cross section users from migrant laborers, women etc, who otherwise have no option elsewhere. Over a period of six years and with continuous R&D we have migrated into other sectors such as school sanitation, community sanitation, slum sanitation, treatment technologies and entrepreneur driven sanitation models. We have also explored the power of internet of things (IoT) in sanitation through connected eToilets and eToilet locator mobile app.

We have now moved on to solar-powered eToilets. The next vision is to make the eToilet self-sustainable; a powerhouse of resources that can be looped in for working the eToilet without any external dependencies. To this end, we are collaborating with worldwide universities and research institutions such as BMGF, University of South Florida, Caltech, and Duke University.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

We are targeting the whole of India with current presence in 19 states. We also have dedicated service network deployed in the respective eToilet locations.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Eram Scientific, ISO certified, is the Social Enterprise arm of Eram Group, with over 8 years’ experience in implementing sustainable sanitation model with multiple revenue sources across India. The core team comprises of experts who have over 15-20 years’ experience in conceptualizing and implementing large scale ICT 4 Development (ICT4D) projects in India and has demonstrated exceptional dexterity in implementing over 1600 eToilets in an extremely fluid sanitation market of India. The eToilet has by now won over 41 national and international awards, the most prestigious being the Safaigiri Toilet Titan Award received from the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India.

Our partnership especially with BMGF, California Institute of Technology, Duke University and University of South Florida for field testing the respective waste processing unit is a great step towards achieving self-sustaining toilets- toilets that generate their own energy and water from the human waste.

Is this a new or recent idea for your organization? How does it differ from what you are already doing?

This is a idea developed by our company in 2010. We installed the 1st eToilet in 2011 and from there we have engineered the model as per the user aspirations, market demand and sustainability aspects. Currently we have installed 1600 eToilets in 19 states in India. We are in a constant path for innovation and continuous R&D.

Now we are focusing on resource recovering eToilet for better sustainability.

What are the two or three biggest risks for your idea and how will you manage the risks?

Lack of a plan for meeting maintenance funds for eToilets being installed with CSR, others which focus only on capex. This affects the sustainability of the model. We are to an extent trying to met this with advertisement revenue in which the side panels and front panels can be used for advertisement display.

 India predominantly being following a wet/ wash culture in personal hygiene, lack of water is a challenge. Etoilet is already equipped with water minimization techniques with sensor enabled technologies. Our present research focuses on water recycling and energy generation and there by a achieving a zero sanitation (Zero Energy and Water resources).

Vandalism and Theft - The eToilet is installed in the public places and there is a huge chance for theft and vandelism of the system. We carefully designed or iterated our design, materials, module placement etc. to adapt the system with the various behavioural patterns of the users across geographies.

How would you propose to track or record the households or customers reached?

Every transaction/ usage is already tracked over a GPRS network which ensure real-time monitoring of the usage and health status of the eToilets. This can be viewed and managed over a web for ensuring the reach of users in each sector and this data will helpful to enable awareness campaign etc. if there is any specific region based issue in using the toilet.With the launch of the eToilet Mobile App, the benefits will trickle down to the general public more easily through their smart device.

If you had two years and $250,000 USD in funding, how many households or customers would you reach?

We are already working with schools and communities for providing them better sanitation facilities. We noticed that, when we are installing a new system of clean and hygiene sanitation model to the school and communities,the kids are adapting this very fast and we can see the behavioural change in them after using this system some time. We propose to utilize this funding for reaching out to schools and communities, which are in dire need of sustainable sanitation solutions.

We have experience in implementing around 500 school eToilets in 2 months for a client and we are hoping that we can surely work depends upon the demand in any scale.

How would you propose to invest $250,000 USD if you received philanthropic/grant funding support from Water.org?

Our primary aim would be to invest in providing subsidized units with the grant funds for selected schools, which we envisage that http://water.org would help us to identify. Partnership of CSRs and other like-minded institutions can also be sought.

Also we would like to do research and implementation of a new model of sanitation system where the maintenance is so low and the resources that needs for the system like water,energy and maintenance cost is generating by the system. Thus we can exhibit a complete sustainable sanitation model for the next generation where the resources will be more limited in the coming days.

With vast experience in all the sanitation areas across the country we are sure that we would b able to prove this.

What type of support beyond grant funding are you most interested in?

We are primarily working in the public sanitation front. We look forward to better adoption of eToilets in sanitation especially in schools which mould future citizens, user awareness, systematic study and research on effectiveness of the systems in a region, gender specific before and after impact studies. Also we would seek the help for developing different business models, behavioural study etc.

Does your organization have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) approval?

Not applicable

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Photo of Swapnil Poop-Guy
Team

Midhu S.V You guys are doing awesome work. As you might know, Samagra is a Behavior Change and Business Innovation company. We are agnostic to toilet technology. We can work with any toilet and significantly increase user engagement resulting in increased usage and increased revenues leading to self-sustainability of community/public toilets. We also have an awesome "Cleaning Force" that provides regular cleaning and maintenance. I have been talking to Bincy @ ERAM about partnership. We would love to work with you in Urban Slums, where you can provide the toilets and we can provide the Engagement and Operations leading to win-win service for all the Urban Poor.
What do you think?

Photo of Midhu S.V
Team

Thank you  Poop-Guy Swapnil  for your support and encouragement. We are looking closely into the user engagement aspects and I think we could work together. Currently we have a couple of research projects in Slum which is on the pilot phase. We will surely look into the collaboration and advise from you regarding the maintenance and cleaning aspects of this project as we move into the up scaling phase. 

Photo of Swapnil Poop-Guy
Team

Midhu
We are destined to work together :-) 
We have complementary strengths and our partnership will create a win-win alignment for aggressive scale up. 

You are a product company while Samagra is a service company.  You have installed toilets in public areas while we work only in slum areas.  
You have self-cleaning toilets while we have over 3 years of expertise in engaging users deeply. You have technology,  we have psychology and slum Sanitation Ops and biz model for slums :-) 

Let's work together in serving the slums where there there are no toilets. 

With Gratitude 
Regards 
Swapnil 

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