20 Feb 2018
20 Feb 2018
The next stop in our ‘Making Waves’ series takes us to a company who are using smart technology to reduce consumer water usage.
The company’s name is Hydrao, and they are just one of seven businesses who are currently developing their product within our Innovation Lab. Their showerhead product controls water usage via an app, which they predict can save up to 25 per cent of home water usage.
Here’s what Vincent Bligny, CTO at Hydrao, told us about the company’s future plans in the water industry, and what innovation means to him…
Hi Vincent, could you tell us how you found out about the Innovation Lab and why you decided to pitch your idea?
We first heard about The Innovation Lab Programme through our network. I was really intrigued, so I then went to the website to read more about the programme.
One thing I noticed was that the objectives of the programme matched those of our own project, so it was easy to see how we could work together. Clearly, United Utilities have resources and expertise that we don’t have, so that was a huge incentive to join the programme.
We are looking to focus on strengthening the relationship with customers, providing them with better services, and helping customers who are facing vulnerable circumstances, which can all be made possible with United Utilities’ water delivery systems.
I believe United Utilities has a lot of value to give its customers in addition to water and, from working together, I am convinced we can develop great things.
In simple terms, could you please summarise what your product does?
Our company has manufactured a connected showerhead which measures water flow, gathers energy, and provides live feedback to smartphones. Colours are displayed on the showerhead to inform consumers how much water they are using.
Depending on what the threshold has been set at, certain colours will indicate when it is time to finish showering. On average, this has shown to save approximately 25 per cent of excess water.
Customers like our product because it’s nice to look at, it’s gentle, there are colours that provide intuitive feedback, and it’s not intrusive. Our app also expands the customer experience with analytics about current water usage.
Most importantly, the data belongs to the user. We have very restrictive terms and conditions, meaning we don’t intrude on the lives of our customers.
What is the ultimate benefit your idea will bring to water customers in the North West?
We have three basic benefits: saving water and electricity, keeping bills down, and controlling water usage. That last benefit is something our customers really feel empowered by.
For instance, my sister said to me that she needed to install Hydrao because it was the only way she could reduce the water usage of her teenage boy. Once it was installed, he reduced his old shower habits and became more conscious of his water usage.
Something our customers also reported was that, by using Hydrao, their understanding of water usage in the rest of the home was extended, i.e. the use of water in the kitchen. Above all else, our product makes customers ask: ‘what else can I do to save water at home?’ With the help of United Utilities, we will hopefully be able to monitor various water usage points in the home which, in the future, will answer this problem.
How are you hoping to develop your idea through the Innovation Lab?
The Innovation Lab will help us to develop each of our products. We will work with United Utilities on maximising the benefits of our showerheads for customers facing vulnerable circumstances, in particular – that’s a key target for us, and for United Utilities too.
We will work with their customer support team, their partners and community to further understand how we can maximise the benefits of our product. We will also work with them to design our upcoming product and adapt to the market. This should help us to create a very early prototype and get expert feedback from United Utilities.
How important do you think programmes like the Innovation Lab are for developing ideas?
I believe the Innovation Lab is a game-changer for small companies such as ours. With strong involvement from both parties, we could see a huge reduction in risk and cost of our product, and an improvement in execution, planning and overall efficiency.
Luckily for us, United Utilities shares our desire to transform the water industry through innovation, and, by working with them, we will be able to innovate our product on a much larger scale.
Overall, I am really looking forward to working with them and seeing how, by working with them, we can use innovation to positively impact peoples’ lives. Hopefully, in the next couple of years, United Utilities will be able to used Hydrao as an example of what is possible for other small businesses.
What does innovation mean to you in three words?
I would probably say “problem”, “vision”, and “shortcut”.
What I mean by that is, in order to have an idea, you need to have a problem to solve; if there is no problem, there is no driver for change. When there is no existing answer to the problem that is your chance to innovate.
The vision then becomes the reality of how to fix the problem with a product. This product which is developed, however, must be the most efficient solution to the problem - this is why I call it the ‘shortcut’.
If you fast forward two years from now, where do you see your product?
Two years on, I see greater customer interaction by working with United Utilities. We will have a different level of collaboration with customers, better execution and risks will be reduced.
With the collaboration, we will be able to bring our product to market with a good level of efficiency and quality, especially with our partnerships. I see high levels of success with this collaboration.