In the same morning tradition of many Canadians, the Intuitive Water Systems Inc. team tends to start their day at a coffee shop – only it doesn’t usually involve ordering a double-double. Since 2003, the Binbrook, Ontario company has been servicing a major chain of coffee shops across Canada, ensuring the locations have a reliable source of clean water every day.
Intuitive Water now monitors close to 100 coffee shop sites across Canada, and manages this service through its providers for about 50 sites. As they expand across the country with their biggest customer, the company has already begun investigating promising leads into other industries.
Before the contract servicing the coffee industry, Lloyd Laidman, President of Intuitive Water (formerly L-Zone Environmental Inc.), had just made a departure from residential projects to commercial water and wastewater systems. His earliest projects involved golf courses across Ontario and Quebec, a market that the company remains actively engaged with today. But the company’s lucky break came when Laidman was asked to work on a coffee shop location in Tecumseh, Ontario.
Rather than making regularly scheduled maintenance check-ups, Laidman requested local internet access to monitor the water and wastewater systems that were being installed on site.
“The company immediately recognized the merits of proactively monitoring their systems for water quality safety and I began receiving major contracts to start servicing locations on the east coast of Canada,” Laidman says. “As a result, we developed a full monitoring tool that sent notifications ahead of possible failures in order to dispatch assistance where necessary, and avoid having to turn off the water and interrupt operations.”
Capitalizing on rural areas
In 2015 the company’s name was changed to Intuitive Water Systems Inc. to better reflect the company’s direction, and in the following year Mike Piotrowski was hired as Vice President of Engineering.
“Most solutions are not practical or affordable for smaller commercial applications,” Laidman says. “Once Mike and I joined forces, we decided to focus on creating bespoke solutions for our customers, who often have unique needs. As a result, we’re now actively filling a number of niches, including projects in the agriculture, poultry, and greenhouse industries.”
“We’re receiving a lot of attention from small commercial enterprises in rural areas,” Piotrowski says. “If something goes wrong on these systems, operations can be completely halted, costing business owners time and money.”
“We realized that there is an entire market for businesses that are not on municipal water systems,” he says. “But these small commercial businesses on rural systems still require safe water.”
An “equipment agnostic” approach to water monitoring
In pursuit of this market, Laidman says that Intuitive Water has taken an agnostic approach to the equipment they use. “Regardless of whether the signal is digital, analog, or wireless, we can monitor it efficiently and effectively,” he says. “That’s where we can separate ourselves from the competition.”
“Many clients will engage us with a ‘shopping at tool store’ kind of mentality,” Piotrowski says. “They will ask about certain products, but we’re more about taking a step back and think about the overall design and ways to create an integrated solution. It’s a different mentality.”
Intuitive Water develops in-house software for clients to monitor, for example, sensors in a system, water volume, or water health. For a monthly fee, clients receive instant reporting to their phone or email, and, if necessary, the system can help them notify and dispatch service technicians.
“Our new model is to roll it out to a local provider. They will now monitor their own local site, and we will provide the back-end framework to ensure that data is coming in and out properly,” Laidman says. “They would take over what we’re doing now, and for a monthly fee these providers would have access to the full system, including software updates, cloud services, and data history.”
The full access solution is proving invaluable. “The corporate head office for the coffee chain uses its data to design new stores based on water flow, traffic patterns and their store locations,” Laidman says. “Since 2003, we have the history of how much water they’ve used and how much wastewater is produced. These sorts of data points have helped them design more efficient buildings.”
Remote access for health inspectors
Intuitive Water is fully reworking its front end software to improve usability so that even non-technical people can use it and understand whether water systems are running at optimal efficiency.
As well, the company’s focus is to support compliance reporting for regulators. The idea is that public health inspectors would be able to access the system remotely to confirm that standards are being met. Intuitive Water has already received positive feedback from regulators, and are working with contacts from the regulatory body to help tailor this feature.
The value of working with WaterTAP
Intuitive Water’s Growth Catalyst project with WaterTAP began in June 2018, and involved researching new market verticals as well as new target regions.
“Our Growth Catalyst project with WaterTAP helped us identify the value of and market for compliance reporting for health inspectors,” Piotrowski says. “Internally, we have the tools. Our next job is to streamline how we use the platform and translate the data into a report.”
“We know our customers and regions well. We also know our solutions could be used in other markets, but we weren’t sure of the channels,” Piotrowski says. “Working with WaterTAP helped us to open those channels, and that was a huge win for us.”
“At part of Growth Catalyst, we’ve confirmed some of our suspicions about target markets, but the project also alerted us where we should proceed with caution,” he says. “For example, water is an important aspect of craft breweries, but the market study showed that the market is not a good fit for our solutions at this time. As the market grows, we’ll revisit whether we should target the industry.”
“Working with consultancies such as Echion Group and KnoWater allowed us to develop our business plan for the short-term and the next two years,” Laidman says. “We had a lot of the irons in the fire, so to speak, so were advised to focus on public health inspectors and rural regions, agriculture, and the greenhouse industry, the latter of which has led to a surprising number of leads with respect to water reuse.”
Beyond this initial phase of Growth Catalyst, Intuitive Water is continuing to target Canada, especially British Columbia and Alberta. As a result of the program, Intuitive Water will also be engaging salespeople in Florida and Michigan — both areas that are experiencing significant water challenges.
“Now that we’re more focused, we are hoping to continue working with WaterTAP for a second phase and begin more seriously engaging the U.S. market,” Laidman says.
Josh Chong is a communications coordinator at WaterTAP.
Pictured: Lloyd Laidman, President. Photo: Intuitive Water.