Designing for water stewardship: A holistic approach to IoT with the Open Droplet water flow metre

Water is vital for life, and is under increasing stress. Addressing increasing water stress, especially in the face of climate change is going to take informed action from all levels - from governments to water infrastructure providers to individual users.

Water usage on a country, district and city-wide scale is monitored, and use for individual homes and businesses is known, but the granularity of looking at water usage needs to improve. Water providers often see buildings as black boxes that water comes into and goes out of, but how it is used inside isn’t readily studied - nor are there many tools to do so. We’re developing a networked open hardware acoustic-based water use sensor, Open Droplet, that can be used to understand water use in different settings to try to understand how water is used in a building, and to provide immediate and contextualised feedback to the user about their water consumption.

With IoT devices, there is often an implicit suggestion that the onus is on the individual to effect change. While it’s important for individuals to take action - in this case on water usage - we need to be aware of how individual use fits into the broader system of water provision. This can vary widely from place to place, and has a significant impact on how the data should be interpreted and what action needs to be taken

The foundation of contextualising water usage are similar to those underpinning the session on the future of disaster response . Indeed, the long term aim of working on Open Droplet is to allow for community sensing that will be useful in times of crisis as well as being fundamental to resilience. 

Through the session I’d love to explore with the group the different concepts that need to be considered in providing a holistic view of the water use system, including considering collecting data from all important water consumers, and investigating how aspects of an environment - for instance the prevalence of non-permeable surfaces, or the size of storm drains - affect the overall water availability in an area, and how this is best communicated through a digital platform.

The focus of the session is to look at expanding the IoT paradigm, exploring how  we can facilitate water stewardship with a two-way data flow between  individual water users and water providers, and helping to facilitate  new types of community water stewardship with this digital information. The session probably most readily fits into the Physical Assets stream, as it ultimately is about water, but the route to understanding and action is through Digital Assets. Initially I’m thinking the session will look at the following questions - but I’d love to have this evolve:

  • Expanding IoT - What data do we need to have from city and infrastructure providers to give useful context to individual water use?
  • How do we responsibly approach the individual's rights to their data?
  • How do requirements for water stewardship vary around the globe? How do we accommodate these differences?

There’s a lot of research written up and linked to from here and my research hackpads are Aspects of Water and Research articles .

  • How do we facilitate community water stewardship through interface and sensor design?

Date: 2014-10-25 10:30:00 - 2014-10-25 10:30:00, Europe/Berlin Time.


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Sounds more than exciting

Hi @iamkat, a warm welcome to both you and @jun who I see also joined Edgeryders (recognized you from the iilab website…:). Will you both come to Matera?

Awesome work, having looked at this recent release on your website… Sharing it here with your permission, since for a non-tech person like myself this was a very self explanatory use of OpenDroplet. Any chance you could bring along a prototype?

I also see we have a common friend in @SamMuirhead :slight_smile:

Some other Edgeryders here might connect you with the Boston Water Brigade, although chances are you know about it already?


Hi Noemi!

At the moment it’s unsure as to whether @jun will be joining us as he’s away working in DRC on another project and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to contribute sufficiently. It would be great if he could make it though.

I’m away working on a water sculpture project in the UK just now, but will look into whether there’s a working prototype that I can bring along once I’m back at Open Droplet Central! It’d be great to have it there to augment the discussions around contextualisation of information from this kind of IoT device. It’s great to have the opportunity to bring this discussion to LOTE4 - it seems a crucial issue to ensure that connected devices are used in the best way to effect significant change and, in terms of environmental sensors particularly, that they more than compensate for the socio-environmental impact of their production.

Yes, @SamMuirhead was amazing in helping us make another of the Open Droplet videos :smiley: big big brilliance!

I’ve heard about the Boston Water Brigade but not been in touch with them - a connection would be marvellous. :slight_smile:


@Nadia did you get to meet these guys in person when you were in Boston? Anyone we can connect Kat with?