IPRC-Kigali student invents water meter, looks to roll out device

Smart Voma' is currently under test runs by Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority before its given the green light to hit the market
Mugabo has invented a smart water metre that allows for e-payment methods and use of coins. Photo/Emmanuel Come Mugisha.
Mugabo has invented a smart water metre that allows for e-payment methods and use of coins. Photo/Emmanuel Come Mugisha.

An IPRC-Kigali undergraduate student, Theogene Kelly Mugabo, has designed a self-operating water meter, which he says will initially serve water vendors. The device allows for use e-payment systems such as Tap&Go and mobile money, while it also has a slot for coins.

The device, known as 'Smart Voma', allows one to fetch and pay for water in the absence of the seller. The idea, he says, is rooted in a lived experience. “It was last year, on one Saturday in November, when I went out with a jerry can to buy water. But I came back empty-handed because the vendor was a Seventh Day Adventist and had not worked that day,” recalls Mugabo. “That’s when 'smart voma' first crossed my mind.”

The 23-year-old says his system embraces the Government’s cashless agenda. “Well you can pay using coins since there is a slot on the device where you can slide coins in," he said. "Most importantly though, you can use a Tap&Go card, as well as mobile money.” 

Households can also use 'Smart Voma' to replace faulty water metering systems. “You can have it at home, and you would buy water the same way you buy electricity, depending on your budget".Smart Voma features three payment methods: Tap&Go, mobile money transfer and inserting coins inside a slot.

Mugabo says it took him more than ten months todesign the water e-vendor. “I started alone. Since I was on government scholarship, I could use a portion of my monthly living allowance to buy some materials. It was until I had the first working prototype that my institute stepped in, offering me some pipes and the housing.”

While he praised IPRC-Kigali for supporting young innovators like him, he did point out that innovation is not a priority for many institutions. “Sometimes it’s very difficult to get help. I approached different institutions but nobody responded to my appeals.”

At the moment, Mugabo says, 'Smart Voma' is under test runs by Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA) before its given the green light to hit the market.

Asked about the price, he says the device goes for Rwf100,000 but this could be much less if a partner came on board to shore up his innovation. 

He also reckons that such support would also allow for the device to be rolled out in the market in less than three months.

Besides 'Smart Voma', the third year Electro-Mechanical Technology student has co-designed a self-operating milk selling machine and 'O-Vendor' that auto-sells bottled products.

For the future, he is working on a ‘smart home’ security project that involves a mobile app, motion detectors, and alarms.

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