Saving the World with Smart Design

The atomic clock just shifted closer to midnight than it’s been since the 1950’s. According to the atomic scientists, the end of the world is nigh. That hasn’t stopped developers from innovating on the IoT to try and save the planet they live on.

In the past we’ve spent considerable time discussing a variety of smart devices on our blog. We’ve covered everything from connected trash cans, to smart inhalers, and even our own SaaS based temperature monitoring devices. A new device is looking to make headway on the market that can fundamentally shift a major global issue, while providing some benefit back to the user. It’s a shower head that’s connected to more than the pipes in your house.

The new device is being marketed as an opportunity to preheat a shower from bed. When I’d first read that, it seemed like an incredible waste of water and made me think the exact opposite of everything I’ve talked about above. Then I looked more into what made the unit so smart.

Not only does this showerhead power off once the water has reached a desired temperature, but it can be programmed to limit how long a person can waste time in the shower. A device that sounded terribly wasteful at first glance actually has incredible potential. What it could do to help limit a country of over indulgers is difficult to quantify. That doesn’t mean we won’t try. Even if we are about more than data, it’s still our thing, after all.


According to research, the average shower uses 2.1 gallons of water per minute. With an average American shower time of 8.2 minutes, that’s more than 17 gallons per shower, per person, per day!

If a 2009 study conducted by AOL Health is accurate then nearly two in three Americans shower daily. Based on those numbers we’re able to estimate that we use more than 3.6 billion gallons of water each day because of our hygiene habits. Comparatively that means that a Lake Tahoe worth of water is used to keep Americans clean approximately every ten days. That’s a lot to swallow.

If everyone in the country was able to limit their showers to five minutes each day, we’d save nearly 17 Lake Tahoes every year. That’s 1.41 billion gallons of water per day or enough to provide drinking water to more than 2.8 billion people on a daily basis. In another sense, that’s enough to quench the thirst of everyone in the western hemisphere in a single day--twice.

The fact that one billion people on earth go thirsty every day doesn’t seem quite so daunting now, does it?

To bring the problem back home, parts of California have experienced drought conditions for years. In fact, they’ve been under a state of emergency for three years now and it’s impacted the lives of 24 million people. The impact can be far reaching and includes things like ground sinkage, seawater intrusion, and wildfires. From an individual’s perspective, the hardest hit county has been Tulare county where nearly 5,500 citizens have been forced to live without water. If America’s shower habits could be tweaked to provide water for billions, imagine what a little concentrated effort could do for these Americans living without the most necessary of resources.

Unfortunately, providing water to the world isn’t as easy as taking shorter showers. There are a lot of other factors involved including things like location and, in many cases, the temperature and humidity of a region. We’ve talked in the past about how moisture farming could provide relief to drought stricken parts of the world. New technology and a better understanding of science has even led to innovations for growing food in extreme environments.

Knowing where we’re at and how we compare to other parts of the world is a major part in the process toward finding a solution. Recognizing a problem is often the part that most often hinders progress. Now, a problem has been identified. It’s up to us to architect a future that solves it. That’s the genius that smart design can give to the world.