Ulla smart hydration reminder – can a blinking device make me drink more water?

This may be an ironic question, but what does “smart” mean these days? We are surrounded by devices described as such, but do they all qualify? This week, I am trying a “smart hydration reminder” called Ulla (£30, It is a Tamagotchi-like bullet that clips to the side of any water bottle and flashes every hour or so, to remind you to drink. Hardly an iPhone, is it? It sounds more on a level with Glacéau Smartwater (Coca-Cola’s bottled water that is distilled, removing minerals from the water, before having minerals added. Amazing times.)

In fairness, there is more going on here than meets the eye. A proximity sensor, to be specific. It detects when you leave the bottle and then return to the area around it, at which point a little white light blinks furiously. There is also an accelerometer that knows when you have lifted the bottle for a sip, marking the event by pulsing the light once. I like this feature, which feels like appeasing a beast. The device knows when you last drank; before an hour is up, it will blink again, reminding you to take another sip.

Do we need smart devices to remind us to attend to basic biological imperatives? In short, yes. Ulla could have been designed with me in mind. I drink a thimbleful of water a day, as a byproduct of eating gummy bears. There may also be water in cheese; who knows? No one has been able to confirm whether tea is hydrating or dehydrating, so I am in the dark on that one. The fact is that I find drinking water boring, so I don’t. I confuse thirst with hunger or tiredness, the upshot being that I am a slugabed with bad skin who can’t cry. I know I should drink more, but it is no use telling me. I make bad decisions, because I am dehydrated. I would love to be an athletic type, who wears his Chilly’s bottle slung low when not swigging from it. Can this device turn me into such a hero?

READ  Is the UK heading towards a second national lockdown?

In short, no. Ulla is more suited to office types, who keep a bottle on their desk. The motion sensor and timer work best when less portable and more visible. I did try it on the go and occasionally was aware of a flash in my tote bag, but most of the time I missed it. It is far more effective sitting next to a computer, in your field of vision – the blinking capturing your attention without disrupting others. If I leave a room and re-enter, the device bats its lashes, and I take a dutiful sip that I wouldn’t otherwise. The Ulla is hardy, too, surviving an overnight chilling in the fridge and flashing me as soon as I open the door.

To my surprise, I appreciate how relatively lo-tech it is. It comes with a rubber band that fits around any water bottle, on to which it clips. There is no app, no tedious tracking of my water intake over time, no leaderboard where I can compare hydration stats with friends. Unlike every smart device I own, it is largely content to leave me alone. I am pathetically grateful for it. Are these … tears? Of happiness? What a journey.

My drinking problem, though, is stubborn. Despite Ulla’s demure presence, I grow tired of the nagging. I start to take smaller sips, eventually picking up and setting down the bottle without removing the cap, to fool the sensor. How is everyone drinking water with this frequency? I don’t know if the sensor is sensitive enough to detect such peevishness. I feel bad for tricking it.

Eventually, there is no point pretending. I take Ulla off the bottle and leave it on my desk. Unfortunately, the battery life is excellent – approximately six months. Mine sits abandoned for weeks, blinking sadly, until I put it in a drawer, to die alone. Next to my old Tamagotchi, in fact.

READ  Dear Coleen: Should I end 20-year marriage for barmaid I met on holiday?

You are not meant to know where they are

My refusal to drink water has become so entrenched that I can actually feel my kidneys. I guess Ulla isn’t the least smart thing in the room, after all.

Wellness or hellness?

H2Ouch. 3/5


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.