KAUST research group win inaugural MCIT Digital Innovation Award

KAUST researchers who won first place in the Digital Research track at the inaugural Digital Innovation Award. (From left to right) Hui Chen, Lucas Câmara Dantas Bezerra, Abdulwahab Felemban, Mohanad Ahmed, Dr. Ahmed Bader and Safwan .H Ibrahim. Photo courtesy: Taruna Reddy Rapaka.
By David Murphy

A team of KAUST researchers have won first place in the Digital Research track at the inaugural Digital Innovation Awards held on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Launched by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), the awards aim to “enhance the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in digital research and development” in Saudi Arabia.

The KAUST team won first place for their AI-based water tap, Smart-Tap. The AI-driven, eco-friendly faucet runs a personalized water flow and pressure profile based on each individual’s actions to cut down on the water waste encountered with traditional and infrared (IR) taps. The team, consisting of researchers from the KAUST Information System Lab (ISL), was led by KAUST MSc./Ph.D. student Abdulwahab Felemban.

Felemban and his ISL colleagues believe their invention has the potential to revolutionize how we approach future water use globally. The Smart-Tap’s genesis was inspired by Wudu: the ritual cleansing of body parts performed by Muslims before prayer.

“Wudu inspired our design. During Wudu, vast amounts of water is wasted during the ritual that goes directly from the tap into the sink untouched. While some IR taps address this issue, they are still inconvenient, and they lag a lot when turned on and off.

Smart tap prototype.

“That’s why we proposed our Smart-Tap, a first-of-its-kind tap that uses artificial intelligence to understand and predict human actions to operate in the most efficient way. Our device can reduce water waste by up to 43% compared to IR taps,” Felemban noted.

With their device, Felemban is hopeful that the group’s research output can help support Saudi Arabia’s National Water Strategy 2030. Specifically, in its aim to have a fully functioning sustainable water sector in the not-too-distant future.

“We believe that there is room in the market for better products, such as the Smart-Tap. A product that leverages state-of-the-art technologies to enhance the human experience while being friendly to the environment. This project jump-started thanks to a grant from the Impact Acceleration Fund at KAUST,” Professor Tareq Al-Naffouri, principal investigator of the ISL, concluded.

The Smart-Tap team

Abdulwahab Felemban: Team leader and lead representative at the Digital Innovation Awards. Developed the AI algorithms used to anticipate human actions and control the tap in real-time.

Lucas Câmara Dantas Bezerra: Technical support and AI development.

Safwan Ibrahim: Business and entrepreneurial support.

Mamdouh Aljoud: Data analysis support.

Mohanad Ahmed: Hardware development of Smart-Tap prototype.

Hui Chen: Developed scripts to interact with and operate the device’s sensors and mechanical valve.

Dr. Mudassir Masood (Project and research advisor): specialized in the technical aspects of AI algorithms. 

Dr. Ahmed Bader (Project and research advisor): specialized in the start-up business aspects of the project.

Prof. Tareq Al-Naffouri (Head of the KAUST ISL): provided overarching supervision and guidance throughout the project.

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