With the amount of water being used by the U.S. tripling over the past 50 years and at least 36 states facing water shortages, water conservation has become ever more important. In response to this need, two Case Western University engineering students and a Cleveland Institute of Art graduate have developed a device to help people develop less wasteful water habits and promote water conservation.
The device, called Sprãv (pronounced like brave), is designed to monitor the amount of water a person uses while showering and then alert them once a certain amount of water has been used. Once that limit has been reached it does not stop the flow of water, but instead notifies the user with an LED light on the top of the device that changes from green to yellow and finally to red.
The Sprãv is not an inline device and so doesn’t measure water usage through contact with water, but instead clips onto the pipe behind the showerhead and uses a microphone to measure the amount of water traveling through the pipe. The device is also equipped with a thermometer that measures the temperature of the pipe in order to determine the temperature of the water. The decision to go with a clip-on device rather than an inline one was done in order to make the device not only easy to use, but to reduce production cost and extend the life of the device.
The device has gone through several iterations since its conception. Initially, the team tried to display all the information on the device itself through an LCD display, but the resulting device had “questionable aesthetic appeal and took up a lot of space”. This flaw led to the decision to move towards a compact design with Bluetooth functionality and an integrated iPhone application.
“We wanted to give users that information all along, but we realized that in the shower might not be the best place for that amount of detail,” said Andrew Schad, COO of Sprav.
According to Schad, using an LCD screen in the device would have been expensive and would have added to the amount of energy needed to run the device. But by moving data off of the device itself and onto a mobile platform, the costs associated with the screen and the amount of energy it used falls onto the phone or tablet manufacturer. Reducing the amount of data presented by the Sprãv itself down to just an LED light also made the device more usable to people who normally wear glasses or contacts but remove them in the shower.
Sprãv is equipped with a Bluetooth transceiver that, at the push of a button, sends information on the users water usage to a mobile app, where they can see how much water and energy was consumed. There is no need to worry about not having your phone or tablet nearby for every shower as Sprãv has 128 kb of flash memory, allowing users to download the data at their convenience.
“It’s not like you have to check in your data every time you take a shower,” said CJ Valle, COO of Sprav. “It can store a week or mores worth of shower information on the device and then, when it is convenient, that data can be synced to your phone or tablet.”
“You can get push notifications on your phone and since people are checking their phones a ridiculous number of times per day, we’re literally putting the data in a very high visibility place to try and start that conversation about water conservation.” said Craig Lewis, CEO of Sprav.
Competition from similar devices was not a factor when the team first came up with Sprãv for an extra credit assignment. Once the team started moving towards marketing their product, they began investing more time and money in researching patents and potential competitors.
“There are some student projects that never made it to market, there are some simpler devices that don’t have all the functionality that we have,” said Valle. “But I don’t think there is anything out there that does what we do.”
The closest competition comes from a grass-roots startup called Driblet, whose device provides similar information about a users water consumption through a mobile app. Unlike the Sprãv, the Driblet powers itself through the motion of watering flowing through the device, where as Sprãv uses a common “coin” cell battery typically used in pedometers and other medical equipment.
Both devices are using crowdfunding resources to raise enough money to begin production. Sprãv has a kickstarter goal of $80,000 and at the time of this article’s publication has raised $17,416. Driblet has not yet started its crowdfunding campaign.
Filed Under: Green engineering