We’re increasingly trusting of technology to keep us safe; from products like the Allergy Amulet protecting us from peanuts, to the Beakor protecting us from bike accidents. Now the Ecomo Water Bottle, which has raised over $275K on Kickstarter on a $50,000 goal (with more than 3 weeks still to go), promises to do more than hold water—it’s going to test it, provide a digital readout of its quality (and a physical indication right on the bottle), and then provide the technology to filter it.
Shake and Twist
To test the water, users fill the bottle and then shake it. The filtration system examines the liquid and then bottle provides a simple summary of the quality: “Bad”, “Moderate” or “Great.”
To activate the filter, users only need to twist the bottom of the water bottle. The 3-in-1 filtering system is capable of removing most major contaminants, including chlorine, pharmaceuticals, most heavy metals, bacteria, and cysts. Unless you’re a hardcore hiker exploring the remains of Chernobyl, this should be sufficient for almost every type of water.
With so many startups focusing on the smart water bottle space, I was curious to know if Ecomo is really the only one providing this kind of functionality. “Yes,” was the simple answer from a company representative. “The most important part of the sensor that tests for the TOC (total organic carbon) level was built by our CEO Eric Li.” Li, a Ph.D. graduate of Carnegie Mellon, spent more than 15 years getting his hands dirty in the fields of Environmental Science and Engineering. The results of his work have not gone unnoticed. “His experience working on his Ph.D. led him to work on building the smallest Microfluidics Microbial Fuel Cell (μMFC) in the world for bio-sensing,” explained the Ecomo rep, “which was featured at TED and won an award!”
The band at the bottom of the bottle can be removed and worn as a bracelet that connects via Bluetooth to both the bottle and an iOS/Android app. The app provides more detailed information about how much water a person has consumed, the state of the filter, and the quality of the water in the bottle. The bracelet, in conjunction with the app, can also provide hydration alerts to remind a user to drink more water.
Better Than A Brita?
My first question when seeing the Ecomo Water Bottle was: why not just buy a much cheaper Brita water pitcher and use it to fill a regular bottle (clearly I don’t do a lot of back country hiking)? Doesn’t it do basically the same thing?
“The Ecomo bottle contains a sensor that not only analyzes the quality of your water source but is also capable of testing for the quality after filtration,” I was told. “As you might already know, filters can be expired (overused filter). Water filtered by an expired filter could result in a worse quality, since an expired filter will not filter out contaminants and may add more contaminants to the filtered water.”
One of the key plays seems to be the informative nature of the interaction. “It’s always hard to track the filter replacement timing because the filter life is not solely based on the volume of water it filters but also the quality of water sources,” the Ecomo representative explained to me. “The Ecomo bottle sends automated notifications for filter replacement.”
Of course, there’s the more extensive filtration coverage. Existing water pitchers only contain activated carbon filters, which do not filter out bacteria or heavy metals. The Ecomo Bottle’s 3-in-1 filtration system contains activated carbon fiber, ion exchange fiber, and nanofiber membrane. It can reduce most major contaminants such as pesticides, petroleum products, bacteria, and most heavy metals with a twist of the base.
Is Big Data The Future of Water Too?
Clearly, Ecomo has an attractive concept and a technical pedigree to actually deliver an impactful product. But perhaps the most intriguing element of the Ecomo position is the possibility of a future in big data. The Ecomo representative told me:
Users can check real-time drinking water quality and report the data to our server. With the data reported by our users in the future, a real-time water quality map can be built that covers communities nationally and even worldwide…data received will not be displayed as points and associated with any user, rather data from many different resources will be aggregated, analyzed, and then displayed as pixels (blocks).
Our team wants to use the data obtained by the system to build a cloud-based water quality data network by permission. With the machine learning/big data techniques, we will best utilize the aggregate data and protect as many communities as possible with the power from Ecomo Bottles in ordinary households.
Whether Ecomo chooses to leverage their data for more diverse revenue streams, for the greater good, or fore more effective design and marketing of their water bottles remains to be seen. One thing is clear: at least 1,300 people are ready to just drink this product up. The plan is to quench their thirst in March of 2017.
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