Ancient Greek scientist Archimedes had his famous ‘Eureka!’ moment when he stepped into the bathtub. Israeli entrepreneur Asaf Shaltiel had his own ‘Eureka’ moment when he saw his sister bathing her twin babies and was astonished by how difficult it was to get the water temperature just right for them.
It was then that Shaltiel, the CEO of Israeli startup SmarTap, realized just how old-fashioned the shower is. “This is a zero-tech industry that hasn’t evolved for centuries,” he tells NoCamels. “Take a look at your shower. What you’re buying is actually a beautifully designed sculpture with a label.”
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Spurred by the vision of a new generation of showers, the former Intel engineer founded SmarTap in 2009. The eight-employee company has developed a Wi-Fi-equipped smart-shower system that integrates multiple features, which can be tailored to businesses and individual customers. One such feature is the users’ ability to set the maximum shower temperature, flow rate and even time period, thus allowing them to save water and electricity. Businesses with showers, such as hotels and gyms, can monitor and control water usage and temperature for an entire cluster of showers using a web interface.
Individual consumers can easily adjust these settings for their personal showers using a mobile app (a partnership with shower designer Tissino), which is currently available on Google Play and will be available on Apple’s App Store next month. Users can activate their showers remotely, which means that the bathtub can be filled with rejuvenating warm water while you drive home from work.
SmarTap is also integrated with Amazon Echo, the speaker equipped with Amazon’s voice-controlled robot Alexa.
In addition to monitoring water usage, the app allows users to program pre-set showers like “My Morning Shower” and “My Fun Shower” with varying temperatures, flow rates and time settings. Users can even receive notifications via the app about leaks in the pipes, which are detected by the SmarTap sensors.
The system is available in the UK (through Tissino) for 1,700 pounds, and in Israel for 5,500 shekels. In the coming months, SmarTap will be available for $1,500-$2,000 in the US. According to the company, these costs can be recuperated within two to three years, thanks to SmarTap’s water-saving technology.
The startup began its journey by installing its system in the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv. It then expanded into the smart-home industry by riding on the Internet of Things (IoT) wave. “To think that we can penetrate the market as a standalone device is a mistake,” Shaltiel says. “We have to be a part of the ecosystem.”
In line with this new strategy, SmarTap has integrated its system with Amazon Echo, the voice-controlled speaker equipped with Amazon’s artificially intelligent personal assistant Alexa. Alexa is already able to control smart lights and smart televisions – and now, it can control SmarTap, too.
The company has also applied machine-learning algorithms into the SmarTap system. “Our philosophy is that if you introduce smart devices, those devices need to learn,” Shaltiel says. “They cannot be dumb devices with Wi-Fi.”
For example, the system can now read the weather forecast in order to adjust the shower temperature accordingly. Its pattern-recognition technology also allows it to understand the user’s habits, which means that it can prepare a hot shower five minutes before the phone alarm rings.
It can even identify deviations from those habits, which could be useful in eldercare. “If you have a grandfather who lives alone, you would like to know that he is keeping his hygiene patterns regularly,” Shaltiel explains.
Turning a knob? Not anymore
By 2013, SmarTap raised $1.2 million; it recently received an undisclosed amount from Israeli clean-tech venture capital firm Terra Venture Partners. It also won the 2013 Eco Innovations Award and presented at the 2015 Microsoft Think Next Exhibition.
Over the years, competing water technologies, such as EvaDrop and the Hydrao Smart Shower, have emerged. But according to Shaltiel, these products don’t have the same breadth of capabilities as SmarTap, which he claims is the world’s first “connected shower.” Moreover, new capabilities can be embedded wirelessly into the SmarTap system through software updates, just like with smartphones.
“There is a good chance that our grandchildren will consume water in an entirely different way,” Shaltiel says. “One day, our grandchildren will ask us, ‘Did you really have to turn a knob to get water?’ And when that happens, we want to lead that market.”
Photos and video: SmarTap, Tissino, Medialo Consulting