Photo via Flickr / CC
We use tons and tons of water inside our homes each day, but a new water-monitoring tool will help us put things in perspective.
Anthony Jakubiak, a recent graduate from Northwestern’s Segal Design Institute, is creating a product that could potentially change the way we think about water and hopefully encourage us to cut down on our domestic water usage.
Water conservation is a hot topic in the United States right now, with one-third of all continental U.S. counties (there are over 1,100) at risk of facing extreme water shortages by 2050, according to a report from the National Resources Defense Council.
“This austere outlook is what fueled my passion to make an impact in this area by tackling household water consumption for my thesis design project this past year,” said Jakubiak.
A water-monitoring and point-of-use display system, myWater gives real-time feedback about household water consumption with just a touch of the screen. The information myWater provides isn’t easily accessible on the traditional tool for measurement—monthly or quarterly water bills—Jakubiak said, arguing that the bill offers delayed feedback that doesn’t support behavioral change. And other water use measurement products such as WaterPebble only provide simplified feedback at a single point of interaction.
“Ultimately these concepts fail to provide what is really needed, which is feedback that gives a holistic and accurate picture of household water consumption in real-time,” Jakubiak said.
myWater functions on a low-power display that can be inserted into any outlet, ideally near points of water interaction like kitchen sinks or bathrooms. To access information, the product taps into RF signals transmitted by home Smart Meters, which contain details about current and hourly water use. For an ambitious project, the overall goal is simple: Give consumers a way to control their water use, or at least give it a little more thought than they already do.
“Convergence of cultural trends and technology has opened new frontiers for persuasive design to make a difference. There exists a powerful opportunity to create new user experiences that influence behavior change for the greater good,” said Jakubiak. “myWater is one step closer to achieving this.”
There are currently several prototypes for testing, but the project needs the seal of approval and some partners before it can officially launch—something Jakubiak expects to happen within the next two years. Rough calculations put the cost under $100--a small price for the last drop.