Dr. Kat Austen

Getting started on Droplet - An Open Hardware Water Flow Metre

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  • water, bluetooth low energy, open hardware, open design

Water is one of the world’s most stressed resources. Usage has shot up by more than double the rate of population increase, meaning we are guzzling more water per head than ever before.

The impending crisis - which has already created a “water war” in southern states of the US and been immortalised in award winning musical theatre production Urine Town - has prompted varied reactions, from cries over the privatisation of this most vital resource in reaction to the Water Sustainability Act in North America, to grass roots and stakeholder initiatives to improve water infrastructures, such as Clean Water Action and the UN’s Water Action Hub.

Rubbery bike lights fixation could work for us. Rubbery bike lights fixation could work for us.

We have been researching water usage and the potential of environmental sensing for both home and remote use and have decided to develop an open hardware sensor that will allow users to measure how much water they are using, and have the option of taking part in a citizen science experiment on water usage. We are calling it Droplet.

Open Hardware & Open Design

Over the course of Droplet’s development we are going to be asking for feedback from the community to make sure we’re designing the best piece of kit that we can. For now, our design principles are that: - Droplet is a flow metre - Droplet will be non-invasive: it will detect vibrations to measure water flow at the user end of a water system - Droplet will open hardware, its software open source and also follow open design principles - Droplet will look like a droplet - Droplet will provide options of different types of feedback to the user

To the latter end, we’re designing different interface components to give different types of feedback, be that visual, audio, complex or simple. We’re also making sure that everyone can design interface components by making it easy to interact with the sensor component. Droplet will for example have the ability to store the measurement data locally or in online databases, but to prioritise users’ rights to privacy, they will be in control of the sharing and will opt-in rather than opt-out.

Citizen science and quantified home

The citizen science element comes in if you do share your data. Shared data will allow us as a community to look at how different variables - such as length of monitoring, and type of feedback (live, latent, visual, audio, etc) - changes our water usage over time. Any data made available publically will be anonymised - and we’d like your feedback on that too as we progress with the design. And hopefully together we can find ways to enjoy water without having to feel guilty about what we’re using.

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			<h4>Playing with bike lights.</h4>
			<p>Our first meeting saw us playing with bike lights and open source Geiger counters, and talking about 3D prints and form factors. Sam is getting busy with the first steps to prototyping, while Kat is working on 3D designs for the form factor.</p>
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We’ve now eagerly awaiting our first electronics shipment of bluetooth low energy components, LilyPads and a couple of arduino leonardo boards in advance of our next meeting at c-base.