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Find out what’s in your water… and tell the world - with this portable water scanner.

Find out what’s in your water… and tell the world - with this portable water scanner. Read More
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Funding Unsuccessful

This project's funding goal was not reached on January 7, 2014.

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About this project

Government agencies record and maintain this data.

Energy and engineering firms record and maintain this data.

But you and I do not have access.

Connect with us on Twitter: @wtrDrop

What is SpecShot and what is wtrDrop?

SpecShot is how you test water samples for contaminants (the input), and wtrDrop is the web service that describes and maps your analysis (the output). And they both work with the click of a single button.

SpecShot Water analyer
SpecShot Water analyer
  • SpecShot (Water analyer) - SpecShot tells you what’s in your water. It is a hand-held water scanner that detects and quantifies the elemental makeup of fluid samples. By placing the device over the opening of nearly any disposable or reusable water bottle – and with the push of a single button – it analyzes the contents of a liquid sample. The results are then passed to our server where they are compared to our reference library and described for you.

Push the button, know the contents.

  • wtrDrop ( is also where you digitally "drop" your water samples. Each sample is tagged by SpecShot with the geographic location where it was recorded and is then placed on a publicly available map site. Each drop also contains the the spectrograph (i.e. the pattern of light wave intensity) analyzed by the SpecShot and create a fingerprint of the sample. These fingerprints might include elements on the periodic table (e.g. lead, mercury, chromium) , plastics (e.g. BPA), or biological macro-molecules (e.g. hemoglobin). Once uploaded to our server, drops are described on the map as well as emailed to the user. All of these data are public (i.e. sample results, geographic coordinates, time of collection ) and can also be saved by the user in a variety of formats, including raw data, but the most accessible is Google(TM) Fusion which we are currently using. Drops recorded in close proximity are also tracked over time as it is critical we understand the changes occuring in our water sources.

How does it work? 

(What is a Spectrometer?)

The SpecShot is a very simple scanning spectrometer

Spectrometers are used to detect the presence and amount of elements or compounds dissolved in a fluid. They can tell one material from another by analyzing the light shined through it (a sample) and comparing it to the light shined without it (a blank). Each and every element absorbs particular wavelengths of light that are unique to it. The light shined through it is split into a spectrum with a diffraction grating so the wavelengths of the absorbed light in the sample can be seen. (spectrum with dark bands of absorption)

The pattern of absorption seen can be compared with known patterns to identify the substance.

Where the SpecShot differs from conventional spectrometers is in two variations that allow for it to be compact and affordable:

First, instead of reading the entire spectrum wholly at once, the SpecShot scans it bit by bit by taking hundreds of readings in just 1 second. To do this the detector must move over the projected spectrum of light at a consistent speed. To do this without expensive power hungry servomotors, a novel approach was taken > memory foam. Our experiments suggest that under normal temperature and pressure, the foam expands at a consistent rate, allowing the SpecShot to output in a standard recognizable format.

Second, is the projection of the spectrum from the diffraction grating. Usually, sufficient room is required to allow the beam of light to diverge or it will be too small to differentiate the wavelengths. To appreciate this look at the back of a CD under a light(CD or DVDs act as a diffraction grating). The spectrum gets impossibly small to see as you move closer to it. To remedy this the spectrum is viewed at a much higher order > light is passed an oblique angle to the grating (pass light down the edge of the CD in the dark).

What is seen by the detector  (Recorded from inside the SpecShot)

What can a spectrometer detect?

A spectrometer, specifically an absorption spectrometer, can detect numerous elements and molecules, too many to list here. In fact, early astronomers used a basic absorption spectrometery to identify the gasses comprising stars including our sun. Modern applications of absorption spectrometry include medical (analysing metals in blood and urine), chemical engineering, environmental analysis (impurities in water, beer, wine air ect.), mining and prospecting.

We’re not sure exactly how much the SpecShot can detect because it hasn’t been used enough. However, we don’t expect many surprises because it relies on the same principles as all other spectrometers and so far all tests are compliant with recognized standards.It will be exciting to find out the full capabilities of the SpecShot, but we need your help to fulfil that goal.

This  data was taken from a kitchen faucet and a laboratory-based solution of distilled water and salt with an early model of the SpecShot and it demonstrates its impressive analytic capacities.

Many of the larger spikes in the sample correlate with the salt reference. We discovered through this that there is a water softener in the building (Sodium added to water). As  you can see there were many other lines present in what was considered normal tasty tap water. What could they be? Part of the aim of this project is to fill in those blanks as well as many others.

We are constantly adding to our database of dissolved elements and compounds, and with the funds raised here we plan to significantly expand that reference base to include materials and elements found outside of North America.

What are we offering to do:

We would like to continue to offer the SpecShot and the wtrDrop service as we see this a low cost alternative to what is available for most people. Every day we see examples where something like this in the hands of the public could make a difference.

In keeping with our desire to keep this as open to the public as possible, the wtrDrop system is also available to those without purchase of a SpecShot (4 ways):

  • All uploaded data is public! We share geolocation, source, timestamp and matches. The data, for example, could be filtered and extracted as a kml layer and combined with other data on a map to answer a question visually (rainfall vs. tap water for example?)
  • We are accepting water samples as part of our backer rewards for inclusion into the system. If this is popular, we would like to continue to offer this service after the campaign.
  • It is open for anyone to flag 5 ares's of concern at a time. This will help direct environmental awareness in those regions, as well as direct those with the scanner to take a sample there. If you purchase the $5 reward, you will be added to the early-warning mailing list for those that have a positive match made nearby in a similar source of water (ie, same lake, pond, municipality)
  • A lower powered, water quality service is also layered on the map. We believe that simple human observations or qualitative data, such as discolored or malodorous water, or water associated with symptoms is equally important. For no charge this can be inputted into the system and viewed alongside the scanned data, at shorter time intervals. This could be helpful if, for example, an issue with the water mains is contaminating water in a trunk of municipal tap water.

Find all this on

We need your help collecting samples. We want to build up a larger reference library too and if the campaign is successful we would open this up to the public to collect as well.

Eventually we would like to make an app that would allow for instant verification of chemicals, once a reliable library is built up and the device is tested in the field long enough.

There are more improvements that we would like to see incorporated in to later devices such as size reduction, or as expansions, such as GPS.


Dimensions: 50mm x 5.0 mm x 40mm (1.97 “ x 1.97 “ x 1.58”)

Connection: Micro B USB (note USB A Shown on Prototype). Optional Bluetooth upgrade with JY-MCU HC-06 V1.03 Bluetooth Transceiver.

Power consumption: ~4.5 V (USB) to ~5.5V (2x CR2032 Lithium Coin Batteries) –Peak current draw ~ 0.150 Amperes (Momentarily). Auto-disconnects from power between use to maximize battery life. (Est. 2 years with normal use).

Drivers/Software: None required for use. Recognized by most computers as human HID device (keyboard). Internet connection required. Driver provided for reprogramming firmware (via USBasp).

Processor: 16 Mhz ATMEGA328 PU Microcontroller. 32KB Flash memory, 1KB EEPROM (Enough to store 5 scans at a time).  

Lamp: White 5mm TO LED. 16cd  

Detector: Clear 5mm TO Phototransistor. Peak wavelength efficiency ~ 940 nm. Measured wavelength 380 to 1100 nm.  


  • Diffraction Grating: Holographic Linear 1000 lines/mm.  
  • Slit: 250 um.  
  • Optical resolution: Estimated 5-10 nm.

Where we are at:

 We have already finalized the following:
  • printed circuit board layout
  • component sourcing (BIll of Materials from less than 10 suppliers)
  • web integration
  • industrial design
  • manufacturing partners
  • assembly team and workspace
Circuit Board
Circuit Board
We would like to raise funds to:
  • purchase and maintain a better webserver
  • develop and integrate an app for easier use with mobile devices
  • purchase new laboratory grade spectrometer to calibrate SpecShot
  • order components and manufacture the circuit boards (Winnipeg Based Company)
  • manufacture the casings (cost to tool plastic injection molds from a local company and produce with our own injection molding machine)
All parts (screws, clips, springs, foam, electronics) are shelf components that are standard and easy to find so it is easy to upgrade, replace parts or improve at home.


Social Media:

Risks and challenges

Risk # 1 Functionality dependent on usage:

We have a two track approach to water sample analysis: Samples of water will be sent to us electronically via the SpecShot, as well as by general post. This is so that we can begin to compile the data we need to ensure the success of the whole system while the manufacturing is underway. Also, an all or none campaign helps make sure that enough of these are distributed. This will help ensure that a functioning SpecShot arrives to our backers.

Risk # 2 Initial production run (bugs in the software/hardware)

Although this is a Beta Test Device, we intend for it to work and be useful as we described in the campaign. In keeping with our vision of improving the device, we will be actively seeking feedback from the backers who have used the device for a while. If there something to improve upon during initial dispersal of the units, we will be able to meet that challenge with firmware or hardware upgrades (we have left port open on the board to install additional hardware).

Risk # 3 Production demands (getting it on time)

We currently have a private prototyping facility with plenty of space to expand. Our plan is to expand into basic manufacturing facility, while keeping outsourcing to a minimum.

We have limited the initial production run of the beta test units to 1500. This is enough, in our opinion, to start building up a reasonably sized repository of spectrographs while being attainable to produce initially.

We maintain an inventory of the components needed for the production of the SpecShots electronic and structural hardware. As of now, all parts are in stock with many multiples to spare.

To keep costs down and keep the design open source the SpecShot was built entirely from components that have a high likelihood of always being available (ie. ATMEGA 328-P, simple ruled diffraction grating, CR2032 lithium batteries, ect.).

Of paramount concern to us is that we are to be able to fulfill all of our campaign orders on time. To do this, we limited the number of SpecShot's initially to 1500. If we run out of the the units during the campaign in the first offering, we are prepared to offer more, but with later delivery dates to account for possible lead time on components.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • Yes.

    The SpecShot Beta communicates by USB with your computer in essence as a keyboard (Human Input Device). The upload form on the wtrDrop site is simply filled in in this manner.

    Therefore, it can be pointed to any application you choose (such as Excel(TM)). This is ideal if you intend to use it for "off-label" use which we are totally fine with.

    The advantage to uploaded to wtrDrop is that we can compare it with the reference library which also requires some mathematical manipulation. Geolocation is also submitted by this upload. But we have set this up with the intent of analyzing water from specific sources.

    Last updated:
  • One scan takes about 25 seconds.

    The first thing to do is calibrate it with an empty chamber. So the plunger is depressed until it gives a long beep then beeps twice, then you release. Its best if the water bottle is already fitted into the front while doing this.

    Then, tilt the bottle and let the front fill and depress the button after the long beep but before the double beep as above.

    This can be with data saved on the chip 5 times. If you do it more than five times, it will write over the last sample back to the first. Data is dumped off the chip in the reverse order it was collected in a similar back and forth fashion.

    To dump the data, the plunger is pressed and released.

    Note* with Bluetooth, the plunger is half depressed until paired, then pressed fully and released to do this.

    Last updated:
  • No.

    But, over time a film may build up on the mirror and in the chamber, and it would be a good idea to wipe it out with a soft cloth.

    Last updated:

Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5 USD

    CODE- To help you help better your chances of drinking clean safe water, or staying aware of pollutants in your running water supply (be it municipal, lake, stream, ect.) With purchase of this perk you receive a unique identifier code to include with the location of your running water. Leave your email and, if a unwanted substance is suspected, you will be notified.

    Estimated delivery
    3 backers
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $9 USD

    BLUETOOTH UPGRADE - If you invested in a SpecShot Early Bird and want to upgrade to Bluetooth(TM). Installs onto existing hardware. Works best with PC and Android devices. Ships with SpecShot.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 1 backer
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $14 USD

    3 samples PACK - We can do the spectrophotometric analysis for you. To do this we will send you 3 Eppendorf tubes. Use these to send water samples to us, tell us where they are from, and we will run through our spectrometer. The data will be cross-checked with our library of chemical data, both matches and raw data will be available in our public system for you to view and use.

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    4 backers
  4. All gone!

    Pledge $32 or more About $30 USD

    EARLY BIRD SPECSHOT - As below - To reward our earliest backers!

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    All gone! 20 backers
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $42 or more About $40 USD

    SPECSHOT BETA (Starter) - Entry level spectroscopic device.

    Basic assembly required - Instructions provided - Yes, it can be built by non-engineers at home.

    Sold as a beta test model, so use it and please provide feedback on what could make it better, and receive a bonus to upgrade it to the next model!

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 39 backers
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $62 or more About $59 USD

    SPECSHOT BETA - Our unique water analysis device. Available in Portal Gun Orange. Sold as a beta test model, so use it and please provide feedback on what could make it better, and receive a bonus to upgrade it to the next model!

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 12 backers
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $72 or more About $68 USD

    SPECSHOT (Bluetooth) - Our unique water analysis device with Bluetooth chip installed.

    Available in Portal Gun Blue and Portal Gun Orange.

    Sold as a beta test model, so use it and please provide feedback on what could make it better, and receive a bonus to upgrade it to the next model!

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 38 backers
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $237 USD

    wtrDrop WARRIOR - Contribute to a water scavenging mission in northern Canada. We want to document the effects of pollution, ice melting as well as the drinking water conditions in Canadas most isolated communities. Funding at this level is directed through to produce the equipment needed to sample in the remote locations. You will be credited for your support.

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $750 or more About $711 USD

    GLOBAL wtrDrop WARRIOR - Meet the SpecShot team via Skype(TM). Send a SpecShot to every continent on the planet earth (not including Antarctica which is usually frozen).

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    0 backers
  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $4,741 USD

    Retail Outlet- Display SpecShot/wtrDrop Logs and Devices in your retail outlet. Use Video and other associated media from campaign for promotional materials.

    Estimated delivery
    0 backers
  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $8,000 About $7,585 USD

    Corporate - Meet with SpecShot/wtrDrop Team and affiliate your brand exclusively with our product.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers

Funding period

- (39 days)