Back at Disrupt SF this September a hardware hack called Shower With Friends won our hackathon. Its makers’ mission: to gamify water conservation by letting people compare how much water they had used during their shower with their friends.
Well, here’s another smart shower in the making: Eva is a device that attaches to your shower, between the water inlet pipe and shower head, and includes a proximity sensor, temperature sensor and a water flow valve so it can intelligently throttle back the water flow when the ideal water temperature is reached, or when the occupant has stepped away from the shower head. The basic idea being to conserve water by cutting the flow when it’s not really needed, such as while you wait for your shower to heat up, or step away to lather your tresses.
Now it’s worth stressing that this project is in the very early stages. Even for a crowdfunding project, which indeed it is. The U.S.-based team behind Eva has only been working on it for “about five months”, and the only photographs of their ‘working prototype’ which they were able to send me were the two pictures below of some plastic casing sliced in half. Judging by these prototypes they are probably stretching the definition of “working” at this point.[gallery ids="1096950,1096951"]
Currently the team is taking pre-orders by pitching for crowdfunding on the Indigogo website — and there all the imagery on show is slick-looking renders. Never a good look for a crowdfunding campaign that’s trying to sell you a product that doesn’t actually exist yet.
At the time of writing Eva has nearly raised the team’s targeted $50,000, with another 15 days left on the campaign. However it’s a flexible funding campaign, so whatever they raise they get to take home — which also means this is the sort of crowdfunding project that demands a higher degree of scepticism, given they get any money raised regardless of whether a critical mass of people view it as credible enough to back.
It’s true they are giving themselves a pretty long lead time to turn their plastic prototype into a working chunk of waterproof electronics — saying they “expect Evas to ship by next fall”. But as with all crowdfunding projects, there are zero guarantees they will stick to that guesstimated deadline. Or even ever ship a working product. Doing your own due diligence by asking questions and thinking critically before pledging any money is always advisable.
Caveats out of the way, the concept for Eva is at least somewhat interesting. The idea of making an appliance function more smartly, based on human occupancy of the space where it’s installed, is something we’ve seen widely applied to lighting — with motion sensing lights that switch off when no one is around, for example. Applying a similar principle to showers isn’t the worst idea in the world, albeit there are likely to be rather substantial waterproofing challenges for any electronics permanently housed in the wettest place in your house.
Eva will apparently be battery powered. And is being designed as a single mold of plastic with only one door, to minimize cracks and connection points where water might ingress. Its internal electronics will then be contained within a second “double dry area” for additional protection. And the team says it’s considering adding a water resistance treatment to the electronics. How well all these efforts stand up to high humidity and lashings of water regularly lashing down on the device is one very big question mark.
The device also faces some retro fitting issues, given it’s likely to be attached to existing showers. Getting it to sit flush with walls and play nice with your current pipes without causing all sorts of leaks is another obvious challenge. Potential pledgers can email photos of their current shower to the team — via firstname.lastname@example.org — to double check if it is compatible with Eva.
The ideal trajectory for this sort of smart appliance concept is to build it in to showers at the point of installation. We’re not there yet though, and so we have Eva promising to retro fit a few smarts to the pipes you have in the meanwhile. These are the transitionary foothills of the Internet of Things.
Other features the team says it’s going to build into Eva is a timer function so the shower can notify you via its companion app — using Bluetooth as the connectivity link — when your shower has extended over your custom time. And tracking of your showering habits to keep tabs on your overall water consumption. The app will also allow the user to customize water temperature or flow percentage at certain proximities to fit their preferences.
How much will Eva cost? It’s currently priced at $99 to Indiegogo backers, albeit you’d also need to factor in paying a plumber to fit it unless you’re confident in your own DIY skills.