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Dr Stephen Cummings



By Pamela Hale

We live in a time where society is shifting towards sustainable living at a rapid pace. The conservation of water is a concern at the forefront of modern sustainability efforts, and the potential for technological advancements in both commercial and residential environments will be pivotal in the years ahead. According to Dr Stephen Cummings, director of innovations for Caroma, the future of resource conservation hinges on an interesting dilemma: “If you can’t measure water, then how can you save it?”

Since introducing revolutionary dual-flush technology to Australia and the world in 1980, Caroma has been consistently paving the way for efficient water usage across the nation. The company’s most recent venture, dubbed Smart Command, has been developed to optimise the efficiency and sustainability of water management within commercial buildings.

Here, Sydney Home Design + Living discovers the benefits of the new technology and its significance within work and living environments now and in the future. For homeowners who are interested in improving the environmental responsibility of their residence, looking to innovative corporations such as Caroma, and the new products being installed in large-scale commercial spaces can be a great way to keep across emerging ideas and practices in resource management.

How are water conservation practices faring in Australia currently? 
SC: Smart bathroom devices that incorporate electronic sensors for the detection of users have been available in Australia for many years now, and while they have become more water efficient, they have not evolved further in intelligence. This lack of technological advancement is clearer when compared with other systems such as security, heating and cooling, and lighting, which have become more intelligent with the capability to be networked into digital building management systems.

What was the impetus for the development of Smart Command?
The innovation was initially conceived to address a building maintenance and service need; there was an obvious lack of communication with fixtures within built structures, which often caused major disruptions when attempting to resolve plumbing issues. This led to the invention of an Internet of Things (IoT) smart bathroom platform to make facility management easier and more efficient.

How does the Smart Command system meet the increasing need for smart water conservation?
The true need for integrating sustainable water devices into one intelligent bathroom platform can be fully realised with Caroma Smart Command; it’s the missing link in optimising water efficiency and sustainability. The intelligent technology collects data from individual bathroom fixtures and allows facility managers to make fully informed decisions based on accurate data for the measurement of water usage, maintenance, cleaning, and leak detection.

As our population grows rapidly and water becomes more scarce, Smart Command will be a vital component for any building infrastructure to minimise wastage without compromise to user experience.

Why is the collection of data important in the effective management of resources?
The usage of water needs to be accurately measured before a building manager can identify how it can be saved. Likewise, data provided that accurately reports usage can be used for both preventative maintenance and cleaning, allowing for greater building efficiency.

The collection of data that will detect leaking is particularly significant, as leaks account for around 20 percent of water wastage in a building. The Smart Command system provides a leak-detection capability with five detection modes, including at a micro level that operates in combination with the monitoring of an individual fitting.

It’s interesting to note that fixture-level information has the potential for digital control across multiple scales. The ability to tailor the service of an individual fixture depending on its location, situation and user offers an event-specific end user experience, which could have powerful advantages that we are just now beginning to explore.

The collection of real-time data and improvement in technology also has the potential for fixtures to operate through automated control, ultimately improving service, saving resources and responding to user feedback.

Caroma toilet

What additional benefits are associated with the improvement of resource conservation technology?
Digital plumbing fixtures have shown potential for multiple resource-saving capabilities. That this technology should be able to reduce water use is expected, but less expected is the potential for significant energy savings through hot water management.

Impressively, any hot water energy savings from taps and showers are likely to dwarf any additional energy used by digital plumping fixtures. The ability to adapt and control water temperatures provides considerable potential to improve both environmental outcomes and provide financial savings. In addition, there is potential for realtime user feedback that can guide behaviour in relation to hot water use, thus enhancing the user experience while saving hot water.

How does Smart Command differ from other water management systems on the market?
It is the only water management system on the market that integrates with an IoT platform of major water-using fixtures in a bathroom – the toilet, tapware, urinal and shower – that can also relay up to 16 data points from each fixture to a building management system (BMS).

The ability to connect directly to a BMS or the Caroma Cloud is just one of three ways in which Smart Command can provide data, depending on the level of control desired. It can also communicate wirelessly to a smartphone, or to a remote desktop via a gateway.

What are the current and future applications of Smart Command technology?
Smart Command has been designed as a solution for premium commercial building environments where water resource conservation, and user experience and well-being are considered a priority. Integrating the system does come at a cost, however the water saving benefits together with cleaning efficiencies and preventative maintenance scheduling will provide a good return on the initial investment.

Many residential innovations come from the commercial space, and we would expect to see leading architects and designers adopting the Smart Command technology in the residential space over time. There are so many areas we can take this technology which could significantly improve the way bathrooms are used forever. Artificial intelligence is predicted to be the next transformation in building management, with systems able to make independent decisions in real time.

What advice do you have for readers who want to improve water efficiency in their home?
Some of the most common mistakes that lead to overuse and over-expenditure of water resources are caused by a lack of preventative maintenance, leaking fixtures, and the quality of plumbing systems themselves. Ensuring bathroom products have all been designed in the last ten years and have a high star rating from the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme are key. Regularly check for leaks too, and if a leak is found be sure to rectify it as soon as possible.

Conservation Starters

There are many changes that you can make around the home to improve your attempts to conserve water, particularly in high-use areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and garden.

  • Ensuring fixtures aren’t leaking and that appliances are efficient are both paramount. The occasional dripping of a tap may not seem like an immediate issue, but over the course of a year it can equate to thousands of litres of lost water.
  • Low-flow taps are a great household fixture; the taps work by introducing air into the waterflow, thereby providing the feeling of a higher water pressure with less water volume actually being used.
  • Installing a greywater system will ensure you’re conserving water with minimal effort; by recycling your household water you can keep your garden looking fantastic without expending valuable resources unnecessarily.
  • Incorporating native plants and drought-resistant species into your garden design is another way to effectively conserve water, while simultaneously making maintenance easier.

Images courtesy of Caroma