The world's smartest water bottle could save your life

You got lost hiking in the woods and you finished all the water you carried in with you. Now that you’ve found the trail again, you’re hot and thirsty and worried about dehydration. There’s a stream up ahead. Is the water safe to drink?

You’re pounding the pavement in an unfamiliar city on a very hot day. Can you trust the public water fountain? Come to think of it, can you trust the one in your office building?

Now there’s a water bottle that will answer those questions — and even purify the water, if necessary. And if it sounds ludicrous to shell out more than $200 for such a thing, ask yourself this: How much are you willing to pay for peace of mind?

“Water is life, but water pollution has become a nationwide problem,” says Eric Li, the founder and CEO of Ecomo, maker of the world’s first “smart” water bottle.

In an interview, Li, who also has a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, referred to a Harvard University study conducted last year that found unsafe levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water in 33 states, including California, New Jersey, Florida and New York. Among those chemicals were PFASs (polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances), which have been linked to hormonal problems, obesity and cancer.

That’s why Li invented the Ecomo (short for “eco-monitor”) Bottle.

The stainless steel bottle tests water for contaminants and, if it’s not up to snuff, removes them quickly to make it safe to drink.

Unlike one of its competitors, CamelBak’s All Clear ($99), which uses UV technology to purify unsafe water in 60 seconds, Ecomo uses a complex filtration system that does the job in less than five seconds. It took Li and his team two years to create, but for the consumer it’s as simple as fill, shake, twist and drink — unless the water is already fine for drinking, in which case you can eliminate “twist.”

Users can fill the bottle at practically any source: tap, pond, even toilet — and then activate its testing mechanism by shaking it. The bottle’s filtration system, composed of carbon and ion exchange fibers and a nanofiber membrane, analyzes four things: the TOC (total organic carbon) level, the TDS (total dissolved solids) level, turbidity or cloudiness and water temperature. If the water is good to drink, a green light and the word “Good” appear on the bottle’s LED monitor. If it’s contaminated, as indicated by a yellow or red light and the word “Fair” or “Bad,” a twist of the bottle’s base will reduce bacteria, pesticides, petroleum products and heavy metals by up to 99.9 percent.

The bottle weighs 13 ounces and has double-layer insulation designed to keep water hot for 12 hours or cold for 24 hours. It holds 20 ounces of water — and only water. Filling it with another liquid can damage the bottle’s analyzer. The first bottles aren’t expected to ship until late this year, but Ecomo has already caught the attention of Tech Insider, Gear Junkie and Fast Company, which called it “an invention for our increasingly poisonous world.”

Ecomo Bottle is currently available for pre-ordering on the crowdfunding website IndieGoGo, where it’s discounted to $139. Ecomo has raised nearly $600,000 — more than nine times its goal since the campaign launched in October — and it’s on IndieGoGo’s Must-Have Products for Your Office list.

Eventually, Li says, the goal is to get the bottle into stores, where the retail price will be $220. It could be the most expensive water bottle on the market, but it will also be the only one of its kind.

Chloe Li, Ecomo's vice president of marketing (no relation to Eric), describes Ecomo’s core customers as people in their 30s to mid-40s who care about their health and are aware of the latest trends in technology. They’re people who don’t mind recharging batteries — the Ecomo Bottle’s battery lasts up to a week and takes an hour to recharge — and buying replacement filters for $10 every two to three months.

The Ecomo has an app that notifies users when it’s time to buy a new filter and a Bluetooth wristband that measures environmental conditions like the temperature, records users’ daily activities to calculate their hydration needs and then keeps track of their water intake throughout the day.

“Unlike many other hydration trackers, it will not be a rough estimate based on a predefined average daily consumption of an average person,” said Chloe Li. “So it’s much more accurate.”

Ecomo also aims to collect data on water quality throughout the U.S., and eventually the world, through crowdsourcing.

“We want a place where everybody can receive data on their water quality at any time,” said Eric Li. “When a user takes a measurement and presses the bottle’s ‘send’ button, the water quality data collected will be sent to the Ecomo website and used toward a real-time water quality map.”

But first, Li has to oversee the distribution of the Ecomo Bottle and his other product, Ecomo Fount, which is scheduled to be released in September. Mounted on a kitchen faucet, Ecomo Fount will test for and filter the same four things as Ecomo Bottle, and it will come with a free app, Ecomo Lab, that will chart results by the month to show users the history of their water quality. The data will be synched to the cloud and uploaded to a water quality map so users can see the scores of the water around them.

If you’re human — and chances are very good that you are — then your body is roughly 60 percent water. How nice to know it’s clean.