The demand for “smart” packaging has greatly increased this year, with reports predicting 8% annual growth to $3.5bn by 2017, in the US alone. Earlier this year, we reported on Hidrate’s bottle revolutionising water intake and Johnnie Walker’s smart bottle that alerts the consumer when the drink is nearly gone. However, unlike its predecessors, Water.IO are approaching this sector from a different angle. A start-up from Israel, Water.IO has invented a smart cap which fits onto most standard bottles – turning existing disposable bottles into smart bottles! We spoke to co-founder Yoav Hoshen about the company, the technology and the consumer drinking experience.
What is Water.IO and what inspired you to start up the company?
Water.IO is all about providing smart solutions to help prevent dehydration, while at the same time push the beverages and food industry into the Internet of Things (IoT) and big-data arena. People don’t drink enough water during the day, and we all forget to drink. We would like to help people by making their disposable water bottles remind them when they need to drink. So we’ve developed smart caps technology sensors that can be used by any cap or closure manufacturer and any bottler, and that actually enable the bottle to measure how much drink is in the bottle and alert with blinking lights when the customer needs to drink more, based on his personal profile. So actually we help turning every standard disposable bottle into a smart bottle. At the same time, this smart cap also sends information to the customer’s smartphone and the beverages companies get, for the first time, real-time analytics about who their customers are, how they drink, when, where and how this is related to other factors like weather, sport activity, geography, age.
Tell us about the development process for the smart bottle caps. What technology have you used?
We’ve been working in the last year on developing an advanced, patented sensors technology that can get into any standard bottle cap, and come in different form factors. We also developed the application on the smartphone that can be branded with the beverage company, which now can benefit from a direct engagement with its customers; and we also developed the analytics dashboard that provides the beverages companies with the real time analytics about their customers – think about it as if every beverages company can get the type of information companies like Facebook or Google get about their customers. Water.IO is actually the first to add Internet of Things (IoT) into the packages of beverages and food in such a model.
How will the smart bottle caps enhance the consumer drinking experience?
We help customers improve their health and wellness by understanding their hydration needs. Let’s say you are used to drink a beverage X that now comes with the Water.IO sensors in the cap. So you download for only the first time an app to your smartphone (we tailor our app to get the look and feel of that company) and after adding basic information for only the first time – like your age, height, weight, the app builds a personalised drinking profile for you. Now, every time you use any of those drinks from company X, the smart cap measures the amount of liquid in the bottle, and when you need to drink more, your bottle starts to blink. If this is a hot day, the algorithm is being updated in the background and you get recommendations to drink more. If you walked a lot outside, again, you get updated alerts, personalised just for you. We also have models of our caps that don’t need the smartphone and can alert the user based on time that has passed from the last time he drank before. We have additional sensors and form factors to answer different caps models, all based on the caps and the beverages companies’ needs.
How will the caps benefit the drinks brands that use them?
Drink brands today are doing pretty much what they did a hundred years ago: they put a liquid in a bottle, put a cap on top of the bottle and ship it in a track to the point of sale. From that point, they are blind – they don’t know who bought the drink, how he or she consumed it, when, where and how this is related to his or her age, sport activity, if the bottle has been refilled. Of course, drinks brands use focus groups, researchers and similar ways to try and understand all this information. But it is not real-time data and it’s only samples of the data. We are about to change that, and give brinks brands for the first time eyes, in real time. Data is knowledge, and we will help drinks brands to understand what is going on with their customers. We’re in the 21st century and beverages companies can develop better products and engage directly with their customers using technology.
What’s been your experience as a start-up in Israel? Have you received any support?
Israel is a fascinating place for creating innovation. Different reasons pushed Israel to become the “start-up nation” and we’re really inspired by the environment here. In Water.IO we built a strong team that was involved in building successful innovative technologies before and commercialising them.
When will Water.IO’s caps be available to purchase? What’s your plan for the next coming year?
Water.IO’s solution which is comprised of the smart cap sensors technology, the software and the analytics engines and big data algorithms are already available and we’re working with some of the most exciting companies in the domain. Based on the deals that we already have we’ve been raising funding for accelerating the development, manufacturing and sales that will enable us to expand globally.
In one sentence, why is Water.IO innovative?
We believe that smart technology can help people have better wellness and health only if it works cleverly in the background without asking people to change their habits. In Water.IO we help people keep buying their desired beverages, open the bottle and drink the same way they always did – and let the technology do clever things in the background to help us all have better wellness and health.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019