We tested the technology and found it works as advertised
We’d discussed writing a story on ConnectedYard’s pHin product for awhile, so when they got in touch and offered to let us test it*, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to see if it lived up to the company’s claims.
Our publisher, David Wood, cares for his pool himself. So at the beginning of the summer, he tossed the device in to see how it worked.
If you aren’t familiar with the premise, pHin floats in the pool and measures the water chemistry, teaching and reminding homeowners to keep their water balanced.
“This came out of Silicon Valley,” says Jim Conti, vice president of revenue at pHin. “Two guys, Justin Miller and Mark Janes, sat in their backyard like almost all pool owners do and said, ‘There’s gotta be a better way to take care of our pool.’ ”
There were “many, many, many” iterations of the product, Conti says, including experiments with what sensor to use, what it would report, what it would look like when it reported, and what data would it give back.
It took about 15 minutes to get the product set up and in the pool, and there were videos or pictures of the process to check out along the way if you had any questions.
“It was very idiot-proof,” Wood says. “When you drop it in the pool, it says to leave it alone for 24 hours until it has run the full diagnostics of your pool. About six hours later, it sent a full report to my phone.”
Weekly phone alerts reminded him to add chlorine and alerted him to any problems. He could also see how his water was trending, for example, how the pool temperature increased over the summer. But he could also see his pH was trending downward and that his free chlorine was trending up.
To make sure the water chemistry readings were accurate, each week he took three water samples to three pool stores to have them tested independently. The results were nearly always identical.
“When you test your pool with their test strips, you use your phone camera to take a pic and it’s really accurate,” Wood says. “I tried mucking around with it, by putting in a clear one or using a different brand than theirs, but it always gave me an error when I did. It was very calibrated.”
The version we tested was direct-to-consumer, so along with the pHin device, it also sent chemicals — and the app told exactly how much to add to keep the water balanced.
But the company’s dealer-to-consumer version is designed to get customers back into the store to buy chemicals. Currently pHin has a partnership with Lonza, so someone can scan a Lonza product with the app and it will tell the user exactly how much to add to the pool water. pHin hopes to be able to do that with all chemical brands in the future.
“We’re now driving consumer behavior toward putting chlorine in your pool every seven days and shocking your pool every seven days,” Conti says. “How many consumers are doing those types of behaviors? The numbers are shockingly low, then they wonder why their pools aren’t healthy and balanced. So we’re making suggestions and recommendations, and they’re very specific. We can make a generic recommendation and say raise your pH 0.5. Or, you can go scan a Lonza chemical and we’ll give you specific dosing instructions — add 25 fluid ounces of this chemical. We show the customer which chemical it is and we drive them back to that store for the advice, the guidance and more chemicals.”
For service professionals, pHin provides an inexpensive way to monitor their customers’ pools. A technician can show up to a job knowing exactly which chemicals, and how much, are needed to get everything balanced.
Conti believes the company is moving out of the testing phase and into the adoption phase of the product lifecycle.
“A lot of [industry] folks have said, ‘If this works, it’s a no-brainer. But we’ve got to trial it first,’ ” Conti says. “Forty years of doing it one way is a difficult paradigm to shift. We went through this period where people said, ‘I like it … but.’ So that period of time between launch and test trial is now coming to this. The curve is trials are going down; adoption is going up. I think 2018 is going to be our breakout year.”