Hackaday Prize Entry: Fighting Dehydration One Sip At A Time

Humans don’t survive long without water, and most people walk around in a chronic state of mild dehydration even if they have access to plenty of drinking water. It’s hard to stay properly hydrated, and harder still to keep track of your intake, which is the idea behind this water-intake monitoring IoT drinking straw.

Dehydration is a particularly acute problem in the elderly, since the sense of thirst tends to diminish with age. [jflaschberger]’s Hackaday Prize entry seeks to automate the tedious and error-prone job of recording fluid intake, something that caregivers generally have to take care of by eyeballing that half-empty glass and guessing. The HydrObserve uses a tiny turbine flowmeter that can mount to a drinking straw or water bottle cap. A Hall sensor in the turbine sends flow data to a Cypress BLE SoC module, which totalizes the volume sipped and records a patient identifier. A caregiver can then scan the data from the HydrObserve at the end of the day for charting and to find out if anyone is behind on their fluids.

There are problems to solve, not least being the turbine, which doesn’t appear to be food safe. But that’s a small matter that shouldn’t stand in the way of an idea as good as this one. We’ve seen a lot of good entries in the Assistive Technology phase of the 2017 Hackaday Prize, like a walker that works on stairs or sonic glasses for the blind. There are only a couple of days left in this phase — got any bright ideas?

22 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Fighting Dehydration One Sip At A Time

    1. I think he is confused and doesn’t know that “I need a beer!” really means “I want beer!”.

      Unless you are doing a lot of physical exercise in a hot environment and need to prehydrate you should just drink when you are thirsty as a healthy body can manage fluid levels perfectly. This “must drink X amount of water per day.” thing is nonsense.

      Personally I prefer to track my fluid throughput with an IoT piss paddle-wheel clipped onto my toilet bowl, as it is much more fun than needing to drink with a straw, which is not recommend with beer anyway.

        1. I tend to hold my breath when I’m using it anyway, to help my aim, and I don’t recall raising a sweat while taking a pee either. I’m sure it is good enough, in a proportional sort of way, and metabolising food makes H2O too. From my solids intake my metabolism produces about 100 grams of water per 100 grams of fat, 42 grams of water per 100 g of protein and 60 grams of water per 100 g of carbohydrate.

  1. Dehydration is not a problem in the general population. Drinking when thirsty is more than adequate. The myth that people don’t drink enough is a marketing ploy from the drinks industry.

    1. On the other hand, if I were to extrapolate from n=1, I would make the opposite, sweeping statements.

      I’d like to track the hydration level itself. I’m not sure that the amount of Red Bull and vodka thru a straw is going to be a good measure.

    2. That depends; do they go for a cup of water, or tea/soda/fruit juice/energy drinks/coffee/sports drinks etc. when they’re thirsty? If it’s anything except for option #1 for at least 2/3 of their fluid intake, then they’re dehydrated.
      You have to keep in mind, hydration isn’t just about meeting some arbitrary fluid intake for the day, it’s also about keeping electrolytes in balance.
      You can die of thirst chugging sports drinks.

      1. You can’t die of thirst from chugging sports drinks, that’s absurd. The whole point of sports drinks, the reason they exist and the reason why anyone uses them, is because they contain the appropriate ratio of water, salt, and potassium needed in the bloodstream. You *can* die from water intoxication by drinking too much water and throwing the balance of electrolytes in your body off, but you’re more likely to develop obesity and eventually diabetes from the sugar in the sports drinks than you are to “die from thirst.”

        Moreover, the “eight glasses of water a day” and “everyone is in a mild state of dehydration” things are both very solidly in the “absurd myth” territory. In reality, you probably get enough water to stay alive just from the food you eat and the water in the stuff you’re drinking isn’t somehow magically “cancelled out” by the sugar, caffeine, or salt in the stuff you’re drinking unless you’re drinking seawater or something like that.

        Maybe that’s what you’re thinking of? Seawater contains about 4x the salt concentration of the human body, excessive salt signals the kidneys to retain water in order to help process the excess of salt, which both raises your blood pressure and lowers the amount of water available to rest of the body which results in dehydration. Sports drinks contain nowhere near that amount of salt.

    3. Dehydration is definitely a problem. I’m a software developer who forgets to hydrate properly, especially after a heavy night of drinking, and the effects are quite strong on my concentration and health ( my throat and lips go funky ). I’ve already started building something to help with this but I never thought of making it an assistive technology.

      If anyone wants to follow the project for whenever I restart working on it: https://hackaday.io/project/12111-office-drought.

  2. Looks like an interesting approach to a real problem. Agreed that the author should have binned the preamble and focused on the elderly care point. Elderly in care will likely have a controlled diet anyway, so sports/red bull/vodka argument not relevant.
    There are sensors that can detect fluid movement in a clear tube – might be a better choice as no contact with the fluid. Could an enhanced version somehow measure the hydration and/or electrolyte levels to actually record real hydration? Combined with a smart toilet this could be an interesting long-term diagnostic tool.
    Nice effort – keep going!

  3. Interesting article, but “totalizes”? A hip sounding “modern” verb (19th century) compared to totals, a boring but more accurate and more common verb from middle english (14th century) to describe the summing of numbers, e.g. flow volumes.

    1. I see one definition of “totalize” in the OED, “combining into a total.” There are at least six definitions for “total” or “totals.” IMHO, “totalize” is more succinct and descriptive, and I’ve never seen a device called a “totaller,” while I’ve deployed many a “totalizer” in automation projects. New and “hip” aren’t necessarily bad, especially when it accomplishes unambiguously in a single word what would be unclear with more common words.

  4. There are all sorts of problems with this. To make a long story short, it’s far too simplistic to assume that the amount of fluid one consumes tells you anything about their level of hydration. There is the type of fluids being consumed. Some fluids, like caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and even sugar containing drinks can actually reduce your level of hydration. Then there’s the fact that solid food has water content and that different foods have different levels. Furthermore there’s the issue of medications that individuals may take, like for example high blood pressure medications, that impact hydration levels. Finally there’s heath conditions that impact this as well. Things like Renal function, blood sugar levels from diabetes or pre-diabetes, thyroid function, etc. all have an impact of this as well. For example an individual will renal insufficiency will likely drink a lot and urinate a lot as the body tries to compensate for the kidneys inability to remove waste products by concentrating urine. By simply looking at their fluid intake you might think this person is really well hydrate, when in fact they would likely be quite dehydrated. The same is true with individuals with elevated blood sugar levels. A good nurse or doctor can tell by simply examining a person and looking at signs and symptoms whereas a straw that measures fluid intake cannot.

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