An early stage startup in Texas wants to change how people monitor their water use – and become the Nest of water meter sensors. The startup, called Driblet, offers a seemingly simple device, also called Driblet, that attaches to a shower faucet or an outside hose bib and measures consumption. What makes it unique is its ability to send usage data via Wi-Fi to a cloud service, where the user can monitor water consumption from a computer or Internet-connected mobile device.
The basic concept – to isolate water usage at a faucet level – is not new. Several vendors (e.g., GPI, DLJ Meter, Hydrologic) offer water flow measuring devices for consumers, but the Driblet’s Internet-connected functionality sets it apart. The device is the brainchild of Rodolfo Ruiz, an electrical engineer who first created a smart water meter 15 years ago in Monterey, Mexico. His original device was designed for one of Mexico’s largest water meter distributors, but it never came to market because of federal regulations and a lengthy legal process.
Turn Off the Shower
But Ruiz did not give up. The father of two children, he noticed his daughter taking long showers that would lead to arguments. He wanted some way to let her know her water consumption was out of line compared with the rest of the household. Today, with the help of his improved device, the fights over water use in his home have subsided. Later, Ruiz entered Driblet in a hackathon event in Mexico and won a prize that got his company off the ground. Now Driblet is part of Dragon Innovation, a crowd-funding incubator for hardware startups.
The target market is residential homeowners, but Ruiz thinks landlords, non-government organizations working in remote locations, and governments will also be interested. The device costs $49 for early adopters. Ruiz says the potential savings on water consumption can be as high as 30%, though the company needs to push Driblet into more homes to obtain a true gauge on how much people can save on average.
There’s no telling if Driblet will make it to widespread production and distribution like the Nest device. It faces a big marketing challenge, but Ruiz has come up with a solution that others might find worthwhile. The company is not aiming to displace utility-grade water meters, of course, but this device could provide the water-use granularity that many people would like and could afford. Stakeholders in the water industry should take note, at least, given that simple ideas sometimes have a way of making an impact.