Leaking taps, flooding dishwashers, broken pipes… Water damages are a not only a common and costly problem, but cause a potential health risk. Finnish innovation aims to put them into history.
Jani Alatainio is a happy man. After three years of development, his patented water leakage detector has finally gone on sale and it’s flying off virtual shelves.
“My background is in real estate and construction and over the years I have seen water damage of all shapes and sizes,” says Alatainio, CEO of NWD Technologies, the company he founded in 2012 to develop the product. “I have seen how common they are and statistics show they are only getting more frequent. This is how I got the idea for a new kind of alarm system that can be fit to any space.”
Watector is a water leakage indicator which consists of two parts: a sensor mat created with printable electronics and an alarm unit. The sensor mat comes in a 50×50 centimetre square, but is deceptively versatile. It can be cut to almost any shape and placed wherever there is a risk of leakage, such as under a washing machine or in a kitchen sink cupboard.
If any of the sensors detect water or dampness on the mat, the attached alarm unit is alerted and sounds in a manner similar to a smoke detector.
“The benefit of our alarm is that especially difficult and concealed leakage can be discovered before it causes wide damage,” Alatainio explains. “It has been received very positively.”
In isolation dampness and/or water leakage detectors aren’t a completely new innovation, but until now they have had one significant handicap: size.
The Watector water leakage sensor consists of a sensor mat and an alarm unit. The mat can be cut to any shape and size with normal scissors and it detects if there is any dampness or water on its surface. (Photo: Watector)
“Typically water alarms only measure a very limited area, about the size of a thumb. Our mat can cover a much larger area which is a clear benefit,” says Alatainio. “According to the novelty examinations we have conducted there is nothing like our product, even internationally.”
Another benefit is that Watector is easy to install and it doesn’t require any special expertise or tools. The sensor mat can be cut to the desired shaped with scissors and after the alarm unit is attached to it, the product is ready to go. As an added perk, the mat is completely recyclable.
The product has been patented in Finland and protected with an EU-wide trademark, while the international patent process is underway.
Of course water damage isn’t only a problem in Finland and since its launch in Mid-February, Watector has sparked enquiries from many countries, including the US.
“We did market studies early on and there is clear international demand for this product,” Alatainio says. “Our first step is to go the other Nordic countries and then expand to further parts of Europe and the US.”
While the company’s current focus is on market expansion, the roadmap also includes further development of the product to meet the needs of the retail and construction industry. Alatainio gives the example of Watector eventually being integrated directly into kitchen furniture.
Plans of this scale mean growing what is currently a one-man company. Alatainio has come far by the means of cooperation and outsourcing (even the product name and prototype packaging were finalised using a student project), but this is not enough for a company aiming to take over international markets.
“I’ll definitely start to hire more people, there is no way I can keep doing this alone,” Alatainio says with a laugh.
Water damage isn’t only a problem in Finland and since Watector’s launch in Mid-February, it has sparked enquiries from many countries, including the US. (Photo: iStock/Ekspansio)Text: Eeva Haaramo www.waterctor.com Good News from Finland