Digitizing the Shower Experience: An Interview with SmarTap CEO Asaf Shaltiel
Israeli company SmarTap has developed a smart shower system that stands to revolutionize personal and commercial water use by monitoring and controlling the temperature and flow of water in a household, hotel, or commercial building. We spoke with Asaf Shaltiel, CEO and founder of SmarTap, about the future of electronic smart shower systems.
What initially gave you the idea to pursue smart shower systems? (Did the idea come to you while you were in the shower?)
My initial idea for SmarTap came to me when I saw my sister with her two small twins at bath time. I saw how she struggled in the bathroom, adjusting the faucet for the right temperature and flow of water, and I thought to myself – we’re in the 21st century, how come we don’t have a system that allows us to fill the bath at exactly the right temperature, amount, and time that we want?
Do you see smart water systems like SmarTap’s as part of the broader trend of automating home devices?
What we’re trying to achieve at SmarTap is to lead a revolution in the rather archaic world of indoor water usage. Currently, faucet companies are surprisingly low-tech, employing roughly the same mechanical technology in terms of moving parts that have existed for the last few decades. SmarTap offers a smart, fully-digitized water system that can monitor and manage water usage and connect and communicate information to both the user and with other smart systems via our SmartGrid Wi-Fi connectivity based on cloud servers.
SmarTap’s system can embed so many features that mechanical showers just cannot contain. It’s smart enough to know where you are and starts filling your bath so that you get in it as soon as you get home. The system can start the boiler when you wake up in the morning so that your hot water is ready for you to jump in the shower at the perfect temperature. SmarTap’s system also provides additional features that are harder to quantify. The system allows you to identify instances where pressure is building up in the pipes and can alert you to leaks or burst pipes. The digital age is here – and the benefits of a digital shower include water savings, pressure control, and health and safety, with self-cleaning mechanisms to combat bacteria and temperature control that eliminates risks from burning water. For larger customers, such as hotels or hospitals, our system can control the amount of water consumed, meaning that you can reduce the flow rate without diminishing the pressure, which results in water saving.
In the U.S., water is still relatively cheap and per capita usage remains very high. How do you foresee getting consumers to pay for a smart water system like SmarTap?
Water is not cheap everywhere in the U.S., and as you know restrictions on water use are increasing. In places like Miami, California, and Las Vegas, water is becoming ever scarcer. The problem is that most consumers don’t know how much water they waste. We want to educate the consumer and show them how much water they consume. Then we give them the tools to limit their consumption and actually save water. The beauty of the SmarTap system is that it saves water upfront by allowing users to reduce water consumption through monitoring and controlling flow and temperature. It also allows users to decrease costs at the other end, by reducing sewage and waste volume. We’re working with the Intercontinental Hotels in Israel and have achieved impressive results: we’ve helped them save massive amounts of water and helped reduce their sewage volumes through the SmarTap technology installed in the hotel’s bathrooms, so the savings are coming from multiple places. Also, similar to peak shaving in electricity usage, the SmarTap system can also do peak shaving for water usage, by decreasing water flow at peak times so as to not overstress a building’s capacity and to avoid potential peak pricing.
What do you envision as “success” for SmarTap in terms of market size, geographic scope, or additional products?
In five years I want to be a big company that sells millions of units a year. We want to ‘conquer the whole bathroom’ and we would like to be the black box inside the bathroom wall. We want to sell to big companies with strong brand recognition that will integrate our product and sell it to their consumers. These companies cannot overcome the technological gap of developing such a high tech product and they’re used to buying third party parts, so we want to sell to them. The market is made up of people and their choices – when people demand a product, companies will have no choice but to address that demand or perish. I think this applies to any start-up that is trying to make it big.
SmarTap has already established some key development partnerships since its founding. Did you find this to be a challenge in terms of ensuring certain design & tech aspects of your product?
It wasn’t actually a challenge. Our partnerships have actually benefited us to a great extent. We gained valuable commercial relationships with large manufacturers. Their input was crucial in making our products mature and ready for the consumer market. They know their business, which materials to use, what suppliers and distributors to use. A German product manufacturer designed a special valve for our system, helped us choose the right motor – they really helped us perfect our products. Then marketing opened the doorway to the world. We can now exhibit our SmarTap products under their flag, gaining greater traction. By creating strategic partnerships we were able to tap into this great knowledge base. Partnerships were a great upside – it’s a beautiful thing.
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