News International water technology company leveraging big data for COVID-19 tracking joins J-WAFS as new research affiliate

New collaboration between MIT and GoAigua, Inc. unites MIT’s strengths in AI, data analytics, and sensing with novel water industry efforts that use wastewater testing as a pandemic response tool.

Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab December 2, 2020

four women in masks and lab coats gathered around computer screen

Credit: Global Omnium / GoAigua

Today, the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that a major water sector company, GoAigua, Inc., is the newest member of its Research Affiliate Program. GoAigua, part of the Global Omnium Group, will sponsor water- and food-sector research, student fellowships, and related J-WAFS activities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

GoAigua is the big data platform of The Global Omnium Group, one of the largest private water utility operators. Global Omnium is focused on water infrastructure innovation, with a global presence in over 300 cities. It was one of the first utilities to incorporate data and analytics into its water infrastructure services to improve water efficiency and resilience, beginning in 2000. Their focus on innovation extends to the start-up sphere, where their venture capital fund, GoHub, supports a portfolio of spinout companies from across Europe that are involved in AI, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, and other water technology innovations.

The alignment between MIT’s focus on technology and innovation and that of GoAigua and Global Omnium provides a rich foundation for new research relationships that will be enabled by the J-WAFS Research Affiliate Program. At MIT, J-WAFS catalyzes water- and food-related research across the Institute’s departments, labs, and centers by connecting sponsors and collaborators to faculty members and research groups working on problems of mutual interest, and by managing large-scale research relationships. The Research Affiliate Program offers companies the opportunity to partner with J-WAFS and MIT to foster research and innovation in water and food systems. The program is central to J-WAFS' efforts to engage across sectors and disciplinary boundaries in order to solve real-world problems.

Improving systems for wastewater analysis to rapidly detect the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is a key focus for GoAigua, especially in the United States. The company has already developed a wastewater-based epidemiology tool that can detect COVID-19 at the city, sewershed, and even building level. It has been deployed in more than 20 cities around the world, capturing data from 10 million people across 1,000 testing locations.

“This piloting experience has provided us with a very rich data set of sewer testing results, showing the importance of sewer systems as data sources. We look forward to collaborating with MIT, which leads the world in AI and data analytics research, to develop even more innovative tools for public health monitoring and response,” stated GoAigua U.S. CEO Pablo Calabuig. “We are excited to be combining efforts with MIT to move this research forward in order to prevent, control, or mitigate human exposure risks to this and other future population health crises.”

In the coming months, J-WAFS will work with GoAigua to identify and refine an initial MIT research project to sponsor. MIT researchers will have access to GoAigua’s data and facilities as a testbed. John H. Lienhard V, director of J-WAFS and the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Mechanical Engineering at MIT, commented that “with this agreement, J-WAFS is fueling a very productive research relationship. MIT has internationally recognized researchers working in wastewater sensing, data analytics, and COVID-19 response. GoAigua is a company that is already innovating in the field, bringing in novel and potentially impactful data streams and testing platforms. By enabling this relationship, we hope to accelerate research toward important solutions for water systems and related public health challenges.”

Funding from GoAigua will also be directed to support other J-WAFS activities and student support, including the fund for the J-WAFS Fellowship for Water Solutions. This graduate student fellowship is awarded by faculty nomination on an annual basis, and supported by J-WAFS Research Affiliate companies.

Find out more about GoAigua and their work in wastewater sensing

Find out more about J-WAFS at MIT