Monday, April 14, 2008

Water Technology: The Aquaduct

The IDEO team pose with their winning technology (photo: examiner)

Technology Name: AQUADUCT

In a nutshell, the Aquaduct a pedal powered water transportation and filtration system.

Aquaduct was designed by a team of IDEO folks in response to the Innovate or Die competition 2007, sponsored by Google and Specialized Bicycles. It placed first. The rules were simple:
  • Invent an unheard of, unprecedented pedal-powered machine, build it and film it. Just make sure that your innovation has human pedal power as its original source.
  • You may either ride solo or build with a team of up to five people.
  • Individual entrants (or the team contact) must be registered members of YouTube at the time of entry, be at least 18 or older and be residents of the U.S., Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain or the U.K.
Here's the basic layout and design of it:

My review:
The Aquaduct basically helps with transportation, filtration, and storage, (and disinfection?? need to check on this).

The good: It uses bicycles (with parts that can be found in even the remote parts of any developing country) and human power (probably the only thing they can count on in poor areas); it looks cute, and combines several different water processes into one unit. The filter is just representative of other more locally available filtering systems that we can find. I love the fact that the water is covered at all times, which keeps it from being contaminated further. And I love the pedal-powered pump.

The what: Ummm...bicycles being used to transport water or anything else in developing countries are not new. Infact bicycles are the first transportation vehicles that a poor person will invest in. And they've been using bicycles to transport water and everything else for centuries. So why would anyone invest in this tricked out tricycle that carries only water??

And cost-wise, bicycles are luxury items to being with, in many of these parts. So you have to make it functional. Essentially, think about the cost and then double the amenities that come with it or it will fail.

Bicycles are crucial transportation for the poor, and a luxury. On the left, Ugandan boys carry jerry cans of water back home [1]; on the right, an Indian boy carries cans of water, petrol and a friend on a tricycle [2]. If Aquaduct wants to succeed, it must expand its functionality.

Variations I would suggest:

1. Most poor people I've gone water hunting with, carry plastic or clay pots (the clay keeps the water cold), or large 20 gallon plastic jugs (aka jerry cans). The Aquaduct should actually include areas to load existing water jugs and filter into existing water jugs, not new ones that you sell with the tricycle.

2. Make the rear storage unit a "clip-on" so that they can take that thing out and carry other things when they need to.

3. I love the peristatic pump. Is there any way you can design it so that the pedal-power can be used to pump water directly from the ground? or transfer to power other things?? Poor people WON'T invest in this unless it can serve multiple purposes.

[1]: Source: Staffordshire Learning Network
Source: People's Daily Online

Other reviews/information:
The very uninformative Innovate or Die website
The inspiration behind Innovate or Die:


pragzz said...

There's an update on this technology at

Anonymous said...

I've been involved in and know the biking industry very well. People need to understand that the judges were likely people who were all Bay Area wealthy lifestyle types. It is unlikely that they understand the real conditions of the developing world.

Specialized has an excellent advocacy person, Ariadne Delon-Scott, who is dedicated to channeling university-driven programs to improve design in the developing world. If you have suggestions on how to improve the contest, talk to her. She is very approachable and if you want to talk to her about changes to the contest if they run it again I would encourage you to do so.