ffem – Open source, low cost, smartphone-based water and soil testing kits

2019 Winner

ffem has developed an affordable smartphone-based quality testing kit for water. Tests can be performed in situ with results immediately available. An open database facilitates planning, implementation and monitoring of drinking water infrastructure.

What is the social and/or ecological challenge?

In India, 75 million people are exposed to fluoride and arsenic in their drinking water, and another 150 000 die every year due to faecal contamination. WaterAid published a report stating that each year 73 million working days are lost to waterborne diseases, costing the economy an estimated USD 600 million. The simplest solution is often to simply drink from clean sources, but there are no accurate diagnostic tools for users to identify such sources in the field. Generally, there is a lack of accurate water quality data in India, and no means to collect it. Community level water purification systems require frequent monitoring. Field testing kits do exist but are often unreliable. At present the only dependable testing method is to send water samples to government labs that exist in every district. However, none of these solutions provide a simplified way to collect and manage the data, a process that is prone to errors.

The social entrepreneurial approach

ffem develops tools that significantly reduce the cost involved in implementing water supply infrastructure projects. Their main products are low cost smartphone integrated water testing tools that can test for a range of parameters for water quality and significantly improve the quality and ease of collection of water point data. ffem mainly targets organisations working in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, particularly in water supply and quality management. The users would be field staff with little to no formal training in chemistry and data collection, and the tools are designed with this fact in mind. ffem is seeking to set up micro-entrepreneur models whereby local contacts would be offered ffem's kits for purchase to use in providing testing as a service on a local scale, either through a rental or subsidized model. ffem plans to set up a public platform for drinking water quality, which would allow to connect more organisations in the sector while also enabling better-quality data to be shared across sectors.

Goals and expected impact

The immediate goal of this initiative is to ensure safe drinking water for the general public of India, by developing effective and affordable tools to improve processes, operations and access to clean drinking water infrastructure in an affordable manner. The ultimate goal is to create public repositories of environmental data to educate people and spark public conversa-tions around the environmental impacts of human activity.

Submitted by: 
Foundation for Environmental Monitoring (ffem)
Project period: 
Since 2017
Project legal form: 
Last update: 
Award year: 

Foundation for Environmental Monitoring
FFEM office, 2nd Floor, #67 (old #125), Infantry Road, Shivaji-nagar
560001 Bangalore

Mr Saurabh Levin, Director, Product Design and Operations