WeTest is based on a simple idea: We should make water quality measurements simple and meaningful to everyone. This can reconnect people to their roots and footprint on the land they live from. We believe providing scientific tools and an augmented reality platforms will help people organize, understand and protect their land. This process is very empowering and crucial to help humanity shift to a more sustainable way of life on this planet.
For this, we are developing cheap and simple to use sensors (working with UofA’s Serpe Research Group and USP’s Paixao group) that provide useful information about the quality of the water we drink and of the environment around us. We also working with Water Rangers in designing a smartphone application that can read the data and help citizens understand the data by providing contextual information and joining it with a live, on-line database of measurements.
To succeed in combining these two aspects, we have to overcome several technical and societal challenges. We are not going to solve these issues alone : this is why we chose to work in an open-source and collaborative approach facilitating idea exchange. FabLabs and open-source spaces make this new collaborative paradigm possible.
The user experience : Our smartphone app is designed to be fun, informative and simple, to allow people with little scientific background to understand the health and environmental information made available.
Pedagogy and awareness : We inform the users of natural water cycles and the living dynamics of water bodies. Users will discover consequences of contamination, invasive species and ressources to help resolve the water issues are provided.
Gamification : A personal profile, achievements, possibility to level up and gain reputation as missions are completed is designed to attract and sustain the interest of users. A team structure has been designed in order to
Regional and inter-community social forum : Local and international horizontal knowledge sharing on a reciprocal platform to facilitate dialog and learn from each other’s experiences. Our objective is two-fold: Facilitate communication between citizens who share the same rivers and the same concerns, but have no time to meet; and facilitate communication between inhabitants of different watersheds who, at large, face the same issue, but have to work independently because they have no space to meet.
Gathering knowledge : The ones who best know an environment are its inhabitants. A wiki platform for gathering qualitative observations by locals, photographs, traditional practices, time capsules and notable remarks is encouraged.
Virtual reality : Users will be encouraged to establish virtual testing stations at crucial spots along their water bodies; taking a photo-sphere at a specific spot will allow the trespassers to collect the capsule, and then to take part in the monitoring.
Peer-to-peer security : Because with regards to security, the only ones we can trust are each other, users will be encouraged to participate in a peer to peer security structure.
Our business plan : We are offering services to governments, cities, schools and NGOs to provide workshops and monitoring tools that can be used by people to develop awareness, mobilization and responsible stewardship of environmental resource.
The sensors : A new and inexpensive technology developped in Michael Serpe’s lab is used to test water, able to detect Salinity, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates, Fluoride, Arsenide, and even Coliforms bacteria. This new technology is supplemented with conventional cheap paper tests
Colorimetric measurement : Readout is simplified by the use of the camera to recognise the shade of the colorimetric-patch on a calibrated color scale This technology is printable on a paper support like a business card, for a single-use cost of around 10 cents. Many more sensors and different kinds of qualitative informations and pictures will also be shared connected on our application interface.
Value creation through a cooperative process : We believe that the value created will not be created purely by the data or the user’s health or environmental benefits, but more by the process which will generate trust. While the individual measurements may not at first be as precise and rigorous as standard laboratory analysis, we believe the average user will have a different relationship to the data they gathered themselves compared to an analysis realized by a specialist. By feeling involved, valued and challenged by the gamification interface, they will feel a belonging to them. Once others share their data too, people will be able to realize the levels of contamination or pollution through the data they gathered themselves by working together.
Restoring confidence in science by opening it to the people : In our time, more and more people have lost confidence in the message of intellectual elites; that is why people fall to the message of Donald Trump and the whole issue of fake news, anti-vaccination movement and the flat-earth society. But how can we blame them? Who can we trust when the institutions have gotten so remote, so out of reach because of the barriers of diplomas, and the high cost of study? At WeTest, we believe that this tendency is very serious and is putting the very core of our society at risk of an confidence collapse. Trust is the basis of all shared value systems, and we, with the society of information, cannot leave the control of information to rigid institutions which are crumbling right now.
We believe that this process is not happening because people are simply stupid, as some like to believe, but rather because the majority of the middle class are sick and tired of being told what to do by hypocrites and liars who decide for them behind closed doors. People are intelligent and will believe what they can themselves see, be consulted on and participate in. What we need is a structural change, more transparency, egalitarian processes of power distribution, and science should follow these ways to be more in touch with the public. Collaborative science has the advantage of stopping the infantilisation of citizens and actually putting monitoring tools in their hands, with the bet that, with their curiosity stimulated, everyone is capable of great understanding of the scientific processes!