Water Canary on Mashable
New Device Uses GPS & Crowdsourcing to Identify World’s Water Problems
More than 3.5 million people die each year as the result of water-related disease according to the World Health Organization. Water Canary, a new device unveiled this week at TED Global in Edinburgh, Scotland, hopes to put a dent in this number by providing real-time information on potential outbreaks of disease- infected water.
The device lets anyone test water with the push of the button and then submits the results along with location data wirelessly. In turn, the company hopes it can identify problems much more quickly than chemical-based testing and prevent communities from drinking contaminated water.
Water Canary analyzes water samples by using light and measuring what wavelengths to draw conclusions. A red light flashes to alert the user to a potential water problem. However, the company’s founder, Sonaar Luthra, told Mashable that the goal isn’t to tell you instantly whether or not you can drink a given sample of water (though he doesn’t rule out that possibility in the future).
“It’s not ever going to replace a lab but maybe we don’t need that to make better decisions. We’re not trying to compete with water testing companies. What will hopefully happen is if you get enough red readings in an area you’ll take a more extensive kit there to do a more extensive reading of the area,” he said.
To get the scale needed for such a solution to work, Luthra wants to make the devices free, with the costs being subsidized by selling the full firehose of data. He also wants to open source the technology, allowing others to build their own versions of the Water Canary. “[We want to] let the open source community test and improve it … [that’s something] we’ve never done with a scientific instrument before,” he said.
That said, the company is looking to raise capital so that it can invest further in developing the device and bringing costs down, as each Water Canary is currently made by hand and costs between $100-200 to produce.