How Egypt’s Pylon is “saving the planet” one smart meter at a time

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Egyptian smart infrastructure management startup Pylon says it is “saving the planet” one smart meter at a time as it democratises access to “Smart Metering as a Service”.

Founded in 2017 by Ahmed Ashour and Omar Radi, Pylon is a smart infrastructure management platform providing a subscription-based “Smart Metering as a Service” (SMaaS) for electricity and water companies in emerging markets.

The startup provides a tailored end-to-end software solution that is adaptive to old and new metering technologies and helps reduce operational inefficiencies, improve revenue collection, and achieve a more efficient environmental footprint, at zero upfront cost. Pylon democratises smart grid infrastructure to energy and water distribution companies, enabling them to capture up to US$400 billion of losses and uncollected revenue. 

“Pylon’s mission is saving the planet, one smart meter at a time,” Ashour, the startup’s CEO, told Disrupt Africa. “We aim to help utilities seek improvements in revenue collection, reduce losses through waste and theft and achieve a more efficient environmental footprint through our Smart Metering as a Service subscriptions.”

The startup, which last year raised a US$19 million seed funding round and took part in the Y Combinator accelerator, has developed bespoke technology which incorporates data analysis and artificial intelligence to solve the unique challenges of electricity and water services in emerging markets. 

“Through detailed data collection and analysis, powered by our software, Pylon can identify systemic inefficiencies that providers can take immediate steps to address,” Ashour said.

“Additionally, our artificial intelligence capabilities means that forecasts and real-time recommendations can be provided to our customers, resulting in a more efficient lower-emissions usage.” 

As a result, Pylon can help utility companies increase their top-line by up to 40 per cent, capturing up to US$400 billion of losses and uncollected revenue while also benefiting the environment. Smart electricity grids alone can reduce utilities’ carbon emissions by 25 per cent.

Pylon came about after Ashour and Radi realised they shared a vision of tackling the huge challenges present in the utility sector in emerging markets. 

“Having worked in the metering and energy business for over 12 years leading the development and implementation of smart metering technologies in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, I was convinced that more could be done to increase the efficiency of energy management,” said Ashour.

Pylon’s main advantage, he said, and the gap in the market it spotted, is that it operates on a subscription basis, which means there is no upfront payment or substantial one-time investment for customers. 

“Paying in instalments over an extended period makes it a more cost-effective service for utilities providers. These attributes make Pylon’s offering truly unique and more accessible than “off the shelf” solutions offered by leading international players, making our solution more appealing to cash-conscious emerging market utilities.”

The startup can also integrate its own software with hardware provided by partners from all over the world, making it agile and flexible, in contrast with traditional smart grid providers. 

Bootstrapped since launch, Pylon raised its US$19 million seed funding round last year from investors including Endure Capital, Y Combinator, Cathexis Ventures, Khawarizmi Ventures and LoftyInc Capital Management.

“We are using the proceeds from this funding round to accelerate Pylon’s growth via expansion into other emerging markets whilst also advancing engineering and product development,” said Ashour.

Initial growth had been strong in any case.

“Uptake has been good so far, with operations currently across Egypt and The Philippines where we work with 12 utility companies already. Some of our notable Egyptian clients include Mostakbal City – Egypt’s first green smart city – and Egypt’s Ministry of Defense. In The Philippines, we are working with the City of Iloilo along with several other clients,” Ashour said.

“This is just the start, as we’re currently targeting further expansion across MENA, southeast Asia, and Latin America – all geographies where our smart grid expertise can really make a difference in improving utility services and reducing carbon emissions.”

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