Feature In Focus: Prepaid Meter

Starting in April of 2019, the Government India planned to replace all of the country’s existing meters with smart prepaid meters. The topic was again touched upon during the Budget Discussion 2020. This initiative improves billing and collection and is a step in the direction of providing electricity for all. Many residential societies have already introduced the prepaid meters in their community and many more are in the process of doing so.

Benefits include:

  • Consumers can choose their own service provider and rate as per their requirement
  • Saves cost on manual metering, billing and collection
  • Consumers can track their electricity use and plan their power purchase better
  • Recharging your power can be done digitally and instantly 
  • Power thefts can be easily spotted and prevented

 MyGate aims to make community life as smooth as possible by offering necessary assistance in one place. With our new ‘Prepaid Meter’ feature, residents can track their electricity consumption and recharge their installed meters. MyGate has partnered with leading meter vendors such as Crystal , Elmeasure and Radius. Any society that has installed meters from these service providers will have this feature automatically enabled on their MyGate app. 

How it works 


1. Click the ‘Community’ icon on your shortcuts 
2. Click on the ‘Prepaid Meter’ icon 
3. You will now be able to see your all transactions and power usage for the month
4. You can click on any transaction and see the breakdown of how many EC and DG units of power were consumed and how much you paid for each unit
5. Click on the ₹ on the top right corner or on the ‘Add Money’ button on the bottom if you need to recharge your prepaid meter 
6. Click on any of the payment options to recharge your meter
7. Once you have clicked on your desired option and completed the payment, you will see a pop up displaying the ‘Payment Successful’ message and details of your transaction. If you click on the ‘I have paid by Cheque/Cash/EFT’ option, you must make this payment to your management committee and the society admin will be notified and take care of the payment process
8. To see your meter details such as Meter Number, EC and DG charges etc., you can click on the ‘Settings’ icon on the top right corner.

This feature allows you to recharge your meter easily, budget your electricity expenses and monitor your power usage. With this new service, MyGate endeavours to make this transition to a smarter future seamless and effortlessly.

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How MyGate built Bengaluru’s ePass system in 96 hours

Written by Veerraju Chitturi, Associate Product Manager at MyGate

Unprecedented times require unprecedented measures. On Mar 25, a 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the COVID pandemic. But the execution of the lockdown was left to the State governments. Needless to say that the state governments across the country were overwhelmed since they had no precedent to deal with such a crisis. But here’s the tricky part: How does the State Government ensure the movement of essential services i.e. Groceries, Healthcare, Essential e-commerce, etc, and control the misuse of such privilege. Answer: Issue passes for movement.

There are downsides to issue physical passes. One, people have to go out to police station to get passes and you need a pass to go out(Catch-22 anyone?). Two, this was very inefficient since people were thronging to police stations increasing the risk of the spread among law enforcers. Police authorities needed a tech solution to handle the crisis.

It all started when the State Police’s top brass reached out to one of our founders asking if MyGate could help them to build an ePass solution for essential services in 4 days. And we said YES!

After all, MyGate’s expertise lies in facilitating seamless visitor entries into gated communities and corporate spaces. Since we already have a presence in 1.5 million homes (that’s all the households in the entire country of New Zealand :P) and validate over 60 million visitor validations in a month, so scale was never going to be a problem since our teams built products to scale.

Problem lies in building a solution in such a short period of time. Bottomline was to allow all the essential services to function seamlessly. In a MyGate society, visitors would request for access and residents would approve/deny such requests. However, here we had to facilitate movement of employees/citizens from their home to their workplaces (essentially permission to go outside their residences). It was a problem turned upside down for us.

So, let me try to break this down to 4 different parts.

  1. Allow Organizations/Individuals to request a pass
  2. Enable Police authorities to make a decision to approve/deny
  3. Enable Organizations/Individuals to carry a digital/physical pass
  4. Mechanism for authorities on ground to validate the passes

Product Engineering/Design Considerations:

  1. Resources and Time: Easy to develop from an engineering perspective
  2. Use existing solutions: Building features on top of existing systems (apps/web applications) by tweaking according to requirements
  3. Scalability: Since the system has to support potentially thousands of organisations and lakhs of citizens it has to work at scale
  4. Seamless, Secure and prevent misuse: Making it easy for organisations to request/approve and use/carry passes using online/offline channels

War Time


I know usage of the word “wartime” is at an all time high as per Google Trends but I can’t help not using it in this context. It was indeed a wartime and we were working on a tight deadline of 96 hours which meant that the entire Product Lifecycle i.e. Ideation to Release had to be done in 4 days. What this meant for us as an organisation was that we had to invest enormous resources i.e. leadership, engineering, product and design working simultaneously taking some of the decisions independently once the basic specifications as to what needs to be built were arrived at.

Execution


Such an enormous project with a steep deadline meant we needed extraordinary coordination among various teams. And where were all our resources? ‘At Home!’ We were all working remotely and that meant we had to coordinate digitally using whatever medium we could lay our hands on i.e. Meets/Hangouts/Zoom/Whatsapp. Of late we have all read zillions of articles,or experienced it ourselves, how difficult it is to work from home.

It was like an extended Hackathon. From founders to engineers, everyone who had to work on the project got together in a war room and brainstormed for 2–3 hours on what our plain vanilla product would be. We had arrived at an exhaustive list of product specifications for all the individual products that were going to build and got to work at midnight.

We had split ourselves into various teams with digital war rooms where all the discussion took place. We had war rooms for all possible purposes: Leadership, Product, Dashboard, Android App, Checker App, Backend. Most of us had already bookmarked Google Meet War Room links and some of us even knew the URLs by heart at the end of the exercise.

Product Specifications:


After deliberating in war rooms for 2–3 hours, we arrived at the following product specifications

  1. Build a web application for the companies to register and login to request for a Pass
  2. Create Super Admin/Admin roles on the same web application to approve/deny organisation requests
  3. Build an app for individual pass requests where one can view/print a pass
  4. Build an app for authorities to validate the passes

Products

This was the final output of our efforts. We named the product as KSP CLEAR Pass using a set of acronyms
KSPKarnataka State Police
CLEARCOVID, Law Enforcement Assistance to Residents

KSP CLEAR Pass Web Application


This web applications we had built served three purposes:

  1. Enable organisations to register and request passes for their employees
  2. Enable Police authorities to approve/deny organisation request(s)
  3. View reports of all the organization requests that were approved/rejected jurisdiction/city wise

Product Blog: https://mygate.com/blog/ksp-clearpass-companies/

KSP CLEAR Pass for Individuals


We built an Android application

KSP Checker App


We needed to control the misuse of the passes and hence we built an app which can scan the QR code embedded in the ePass to verify authenticity. And we made the app completely offline.

Additional Products we built for Karnataka State Police

Inter State Pass: As soon as there was Lockdown 2.0, we quickly leveraged existing systems to build Inter State Pass for individuals who had to travel out of state due to Emergency purposes

Inter District Pass: We used the existing framework to facilitate inter district movement of people

Result


We finally shipped the product in 96 hours!! Some of us had slogged and only slept for couple of hours in a day. This was a tremendous experience for us as an organization to ship a comprehensive product which pushed all our capabilities to the limit.

Our product received enormous response from organisations and citizens of Bengaluru. This has allowed resumption of all essential e-commerce services within Bengaluru much quickly. We are glad that we could help the government authorities during such tough times and restore the city’s economy much faster that the rest of the country.

Links to some of the news articles that covered us for the ePass effort

https://www.ft.com/content/1b48b439-6a10-42d8-ad7e-c1272e2a2b21

https://www.livemint.com/news/india/covid-19-lockdown-how-bengaluru-restored-essential-services-faster-than-others-11585656817304.html

Read this story on Medium.

Feature In Focus: Local Services

Got a leaky faucet and don’t know a good plumber? Looking for a carpenter for some urgent woodwork? If your community is on MyGate then there’s no reason to worry about.

The Local Services feature on the MyGate app helps you find the right service provider nearby such as maid, cook, plumber, carpenter, driver, milkman and more, without any hassle. You can also get a separate list of who among them are inside the community at any given time using the ‘Inside’ filter.

Here’s how the feature helps you:

  • View a list of the best local services in your area
  • Check individual reviews and ratings 
  • Choose to call them directly via the app
  • Apply the ‘Inside’ filter to know who among them are inside the premises

How it works:


1. Open the MyGate app
2. Go to the Community tab
3. Click on the Local Services card
4. Pick the type of service you are looking for
5. Service providers who work in your community are listed
6. To view who is inside the community, check the ‘INSIDE’ filter on the top right corner
7. Click on the cards to view individual contact details, ratings & reviews
8. You can also view if they work in other houses in your community and their available time slots

With MyGate, you never have to hustle to find the assistance you need. Not only that, it also helps you make informed decisions. 

Check out the feature today and share your feedback at [email protected]

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Feature In Focus: Request Visit Code

MyGate is now in thousands of societies and millions of homes across India. So there’s a strong chance that your friend or family member is also a MyGate user. We endeavour to improve the lives of MyGate users, the new feature ‘Request Visit Code’ is a step in that direction. If a MyGate user wants to visit his/her friends or family in another MyGate society, all he/she needs to do is request a ‘Visit Code’.

Benefits of Request Visit Code

  • It saves you the hassle of sharing your details at gate to enter the society;
  • Minimises interaction with society staff;
  • The process is initiated beforehand, so you’re ready before you even get there.

Here’s what you have to do:

1. On the Home Screen, click on the Quick Actions icon (+)

2. You can now see an icon that says ‘Request Visit Code’

3. On clicking this icon

a. You will be able see Request Visit Code Button 

b. On clicking that, you will be able to open your contact list 

4. If the contact you want to visit lives in a MyGate society, you can request the visit code

5. The contact will be informed that you are expected to visit, they can either pre-approve your entry or decline the entry if they are not at home

6. Once the contact approves entry, you will receive a code that will be valid for the entire day

7. You must share the code with the security guard at the time of entry, and you can enter the society hassle-free

This new feature is exclusive to MyGate communities. If your friends and family members are not using MyGate, share the benefits of enrolling their society in MyGate and the handy features they can avail of when using the app.  

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Feature in Focus: Security Alert

In case of an emergency in your house or community, you tend to panic when no one is around.

But don’t worry, if you’re a MyGate resident, help is just a click away.

With the Security Alert button on your MyGate app, you can immediately alert your family & friends, including the ones who are not MyGate users, and the main gate security. You will be notified if someone is coming for help.

Here are the two ways you can raise a security alert:

Option 1
a. Click on Security Alert on the MyGate home screen
b. Select the issue and click on raise alarm

Option 1

Option 2
a. Click on the Quick Actions button
b. Click on Security Alert under Notify Gate
c. Select the issue and click on raise alarm

Option 2

Here’s how you can configure the alert for family and friends:

a. Click on Security Alert on the MyGate home screen
b. Click on the Add button to Add family/friends
c. You can select upto three contacts
d. A confirmation SMS will be sent to the selected contacts for their consent to receive the IVR call in case of an emergency
e. The contacts are saved in the security alert screen, you can deselect any contact if they do not want the alert

Get prompt assistance during emergencies with MyGate. Check out the feature today and share your feedback at [email protected]

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Data Visualization with Bokeh

Written by Aravind Suresh, Data Scientist at MyGate

1. Introduction

The difference between a successful data-driven project and a subpar one is the way it is visualized and presented. Often projects lose their credibility because of the complexity in its presentation.

The archetypal presence of visualisation in any data centric project is akin to presentations in the business world. Co-incidentally the two domains are now being tightly woven with demands of data-driven insights becoming commonplace. One such request fell onto my table which required effective usage of tools to build a moving illustration to substantiate and validate a customer service use case.

This post showcases my approach to solve the problem of constructing an interactive infographic to depict the trending volume of tweets for a given topic across 24 hours in selected cities.

Disclaimer: Data sets utilised here are generated only for simulation and may not reflect actual values.

2. The data processing


The first step for any data science project is to identify your data source and process information. You begin by gaining access to the target system which can either be a public API or over a protected landscape. There may be other considerations that include movement of data from one zone to another for consumption, but that’s a topic for data engineering.

The nature of data that is under consideration here can be categorised as audit or log-based information that taps into twitter activity of members. We initiate an extract, transform, load (ETL) pipeline to allow flow of data to my workspace. The expected structure of final data set would look like;

Now apply a series of data cleansing techniques such as alteration, aggregation, group by (over bucket of time) to arrive at a consumable format of information. For me, the final data set appears as;

These rows indicate time slices for given city identifiers with an aggregate total number of tweets observed in that duration.A note on geographical data: Often, location specific information may arrive with geo coordinates with varying degrees of accuracy. In such an event, we attempt to establish a mean around the coordinates of selected cities. This allows us to amalgamate records specific to a given geographic location to the nearest city as observed in Table 2B.

3. Methodology to visualise


After arriving at a consumable data structure, we must construct a strategy to visualise information. At this stage, each individual time slice carries all relevant data to indicate city of origin and total tweets accumulated.

We filter upon this table by time buckets for each frame defined as;

  • A maximum of 5 frames per second
  • Each frame is indicative of 1 time bucket
  • Each time bucket spans across a 15 minute window

Evidently, all of the frame definition rules are configurable to suit your illustration needs. We further apply the following routine for each individual frame.

In this context, I go with a simple layout of a geographical map of the target country, alongside a horizontal bar chart of selected cities, a details section to indicate total tweets, a slider control at the top to indicate time window and an action button with play/ pause options to traverse through the slider.

3.1 The libraries


As you may have gathered, there are extensive data processing needs and the much revered Pandas [1] library comes to our rescue. The easy to use data analysis, manipulation toolkit is as powerful and flexible as advertised. The outcome of this process is a master data frame which is consumed by a downstream program.

We append a filter method listener that acts upon the data frame to load desired information onto a column data source of Bokeh [2] library. This data object manages all bindings with target renderers. Once we have isolated the visualisation controls, in this case a combination of geo plot, bar chart and text; Bokeh allows us to just update the bound column data source to achieve moving illustrations.

Finally, a slider control acts as a handler to accept time window inputs and issue necessary callbacks to the filter method thus triggering changes in all visualisation controls.

The following workflow diagram depicts approach diagrammatically

Bokeh library is a natural addition to your visualisation portfolio that would include Matplotlib [3]. The final output is exported as a html page that can be rendered through any browser. You can further use a screen recorder to convert this into a distributable format such as .mov or .gif file.

4. Other scenarios


The narrated approach can be applied to visualise a variety of data use cases that has multiple dimensions of time series, geographical coordinates and activity count. Some suggested scenarios across domains are as follows;

The narrated approach can be applied to visualise a variety of data use cases that has multiple dimensions of time series, geographical coordinates and activity count. Some suggested scenarios across domains are as follows;

  • Manufacturing throughput at plants in selected cities across 24 hours.
  • Online payments activity for a given year in selected cities.
  • Patient treatment trends each decade for a category of ailment throughout the country.
  • Track global reported cases of pandemic influenza since initial occurrence [4]

References
1. Pandas – open source data analysis and manipulation tool
https://pandas.pydata.org/
2. Bokeh – Interactive visualisation library
https://bokeh.org/
3. Matplotlib: Visualization with Python
https://matplotlib.org/
4. Track Reported Cases of COVID-19
https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Bye-Laws, Rights & Responsibility of Pet Owners Living in Housing Societies

Animal lovers know too well the challenges of keeping a pet in a housing society. To ensure that community living is not hampered in any way, there are certain rules that both the housing society and the resident must follow. To start off, the Animal Welfare Board of India has passed certain laws to ensure our furry companions are not harassed or treated unfairly. Both pet owners and the management must be aware of these laws to keep the housing society functions smoothly. 

 Bylaws and rights of Pets and Pet Owning Residents in a RWA

  • Ban of pets is illegal: According to ‘Section 11(3) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960’, it is illegal for housing societies to pass laws that disallow pets, not even on a majority vote by the residents of the society. According to article 51 A (g), it is a duty of every citizen to have compassion for animals and any living creature.
  • No discrimination allowed: A housing society cannot ban pets on the basis of their breed or size. Even complaints regarding a dog’s barking habits cannot be used to ban the pet. 
  • Use of common facilities: A housing society cannot ban a pet from using common facilities like lifts and parks or impose a fine or special charge for the same.
  • Imposing the use of leashes/muzzles: A society cannot ask the pet owner to keep their pets on a leash or use muzzles on their dogs. 
  • Cruelty is punishable: Any cruelty towards strays is illegal under the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act’. It is also a punishable offence under Section 428 and 429 of the Indian penal code.
  • No ban on feeding: No resident can be barred from feeding stray animals in the locality. 
  • Protected animals: Certain animals like bears, monkeys and parakeets cannot be trained or used for entertainment under the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act’. Most rodents and reptiles are also prohibited under this act. 

Role of the management committee 


In view of these bye- laws for pets, the society must take care not to violate them. The society can however still create and enforce regulations to ensure the welfare of the pets and the residents. The suggestions can be implemented by society to maintain peace. 

  • Create time slots: Create time slots when the pets can access gardens, parks and grounds. 
  • Keep vaccination records: The management committee can ask for vaccination and sterilization records in case issues arise in the future. 
  • Designate defecation spots: Cordon of areas outside the community premises where the pet owners can take their pets. Furthermore, society can advise pet owners to clean up after their dogs inside society. 
  • Fine negligence: Management committees can impose fines on pet owners who neglect their pets or when found causing nuisance to other residents.
  • Always accompanied by owners: When out of the house and in the society premises, the apartment association should make sure the pet is accompanied by the owner. 
  • Designate feeding spots: If the residents wish to feed strays, earmark feeding spots that are not close to the residential space or children’s play areas. 
  • Organise and educate: Educate the residents on animals, especially strays. The management committee can also tie-up with Animal Welfare Organisations to take care of vaccination and sterilization needs of strays. The strays must be released back into the same locality once the vaccination is administered.

Role of the pet owner 


A responsible pet owner is crucial to peaceful community living. While it is important for the pet owner to be aware of the laws that keep them safe, they should also be aware of their responsibilities as a resident in a community. These suggestions should be kept in mind when using common facilities. 

  • Train your pet: Ensure you give your pet ample obedience training, so the dog does behave untowardly in common areas or gets provoked when amidst other residents. 
  • Familiarize your pet: The society is home to many unfamiliar faces. Make sure your pet knows the surroundings he/she resides in and does not harm a stranger or cause a nuisance.
  • Vaccinate on time: All vaccinations must be administered on a timely basis.  For cats, Anti- Rabies and Feligen/TriCat must be renewed every year. Dogs must be vaccinated with Anti-Rabies, DHLPPi and KC vaccines every year. Medications must be administered in case your pet is suffering from any illness. When your housing society organises vaccination or sterilisation drives for strays, participate and encourage other pet owners to actively take part in the proceedings.
  • Follow the rules of the society: Before renting or buying a place, make it a point to go through society bye-laws and advisories. Adhere to them to avoid hassling other residents. If your society has dedicated time slots for your pets to access parks and gardens, make sure you stick to them.
  • Clean up after: The main concern that most people have is about cleanliness, so make sure your pet is toilet trained. Make sure you clean up after your furry pal, if he/she has an accident inside the society premises, even if it is not required by law. It is also advisable to maintain the hygiene of your pet for their own well-being and so no one is inconvenienced. In case, you feed strays make sure there are no leftovers once the strays have had their fill.
  • Supervise your pet: Even if your pet is well-trained, it is necessary to supervise your pet when in common spaces. Keep your pets on a leash when you take them out for a walk or when they are playing around children to ensure safety. Ensure your pet is not aggressive or hostile towards strays or other animals in the vicinity. 
  • Be a responsible pet owner: Make sure your pets get ample exercise, so they are not excessively energetic. If your pet is alone for long hours, make sure she/he has ample food, water and toys. Make sure they do not create a nuisance in your absence. 

Our animal companions are an inseparable part of our lives. With a co-operative attitude and thoughtful policies on the part of pet owners, other residents and management committees, we can ensure the welfare of furry friends and the safety of the society.

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Why Should Your Apartment Society Be Registered?

If you’re living in a gated community or apartment complex, you’re well aware of the complexity of apartment management. Managing its day-to-day operations like amenities, security, common areas – they all need to be administered by someone or, preferably, a group of the owners. As there’s a lot of room for disagreement in how these matters are handled, the authorities have mandated that all housing societies be registered under ‘The Society Registration Act’, which stipulates legal policies to aid in the administration. A society should be registered within 3 months and is only excused from registration in serious situations. 

Advantages of society registration


Registered housing societies receive specific powers that permit them to address society issues in a formal/legal manner. Therefore, a registered housing society is well equipped to tackle the challenges by deciding on bye-laws  that will be binding on anyone residing in the community and how the association may deal with everyday issues. 

Here are some instances where the powers of a registered housing society can be beneficial:

  • Violation of rules: Only a registered association can take formal action against residents violating accepted rules of the society such as using the residential space for commercial purposes, disagreeing or delaying the payment of maintenance fee, perturbing neighbours etc., 
  • Addressing grievances: A registered association can address common grievances regarding maintenance, security, new requirements and more. The association can also initiate and promote cultural events, drives for charitable purposes and any other community activities for the welfare of the residents.
  • Ensuring resident security: A registered association is responsible for enforcing the law and hence can take measures to ensure the safety of the residents. For example limiting the entry of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. The society can also take a call on limiting the entry of unwanted visitors, salesmen and others. The association also ensures that the maintenance of commonly used facilities is carried out regularly. This association can also take action against staff in case of improper maintenance.
  • Settling disputes with builders: The association can also take legal measures against builders in case of disputes regarding the residential space or violation of building codes. It must be noted that The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) only looks into complaints filed by registered associations 
  • Maintaining records: A registered association is by law required to maintain proceeding reports and details of common facilities. The information regarding these facilities and the common ownership scheme is carried in the Deed of Declaration and can be accessed in the future for legal purposes. This ensures the smooth functioning of the society and offers complete transparency
  • Ease of taxation: Residents of a registered society will find it easy to file for property-related taxes, GST applicability and other taxes. Banking procedures are also easier to carry out when society is registered. A gated community must also be registered before implementing society management software or introducing resident welfare applications.

Process of getting the society registered


Now that we know why the apartment association has to be registered, how do we get it registered? To start off, the Apartment Owners Association needs a minimum of 7 members, who are unanimously elected by society. The association includes members (apartment owner), associate members (other than the owner but lawfully occupying), a general body (all members of the association) and a management committee (a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer and eight other members). 

Selected representatives are tasked with preparing a memorandum that details: 

  • Name of the Society 
  • Names of the residents and their occupations
  • Objectives of the Society
  • Bye-laws by which the society is governed. The bye-laws can be changed if the circumstance demands it.

The following documents are necessary for registration:

  • Name of the Society
  • Address of the Society
  • Proposal letter duly signed by the executive committee and addressed to the Registrar of Societies
  • Proceedings of the first general body meeting 
  • Memorandum of the Society 
  • Standard fee

Management office term and elections 


The members of the management committee are elected unanimously by the members of the community. The management of the association usually holds office for a year. Re-election happens annually but can be conducted mid-year if all members are consenting.

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The Librarian – A centralised server for easy build distribution

Written by Siddhartha Bokaria and Sunil Kumar, Software Engineers at MyGate

1. Introduction


The pain of creation, managing and distribution of application builds is a well known topic. As it occurs during any company’s journey, we have struggled finding the right rhythm of what we term as ‘build automation’. The core necessities remain relatively standard; the need for a developer to seamlessly distribute builds to validation engineers while operating within rigid virtual private cloud (VPC) zones.

In tightly knit independent application squads, we tend to take small steps toward harmonising an application (app) distribution strategy. Provided the product build and flavour pipelines are present, we start with the bare necessity of issuing a command that allows the package flow through proxy zones and get published for consumption.

We do not plan on reinventing the wheel but favour assembling the right solutions to manage our app distribution needs. As such, first in the list of agenda is to perform a basic survey of available options.

2. Literature survey


There are a host of projects dedicated to solve this problem. Some of the prominent ones are listed below with a brief overview of their capabilities.

Fastlane [1]
As their official phrase states, “app automation done right”. This includes a suite of pipeline centric features of extracting screenshots, beta distribution, app store deployment and code signing. Definitely what we should be setting up in the long term. However this will be an overwhelming solution for a basic app distribution need amongst squad members.

Firebase [2]
Previously part of Fabric’s Crashlytics, the upcoming Firebase app distribution which is now in beta shows the most promise and falls right within our ‘goldie lock zone’. It focuses on distributing development builds to a group of testers. It allows various approaches including console, CLI and gradle based scripts reducing friction to adopt. It promotes access to builds through a simplified portal and targeted emails. It provides a basic dashboard for central management and activity overview. It supports both iOS and Android builds. And, the entire approach falls under free tier at the moment. Adding GCP to our ecosystem is a task by itself and once allowed this is a frontrunner and a panacea to our problems.

AWS mobile hub [3]
A collection of products rather than a targeted solution. It is a feasible option and would require you to align application building activities from the beginning to account for the chosen framework. A relatively steep learning curve might be a determining factor. For an ongoing set of projects such as ours, this would require additional push for a consideration.

Apple testflight and Android test tracks [4]
This is a good platform for sharing early stage releases. It is predominantly used during beta testing. You would expect a certain level of stabilisation prior to using this facility. The portals often carry download volume quotas for your app listing. We need a simpler alternative to this.

3. Our approach


Everything said and done, we were yet to figure out the right approach that fit into our workflow. Our current goal is to reduce repetitive and time consuming activities of sharing builds with the validation team. Just when velocity of iterations were making the task of sharing builds harder, we came across a simple do it yourself (DIY) app distribution platform called Librarian [1]. This looked like a good place to start with a simple command based submission interface and light UX. Though getting this to a central location was tricky whilst navigating through layers of aforementioned VPC zones, it allowed us the flexibility of carving out our own build flow. That led to the following deliberate steps to set up our own distribution pipeline targeted at an AWS environment.

3.1 Key modules

  • A shell script to allow preparation of the environment. An Android engineer would ideally not want to be distracted with environmental setup required to support background operations. The script helps with installation of python package manager and AWS CLI. It also triggers configuration of AWS environments which means the developer should keep the access tokens ready.
  • Gradle file extension that exposes the task to the developer. A simple configuration at project level file helps identify remote resources. The app level changes allow you to link tasks to the gradle list. Now you can chain the ‘assemblePackage’ and ‘publishRelease’ tasks for seamless build distribution.
  • The final module is an example implementation of a bridge API. Librarian does not support remote submission of build currently and the accompanying NodeJS based API helps activate that feature.

3.2 Quick start (Android)


With all the prerequisites satisfied [5], set up your build environment by following these simple steps.

  1. Place the 2 files (s3Upload.gradle and publish_checkpoint.sh) in the app root where the build.gradle (for app) is present. Synchronise project and add files.
  2. Edit build.gradle (app level), put this line at EOF: apply from: ‘s3Upload.gradle’. Synchronise file.
  3. Edit build.gradle (project level), put following lines below allprojects: repositories section of the file:
    • project.ext.AWS_S3_BUCKET = ‘s3-bucket-name’
    • project.ext.BRIDGE_HOST_PATH = ‘http://localhost:3000/api/librarian’
    • Synchronise file.
  4. Refresh gradle command list.
    • The newly available commands are ready for use.
    • ./gradlew tasks –all
    • You should be able to locate the publish tasks under ‘other tasks’ group labelled as ‘app:publish-variant-ToS3’
    • ./gradlew <publish-task-name>
  5. For 1st time users the utility will setup the necessary packages (pip, aws cli installation, aws environment configuration).

3.3 Illustration


And, here is the workflow illustration to assist the speed readers.

4. Roadmap


This approach is working for us and has reduced the hassle of dealing with unorganised sharing channels. Through this post, we plan to share it with other teams and seek inputs. Some may be using alternatives easier to adopt approaches that might interest us. Others may embrace it and contribute to its development. In either case, the following items have been planned.

  • Extend approach to support iOS builds.
  • Extend support for other cloud storage options.
  • Investigate alignment to Firebase app distribution channel. The preparation script should now ideally target Firebase CLI and gradle script can be replaced by the public plugin.

Head over to our Github repository [5] and try it out yourself!

References

[1] App automation done right
https://fastlane.tools/
[2] Firebase App Distribution
https://firebase.google.com/products/app-distribution
[3] AWS Mobile Hub – Build, Test, and Monitor Mobile Applications
https://aws.amazon.com/products/mobile/
[4] Apple testflight and Android test tracks 
https://developer.apple.com/testflight/https://developer.android.com/distribute/best-practices/launch/test-tracks
[5] MyGate app build distribution utility
https://github.com/mygate-tech/mg-build-automation
[6] Librarian
https://github.com/biocross/Librarian

Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) and their Maintenance in Apartment Complexes

You hardly give a second thought to your local riverbank strewn with brown matter or freshwater lake that smells like rotten eggs, because you’d think that the government will make sure the water supply is clean before it reaches our home. Then the same water flows through your kitchen tap and you seem to believe that it looks clean…but is it really? When the Bureau of Indian Standards did a water quality check on India’s 13 big cities, all (except Mumbai) failed the test of water quality. 

‘So what? We don’t drink tap water, we install water purifiers and buy mineral water anyway,’ you’d rationalize, without addressing the real problem at source again. 

If our rivers and lakes were never polluted to begin with, and if each one of us cleaned our own mess instead of dumping it on the planet and its precious water source, we’d have uninterrupted, clean water, fit for human consumption, straight out of the tap, much like the world’s most developed countries. 

Water management and treatment in metropolitan cities is a dystopian nightmare.The biggest reason for water pollution in India is untreated sewage, an astounding 70-80% of total sewage of a country of 135 billion people. 

According to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board, “In a number of cities, the existing treatment capacity remains underutilized while a lot of sewage is discharged without treatment in the same city…” As per the government inventory, there are less than a thousand sewage treatment plants in India.

Long story short, we need to consider private wastewater treatment options, like a Sewage Treatment Plant or STP.

What is a sewage treatment plant?

Sewage treatment plants process and treat wastewater/sewage, breaking it down into a cleaner ‘effluent’ that can be returned back to nature in a safer, eco-friendly form. They help restore groundwater balance, curb diseases and stop degradation and pollution of the environment. 

In housing societies, the treated water can be used for non potable purposes such as gardening, washing cars, construction, irrigation and toilet flushing.

Cleaner water would minimize fatalities due to water borne diseases, there’d be less negative environmental impact from water pollution and from a much narrower point of view, no house would have to pay for water tankers, because there’d be abundance of groundwater on macro scales and reusable water at community levels.

How does a sewage treatment plant work?

They work in four phases – preliminary, primary, secondary and tertiary treatment.

Preliminary treatment

  • Removes the biggies like plastic bottles, tree branches, rags, wrappers, solid, coarse objects and materials. 

Primary treatment

  • Occurs inside a sedimentation tank which settles to the bottom all the organic and inorganic solids while the grease, oil and lighter solids are moved to the surface using skimmers. This phase is expected to remove at least 60% of solids (mechanically scraped off and directed to sludge treatment) while the remaining water moves to the next stage.

Secondary treatment

  • Entails secondary clarifiers separating biological floc from the liquid with the use of aerobic biological processes (through managed indigenous microorganisms that consume biodegradable soluble contaminants). This stage is focused on intensive cleaning of water (up to 90%) after flotsam and solids are cleared in primary treatment.

Tertiary treatment

  • Is advanced treatment that reduces pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus and other inorganic compounds by disinfecting the water chemically, through ultraviolet light, or micro filtration, before releasing for reuse. Sludge is treated in digesting tanks with anaerobic bacteria and later used as fertilizer.

STP norms and guidelines by the government

In metro cities like Mumbai, housing projects with more than 20,000 sq metres are given clearance upon the condition that they treat solid waste in-house, making it mandatory for them to have functional and compliant private STPs. However, the installation at design level is the responsibility of the builder who is also required to maintain it for five years after occupancy by residents.

Sewage treatment norms have eased, renewed and scrapped since 2015 until they were made stricter in 2019 eventually. Here’s an easy to understand lowdown.

In 2015, the Central Pollution Control Board had placed strict rules regarding effluent discharge which regulated the amount of pollutants that can be allowed for discharging back into water bodies. In 2017, the norms were relaxed, allowing higher levels of pollutants. Meanwhile a study by IIT Kanpur, IIT Roorkee, NEERI and CPCB yielded that diluted rules worsened the water quality of rivers. In 2019, the NGT (National Green Tribunal) scrapped the eased norms, reintroducing stringent rules with respect to treated effluent. Now new and old STPs across mega and metro cities will have to follow the revised standards mentioned below.

  • BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) level – 10mg/L
  • pH value – 5.5-9.0
  • Total Suspended Solids – 10mg/L
  • Nitrogen – 10mg/L 
  • COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) – 50
  • Fecal Coliform – 230 per 100 millilitres

Maintenance of STP

Low-budget STPs need frequent emptying and monitoring but even a good one would have to be desludged and serviced at least once a year. After desludging, it should be immediately refilled by water to balance the internal and external pressure. 

Under no circumstances should rainwater enter the STP.  It could flush out bacteria and cause flooding. 

Emptying of primary tanks and soakaways must be done regularly by the society, not the manufacturer’s service staff.

Below components should be checked during maintenance visits:

  • Unobstructed, strong and efficient blower and ventilation
  • Mechanical components replacement if needed
  • Inspection for air filters and pipes inspection
  • Diffuser inspection for bubbles
  • Biomass color and smell check
  • Final effluent quality
  • Damage repair in all chambers
  • Lid seal integrity
  • Replacement of diaphragms and valve boxes

Refer to the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines booklet for a detailed understanding of every protocol.

STPs require a CFO ( Consent For Operation) from the state pollution boards which have to be renewed every five years. Consent is granted after submitting paperwork, consent fees and a thorough inspection from regional officers of the Board.

The flipside of conventional STPs and eco-friendly options

An aerobic STP generally in vogue has moving parts and needs manual operation, i.e. higher maintenance and opex. It utilizes a lot of electricity for functioning (since aerobic bacterial colonies require constant air) and a trained professional has to be hired for operating it daily. Depending on the KLD (kilo litres per day) capacity, one unit can cost from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 20 lakh and above. Monthly expenses would thus be somewhere over Rs 60,000 for a mid-sized society (or approx. Rs 20 lakh per annum including labour and electricity for a 200 KLD unit). 

Regular STPs are currently being used due to widespread established acceptance, yet as you may have surmised, they are not exactly ‘install and forget’; they’re energy-intensive and demand care. Societies are realizing the need for eco friendly, self-sustainable STPs that do not raise their electricity bill, don’t need monitoring,  add beauty to the aesthetic ambience of the premises, while providing chemical free effluent that is completely harmless to humans and nature. Enter Bio STPs, otherwise known as Green STPs. 

They use Anaerobic Microbial Inoculum (AMI) in which bacteria disintegrate organic waste, converting it into biogas through components like bio-digesters placed underground and reed beds above ground (constructed wetlands which allow bacteria and microorganisms to clean waste water). It produces biogas for cooking as well as safe non potable water for reuse without any chemicals.

It uses no electricity, is low maintenance and pays for itself in 10 years. It is surprisingly low cost and easy to install too. A unit starts from around Rs 6 lakh onwards.

There is also availability of eco friendly STPs that function on biomimicry of cow’s stomach (ruminant digestion). Another highly eco-friendly technology available in India is Soil Bio Technology based STP (CAMUS/SBT developed by IIT Bombay) that uses trickling filter concept, where purification is done through respiration of organisms, plant photosynthesis and mineral weathering.

STPs are your best bet for a sustainable future, not to mention mandatory for larger complexes. Sooner rather than later, it’s prudent to make them a way of life. Let water come full circle and not flow to countless drains and dead-ends.

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