As co-founder of a tech company that finds water leaks using noise, Victoria Edwards is blazing a trail through the world’s water sector on a mission to ‘save the planet one megaliter at a time’.
With its advanced AI capabilities, FIDO Tech was named one of the top two winners of the KPMG Private Enterprise Global Tech Innovator competition in 2021. And just two years after launching the company, she has progressed from being an industry outsider to making the company known around the world.
A trained classical pianist, her passion for the FIDO project combines acoustic sensibilities from a previous music background, a career in entrepreneurship and a drive to empower people through a collaborative effort. FIDO AI is disruptor in the name of water scarcity throughout the world … and for the good of the planet. How and why does she do it?
Lindsay Hull, Director, Emerging Giants, KPMG Private Enterprise, spoke with Victoria to find the answers to those questions and for her guidance to other women who are passionate about an issue, idea or opportunity and are ready to go for it.
A woman who is disrupting an entire industry is a compelling story — and you’re an intriguing lead character in the story. I’m curious to hear how you made your journey from the piano keyboard to an advanced artificial intelligence solution.
Thank you, Lindsay. Let me just say that my story has taken a long and winding road, and there have been many starts and stops along the way — from a publishing company to a French restaurant and jazz bistro, to becoming a lecturer in jazz and the performing arts, a radio disc jockey and eventually a company that implements Wi-Fi installations for large corporate clients.
Not all of these ventures have been successful mind you, but I’ve taken an important lesson away from each and every one of them to get me where I am today.
How did that winding route get you to your FIDO Tech destination?
FIDO Tech is my true calling. It actually came about from a chance conversation with a friend who said that a utility company he was dealing with was concerned about their water leakage issues. He wondered if there might be a way to use sound to detect water leaks. From my work in acoustical analysis in classical music, I know a lot about sound vibrations and how sounds can change in different environments. So, the answer was ‘yes’ — we believed we could build an acoustic algorithm to detect water leaks in pipes. And FIDO was born.
What makes you describe this as your true calling?
Well, that’s been a bit of a winding road as well. People talk a lot about purpose and passion, and I’ve come to realize that you must have both to be successful and fulfilled. Several years ago, I collaborated on a project to help teenage boys who had been in legal trouble because of their joy riding adventures. I discovered that most of them didn’t have a father figure at home and a mother who was struggling to raise a family on her own. Their choices were limited. I invited a famous race car driver to join forces to train some of these young men to become mechanics and learn to build their own race cars.
He agreed, and I’m proud to say that of the 12 boys, three became full-time apprentices with two major car manufacturers. All they needed was someone who believed in them enough to invest some time and energy in them and help them create something they were passionate about. That was a proud moment for me.
And that’s how I feel about what we’re doing at FIDO Tech. It has released our sense of purpose, passion and commitment to save the planet “one megaliter at a time”. And it makes me proud to know that we are making a tangible difference in the world.
How does FIDO AI work?
It’s brilliant in its simplicity. FIDO AI gathers the leak data all by itself or access it from an existing acoustic or kinetic file. It decides if there’s a real leak and calculates the size of it. This means the largest leaks can be prioritized quickly, saving precious run time and preventing further water waste. The need for expensive and time-consuming human analysis is removed from the chain, so that people can focus on addressing the more complex requirements and decisions that need to be made further down the chain.
What is the biggest driver for you – the issue of water insecurity globally or the introduction of an elegant AI solution?
The water insecurity issue is absolutely the driver. The issue is referred to as ‘Day Zero’ — the day we actually run out of water. It has already happened in some regions of the world, and eventually, we’ll turn on the tap and there will be no water. This is unconscionable.
Once we realized that the FIDO technology could benefit and be delivered at scale to countries that don’t have the necessary technical knowledge or resources, we realized that our technology was something we needed to run with because we could make a difference. Not everyone in the industry is ready for this, so and we have been a bit of an industry disruptor. I see it as an important part of my role to break this issue down and say to others in the industry, “you have no reason not to address the issue of water scarcity”. And I’ll keep on repeating that to everyone who will listen.
What advice would you give to women who have a creative idea for a new product or a potential solution to an important societal issue such as yours?
First, If you’re passionate about something — whatever that is — and you have an idea that aligns with that passion and also meets a clear need, go for it!
If you have that kind of commitment, don’t worry about scale. What matters is that you have passion, tenacity and focus. If you have those, then you should call yourself an innovator and pat yourself on the back. It doesn’t have to be a larger than life idea — and neither does your personality. Passion often runs very deep and very quiet, and scale can come later.
Whatever your idea, have faith. It’s natural for anyone to be unsure in the face of a challenge to the status quo, for women as much as men. Focus on the issue, not the person, and address their arguments one by one.
With FIDO, I wake up with a smile every day. I can see immediately the benefits of what we have done and where we can take it next. And that, for me, is what success and fulfillment look like.
(Courtesy KPMG/by Lindsay Hull)