Can you tell me about your company, Innovaders, and why you do what you do?
Innovaders is a product-development company for sustainable products. We started the business in 2001 and did a lot of projects for different companies – on the reduction of waste, energy, transport, paper, on ecodesign and concept development.
Our aim is to develop ideas for others and for ourselves. Our mission is in the name. Innovate: to come up with new, fresh products that make people aware, green, social and entrepreneurial. Invaders: to act what you preach, don’t wait for others – conquer the world yourself. Vaders (Dutch for ‘fathers’): when you become a parent you are very aware of the world for your child. You think future.
What inspired you to create the Wattcher?
People feel the need for a sustainable future. Everyone was woken up by the Al Gore film, An Inconvenient Truth. But acting on it is not so easy.
We wanted to make energy visible, transparent, in a beautiful way. To bring it close to you, make it more personal, so you can act directly. As the Dutch designer of the Wattcher, Marcel Wanders, says: “Your home, your energy, your Wattcher”.
And the funny thing about human nature is: if you see it, you want to improve it – to make a sport out of getting the consumption lower.
Can you explain the technology behind the Wattcher? How does it work?
We made a special sensor that you can stick on your electricity meter – both turning wheel meters and pulse meters. So it works on almost all meters.
There are many, many versions, but we were able to test it on many different types while we developed it together with the Dutch energy company Eneco.
In this way, we are able to measure the whole house, which is ideal, because then you can find all kinds of ‘unknown’ energy consumers in your home.
The sensor is connected to a so-called sending unit, which sends a radio signal to a display. This display was especially designed for us by Wanders. We wanted an interior design, not an industrial design. In order to interact with the user we asked Wanders to realise a ‘visual’ effect, not only showing numbers.
So we came to the idea of a beating heart: when your energy consumption is low, the display goes slowly on and off, and when it rises (for instance, switching on your water heater) the beat goes up! This is also a nice metaphor for energy, which is not static, but dynamic, a changing flow from source to function.
The first weeks of using a Wattcher are most interesting, because you’re in the ‘investigation mood’ (as are your children!); the so-called consciously conscious phase.
Then you know the headlines of your power consumption in your home, and the display moves to the background of your mind. You only glance at it to check if everything is okay (when you go to bed/leave the house), the so-called unconsciously conscious phase.
In order to renew your ideas and consciousness, we also developed an energy-saving program, called Wattcher Online. The site sends you weekly updates with tips about a specific topic: the kitchen – good for 33 per cent of your electricity consumption, your living room, washing and cleaning, hobbies and recreation, etc.
You can also compare your energy consumption with others and see who saved the most. Very competitive!
It looks like you ran a pilot study in autumn last year in Holland. Have you run any more recent studies?
We have done various studies – energy battles are especially fun. We ran them in schools, against schools – 10 schools from Amsterdam against 10 schools from Rotterdam – two naturally competitive cities.
We are now running a battle between two large companies – Heineken and ABN AMRO, headquartered in Holland, where a group of employees get the Wattcher and start saving energy at home.
We are also doing a project for Philips, which has a production facility in the Netherlands that wants to become a ‘green site’. One of the projects is to involve the employees by doing an energy battle between them.
Is the Wattcher available for sale now?
Yes, you can buy it in our webshop – shop.wattcher.nl, and in different countries in north-western Europe (Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland). You require an electricity meter as well as a Euro socket.
Can you tell us a little about what the Drupple is about?
The Drupple (Dutch for drop or raindrop) is a nicely designed product that helps people save water and energy during showering. It is integrated in the water flow, so it directly contributes to your awareness and shows you how much water you are using.
It’s simple and effective: every time you take a shower, you have to turn the scale of the Drupple and decide how many litres of water you want to use. The product is not public yet.
We developed a first prototype with a venture capitalist, and are now looking for a good business partner to scale it up and bring it to the market.