Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Driblet’s Smart Water Meter Wants To Track Your Home Water Usage

Access to clean water is something that most us probably take for granted — after all, it just comes out of taps and faucets and hoses and shower heads with little more than the twist of a spigot. Using all that water can cost a pretty penny (especially in certain foreign countries), but Monterrey, Mexico-based Driblet wants to make sure that people can easily track how much water they’re using in their homes with a device they’re showing off at our Hardware Battlefield here at CES. The Driblet is a smart water meter that connects to both your pipes and your Wi-Fi network. Meanwhile, a slew of sensors baked into the Driblet box itself constantly keeps tabs on the rate of water flow and all the foreign particulate bits floating around in that water, all of which gets phoned home to the Driblet backend. Speaking of the backend, the team has made some crucial progress on the software side of things — all of that water quality information can be accessed through a revamped mobile app that also allows users to get water usage goals and forge social connections to see who can be the most environmentally conscious. A bit of a peculiar approach, sure, but a little personal accountability couldn’t hurt. The TechCrunch historians among you may notice that the Driblet team aren’t strangers to our stage — they showed off a very, very rough prototype of their device at the Disrupt SF 2013 Hackathon to a pretty receptive audience. So what happened from there? Well, the team launched a crowdfunding campaign on Dragon Innovation because of its greater focus on hardware projects, but it couldn’t manage to raise the requested $98,000 to get the Driblet monitor manufactured en masse. That led to a trip back to the drawing board — the new chassis (seen above) is more attractive and more robust than the 3D-printed prototypes that came before it — and along with it came a pretty savvy shift in vision. The ability to monitor and dig into water consumption tickled some consumers’ fancies but the process of installation and occasional maintenance meant that the end user would have to be at least a little comfortable with getting their hands dirty. This time around though, Driblet is focusing on bigger fish — specifically businesses and buildings that have a vested interest in keeping their hefty water bills low. That’s not to say that they’re giving up on the consumer market though, as there’s room for both approaches to exist. We’ll soon see if this new direction gets Driblet where it needs to be, but the combination of some truly smart hardware and a more refined focus on potential customers means that there’s plenty to like here.

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