The technology industry has decided that analog water bottles aren’t what you need. Instead, you need new, bright, vibrating smart water bottles. But do you?
Probably not. Then again, I’m a human in 2019 who still buys music (albums, no streaming), so perhaps I’m obsolete, too. As I recognize my own, possibly dumb, analog functionality, I’m willing to give the smart water bottle the fairest shake I can.
How’d We Get Here?
The precursors are, of course, the emphases on technology and fitness, and the general desire of tech companies to create new products. You know—“innovation.” One of the easiest ways to do that is to add tech to something that already exists.
That explains the motivation to produce and market products like smart water bottles, but what about the motivation to buy them? For me, I think it has to do with work-life balance and a general feeling that modern living has led us to ignore the basics of being a human animal.
Fitbits and activity apps let us know we haven’t moved enough each day. Similarly, most Americans don’t drink enough water per day. So, the wellness tech industry’s response to that is smart water bottles.
What Do Smart Water Bottles Do?
As all things will soon be required—and expected—to do, smart water bottles interface with your smartphone, usually via Bluetooth. For example, the Ozmo bottle gets itself all synced up with your Apple Health app, FitBit, and even your Garmin, if you still use a dedicated GPS device, via Bluetooth.
Presumably, the idea is a lot of people ignore most things in the world that aren’t on their phones. Evidently, that includes water but, oddly, not air or food.
So then, it’s not a bad idea to help people remember water by putting it in the thing they’re already looking at. The readout on your phone typically draws data from sensors built into the smart water bottle, and then displays things like:
- How much water you’ve drunk;
- How much water you still need to drink to meet your daily drinking goal; and
- The water’s temperature.
Cutting-edge stuff! Some smart bottles take an extra step and include a built-in display (like the HydraCoach 2.0, which is a water bottle that has a digital watch face on the front, more or less), so you don’t need to look at your phone to get the aforementioned data. Others do way less and just glow or use light dots to remind you to drink, like the ICEWATER, which will remind you to drink your water by turning it into a Berlin dance club. Hell, the HYDRA Tech smart bottle will do the lights and the music (it has LED lighting and a Bluetooth speaker, as well as a bottle opener for opening lesser bottles).
Besides the range of technical functionality, smart bottles aim to look nice (which is something dumb bottles can do, too). In a world where workout clothes (like yoga pants) are also a fashion statement, you can’t underestimate some people’s need to let others know they’re healthy.
Who Are They For?
The answer to this question is—to be glib—nobody. Or everybody. See, it’s a completely elective product that fulfills a previously unknown want, rather than a need.
Clearly, most people survive even if they don’t properly hydrate. But smart water bottles might help some of those people increase their water intake.
There are other problems associated with not drinking enough water. The main one is you gotta drink something! And too many people (one in five kids, according to this study) don’t drink any water on any given day. Instead, they calorie-load with sweetened drinks.
So, the problem smart bottles address is real, which means a solution is necessary. If smart water bottles are that solution for some people, maybe they don’t deserve any more scrutiny than other popular body-function monitors.
If you’re constantly dehydrated because you simply can’t remember to drink enough water, then you gotta do what you gotta do. Or, if your lifestyle or physical condition (e.g., pregnant women, athletes, seniors, etc.) requires that you drink more water, then, by all means, pick up a smart bottle.
Why You Probably Don’t Need One
Barring any medical disorders, your body monitors hydration and does everything a smart water bottle does.
Want to know if you’ve had enough water? There are lots of ways you can check, and none of them require technology. Here’s a quick list of things that will help you determine your current level of hydration:
- Are you thirsty?
- Does your mouth feel dry?
- Is your brain saying “water would taste better than anything right now”?
- Is your urine distinctly yellow?
- Do various parts of you hurt or feel bad, and you’re not sure why?
- Are you dizzy?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might be thirsty. Alternatively, you can skip this list and just know you’re thirsty because that’s how the body works.
Once you’ve clocked your level of thirst, the next thing you should do is drink some water, and not something that isn’t water. Sweet stuff makes you gain weight. And I love diuretics (alcohol, coffee, tea, etc.) as much as the next person, but they also cause dehydration.
Something else you can do is just keep water handy, whether it’s in a bottle, cup, glass, or whatever. To remain well hydrated, you gotta wet that whistle on the regular.
Another thing your body does that a smart water bottle might not is signal when you’ve had too much water. You don’t hear a lot about overhydration, considering the opposite is the bigger problem, but it can kill you.
Water intoxication happens when you drink water faster than your kidneys can process it. On average, humans can eliminate 20-28 liters of water per day, and only around 0.8-1 liters per hour, so the rate of consumption matters. Excess water in the blood results in a sodium imbalance that causes your cells to swell. This is especially bad for your brain, so don’t drink too much water in too short a time.
Again, those numbers are averages—it’s different for each person. There’s no need to freak out. The individuals who typically run a high risk of water intoxication are soldiers, athletes, and people with schizophrenia as these groups are more prone to overhydration. So, definitely skip any water-drinking contests.
It’s Your Call
Most of us have all the built-in hardware and software our bodies need to gauge and maintain our hydration, most of the time. Just pay attention to how you feel. Don’t ignore any signs your body might send to tell you it’s drying up like a snail in the sun.
A lot of us do ignore our biological software, though. People certainly don’t always do what’s best for their bodies. If you have a condition that makes staying hydrated tricky, you can’t remember to drink enough of the stuff, or you just don’t drink water at all, a smart bottle might help you.
Are there simpler ways to drink more water? Yes. Are smart water bottles more of a novelty than anything else? Maybe. But if a smart water bottle helps you get that precious lifeblood into your veins (but not too much of it), that’s a good thing—whether the product is silly or not.