Labtrino wants to halve your water-usage
Ramtin Massoumzadeh and Thibault Helle spent a full day brainstorming ideas. When the day was over, they’d settled on one: the smart shower. Now, a year and a half later, their idea has developed into a patented, non-invasive water meter, using ultrasound to tell you exactly how much water you use and where.
A day of brainstorming
Ramtin and Thibault met in a course at KTH, and quickly decided that they wanted to start
a company together during their studies. After an intense day of brainstorming, they had a board full of potential ideas, ranging from the reverse microwave that quickly could cool down your drink, to a drone that could be used to salt roads in the winter. In the end, they settled on the idea of making a smart shower that would help you select your perfect temperature, while saving water.
After reaching out to KTH Innovation, Ramtin and Thibault had their first meeting with Siimon Vaske, Business Development Coach at KTH Innovation. They described their idea as “a tap that can control water flow and temperature, which would save water and energy”.
The team spent the summer making the first prototype of their smart shower in KTH Prototype Center, where they were both working. They also conducted initial market research, with mixed feedback. Most potential customers, which included for example hotels and apartment building managers, immediately grasped the need of knowing how much water you use, but some argued that “water in Sweden is basically free anyway”.
Finding the core of the problem
Labtrino had identified a problem that needed a solution: reducing water consumption. But was a smart shower really the way to go?
- The shower turned out to be something of a luxury product, but the need to reduce water consumption remained, says Ramtin. We kept the technology we had developed, but shifted our focus to making a smart water meter that could measure the water consumption in your entire home.
One of the main reasons why water-usage isn’t measured in Sweden today is that the cost and risk of installing a traditional water-meter, which includes cutting the pipe, is too high. Labtrino’s main priority became developing technology that was non-invasive. After considering all the options, they finally settled on ultrasound, which would work on all types of pipes.
- We had studied the physics behind the technology at KTH, but developing a product is completely different. We’ve learned a lot on the way, says Thibault. We didn’t know anything about ultrasound before, but we studied the technology, bought some components and started prototyping.
Is water really free?
The idea that water is free and that the supply is infinite is a key challenge for the team. A main part of the problem is that we don’t pay for our individual water usage. We simply have no idea how much water we use every day.
- The average Swedish person uses around 200 liters per day, says Thibault. By visualizing how much water you use, giving tips on how to reduce consumption, and letting you compare your water usage to your neighbors, we think we will be able to reduce that number by up to 40-50%.
“The freedom is what motivates us”
The Labtrino team spent the last year as one of the startup projects in KTH Innovation’s pre-incubator program . Together with nine others, they’ve gotten extra business development support, weekly meetings to develop their startups and as entrepreneurs, and office space on campus. Thibault also used Labtrino as his degree project, which meant that they could focus extra on developing the technology, which now works with 98% accuracy. Their clamp-on meter only takes seconds to install, and can measure how much water each tap or machine uses, and also detect and warn you about leaks.
- The freedom is what motivates us, says Ramtin. We didn’t know all that much about business development before, but the fact that we choose what to do each day gives you a kind of drive that you can’t pay for. We learn something new every day.
A productive year
With support from KTH Innovation, the team has filed and secured their first patent, gotten investment, and taken a first look at the international market, as one of the teams travelling to Silicon Valley in KTH Innovation’s Brighter Program in October. They are currently focusing on design for manufacturing, so they can scale up production. They have a number of pilot customers, all eager to get their hands on more water meters.
- The support from KTH Innovation has been really valuable, says Ramtin. We felt safe in the fact that we could always take a step back and check with our coach. Siimon’s experience from business development has helped us navigate many tricky situations.
Focus on the problem
Labtrino’s journey shows an important aspect of developing an idea: what matters most isn’t always the actual idea, but the problem and how badly there is a need for a solution.
- We really recommend developing an idea while you’re at KTH, says Thibault. You have a whole different freedom while you’re studying that you lose once you start earning a salary, buy your first apartment or start a family. Now, there’s nothing to lose!
Have identified a problem, and have a first idea of a solution? Book a meeting with KTH Innovation, and we can help you move forward.