Eva: the World’s First Smart Shower

YOU GUYS! Someone made it! I wrote about it, and then they made it!! It’s like magic! The internet is magic!

Back in March I wrote about how someone should build a smart shower that would help me save water and time.  Lo and behold, my plea has been answered!  I just discovered Eva on Indiegogo!

It’s everything I could have ever wanted and so much more!  Temperature control, a timer, plus all kinds of things I’ll probably never figure out or use!  That’s not true, I’ll totally track my water usage per shower.  (Maybe I can hold competitions with the roomies to see who pays the water bill….)  Frankly I was just too excited to read past those two features, everything else was eyeball clutter after that.  Just watch the video and see what it does!  It’s magical!!

Everyone should own this technology, especially if you live in California.  You can support them on Indiegogo and be one of the first people to own one–just like me!  Please help fund them so I can play with my new toy!

Smart Greywater

It’s too ridiculous to think that California has gone this far in it’s history without enacting some of the most forward-thinking water conservation policies yet.  We’ve consistently set the bar for air quality standards and fuel efficiency in cars, (to give the most readily available examples.)  We take pride in the fact that as California goes, so goes the nation, especially when it comes to conservation.

However, the closest we’ve come is a road map that was in introduced back in 2008 as one of the last things Arnie did as gobernator.  Which delineates the steps the state can take “to achieve a 20 percent reduction in per capita water use statewide by 2020.”  It’s a good start, but no policy has come from it yet.  Incase anyone is keeping track, we’ve got less that six years to 2020.  I didn’t read all 76 pages of the plan but I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’re not nearly as far along as where we should be on paper.

Urban water use accounts for 10-15% of demand, and while it is not the biggest slice of the pie, it’s good to be as efficient as possible across the board.  Especially since 2013 saw California’s biggest population growth in nearly a decade, and 2014 feels like it’s continuing in the same vein.

Think about what we use the majority of our residential water for: bathing, cooking, cleaning and… watering your lawn.  Aside from your lawn or garden, used water gets sent to the sewer along with everything we flush down the toilet.  Which is a little extreme if you think about it, because the water you just took a shower in isn’t so dirty that you need to send it off to a plant to be treated with everything else, you just wouldn’t want to drink it.  But you could water your lawn or garden with it.  This is called a greywater system.

This idea is not new by any means.  Unfortunately the state has not encouraged residents to use greywater to conserve, and more often than not, local regulations around greywater are unclear, if not discouraging altogether.  Not to mention–contrary to what the media would have you believe–all Californians are not uber-liberal, tree-hugging hippies, and would not take or have the time, effort and resources to install their own system.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and I think it’s past time that California make it mandatory for all new houses built come equipped with a greywater system.  Every fixture should have an easy on/off switch that will direct water running down the drain to your greywater system or to the sewer.  That way if you need to clean your bathroom you can easily direct water to your sewer, and then turn it back to greywater again.

Now, lets pretend that California did push everyone to have a greywater system installed in their house.  Here we get to the real problem with widely implemented greywater.  How many of us know exactly when to turn it on and off?  Do you know what chemicals are in your body wash?  Or your laundry detergent?  Or your dish soap?  If you water your lawn and it dies the next day, you would probably be a little frustrated at your government for forcing you to install this system in your house.

This is where the “smart” part of “smart greywater” comes in.  If we want our plumbing to really reflect the type of technology we are capable of inventing–and are in fact inventing now–the smart system would be able to detect chemicals that are not okay to go into a grey water system and automatically switch off to run to the sewer!  How awesome would that be?  This will help folks who do not know or are unsure how to use greywater at first, to gradually work their way onto a new system.  They’ll be able to track when the greywater is turned on and know those products are okay, as to when it shuts off, which might be self explanatory if they’re using bleach to scrub off mildew.  Eventually, people we be educated on what they can and cannot use for maximum conservancy.  Not only will greywater give you a two-for-the-price-of-one water use deal, it has the added benefit of making people really think about the products they are using!

Of course “smart” greywater technology has not been invented yet so to speak, but that’s not to say it would be beyond creating.  Once invented, it would be easy enough to install on all new houses going forward.   Too bad plumbing isn’t sexy, so no one is interested in making their house more efficient.  (But my phone on the other hand can take my temperature, pulse, tell me how many calories I burned, and soon be able to tell if I’m pregnant or not…)

The downside to all of this is it would be a big deal to install on homes already created, requiring all sorts of new plumbing.  Which would make this idea one of the costliest, most time-consuming and frankly hardest over all to implement.  Which is a real shame, because I think it would be one measure people could take where they would see the biggest difference.

Another problem with this idea brought to light by the same aforementioned friend from my last post, who highlighted a project he worked on in the Pacific Northwest, where some areas have had trouble with clogging sewer systems when enough reusable water was diverted: there wasn’t enough liquid to keep the solids moving freely the way the system was designed.  Sooo… there’s that.  But then again the whole sewer system idea hasn’t really changed since it was invented over a hundred years ago.  It could probably do with a little revamping as well.

Smart Coffee Table

You’ve probably read at least one article about the smart tables that look like tablets on steroids, on stilts; which is an admirable first stab at everyware.  Most people seem to think that the natural evolution of furniture will be to have some sort of computer in it, in order to track you and provide better service for you.  However, I’m a firm believer that less is more.  Why does a smart table have to do EVERYTHING?  What if my living room decor isn’t inspired by StarTrek TNG?  A good friend of mine had a much simpler idea of what a smart coffee table should be.

The other day, he found himself engrossed in an interesting coffee table book at a friends apartment.  While he enjoyed flipping through it, the idea of having a physical book sit around for other’s enjoyment is still repulsive to him.  (A little bit of background, he lives in a 12×12 hole-in-the-wall, and is an aspiring Zen master.  He’s currently in the process of ridding himself of all books, starting with ones that have been digitized.)  The perfect scenario for him would be to have a coffee table that he could download books into.  A library of sorts, where he, as well as friends and visitors could read books he had in his library.

To play devil’s advocate for a second–I would be remiss if I did not point out that the book he was enjoying at his buddy’s place was a large book full of beautiful pictures.  Not something that transfers well to a kindle or phone.  Tablet would be the best choice of three evils.  Though still not ideal for the true art lover.  Maybe this is where the StarTrek table comes in?

I immediately thought of the dentists office.  You check in, and have about a ten minute wait before you’re called.  Nowadays most people busy themselves with their smartphone.  Otherwise you’d have your choice of a handful of old National Geographic’s and couple other outdated magazines don’t pertain to you in any way, shape or form.  Imagine instead, an attractive table with only a dock you could touch your phone/tablet/kindle to and temporarily upload the local newspaper… or the latest edition of whatever magazine… or several articles about the importance of gum health.  After 30 mins, whatever you downloaded disappears.  (Hopefully you’re called by then.)

I imagine this product is redundant for those people who have a tablet for every room, carry a mini on their person at all times with several subscriptions to various publications on it.  I don’t own a tablet because–let’s face it–I’m a woman and don’t spend 20 minutes on the pot.  I don’t subscribe to magazines because the only time I really read them is when I’m in a waiting room or at the salon.

I appreciate good design and aesthetically pleasing furniture.  You could not get me to buy an ugly table no matter how smart it is.  I would appreciate a pleasant waiting room and an up-to-date, relevant article I could read on my phone or kindle to pass the time.  I would also appreciate a table that acted as a library I could store all of my books on.  I would become a Zen master as well, and download digital copies of all if not most of my books.  I could be rid of those heavy shelves that house heavy books!  A table, that looks like a table, yet still improves my life not by doing everything, but by doing one thing well.

Smart Doggie Door

A good friend of mine has a dog, Lola, and lives in a building with four other condos.  Three of the four other tenants also have dogs–so there are a lot of doggies running around at any one time.  In case you’re unfamiliar with the size of a condo in San Francisco, it’s not very big; in fact I believe my friend has the smallest place–in the entire city.  A long with the other tenants, he’ll let his dog out into the back yard to run around.  Which is less the backyard of my childhood in small-town California than an enclosed paved area with a couple planters.  And by running around, I mean in circles about ten feet in diameter.

Trouble started brewing when the neighbor who had lived there the longest started stirring up dust because my friend would leave Lola outside all day to run laps while he was at work.  I guess she would bore of this after a while and would walk up the stairs and pay this neighbor a visit, which freaked her out.  Apparently closing her door is not an option, because then her dogs can’t go outside.

What these people need, are doggy doors.  But not just any doggy door, because then all the doggies would figure out they still had access to all of the apartments.  The doggy doors need to to open only for that dog.  Lola would wear a special collar, or fob-tag that would be activated when she stands next to her door.  The door would recognize the tag and let her in.  If she stands next to a neighbors door, it would recognize that she is not wearing the right tag and remain closed.  If Lola leaves the house, the door would lock, not permitting other dogs (or unwanted animals) in.

Sure enough, this idea is too good to not have been invented already.  After searching online, I found this, which is pretty much exactly what I described.  However, I think there’s room for improvement.  What if you already have a dog door installed and just want to make it smart?  Someone could create the electronic component that could be added to any dog door similar to this, which could be used a number of places (scroll down for helpful instructional DIY video).  Just replace the button with the fob-tag, unless your pet has opposable thumbs.

I also wanted to reference this, just has an awesome site.  Of course, something called “hi-tec” woulc still look like it was designed fifteen years ago…

Anyway, my friends problem is solved!  All I need to do now is convince him and all of his neighbors to install one.  And pick up after their dogs.