I was always getting dehydrated. Sometimes I would lose a half a day of productivity because I would get caught up in work, wouldn’t remember to drink water, and then by the time I had a headache it would be too late.
My solution was to make a simple pee logging app. That way, if the time between pees starts getting too long, I would get alerted to drink more water. A quick search on Google and the Apple App Store showed me there wasn’t anything that fit my needs very well.
I came up with the concept while I was out in San Francisco and learning Swift, so I started it as an iOS app. I quickly decided I wanted the data to be more accessible, I wanted to prototype faster, and wanted to be able to access the site from any platform, so I decided to prototype with Rails instead.
I’m a big fan of 37signals, so I often take the approach they discuss in Getting Real for launching new ideas. For the first version, the only thing I needed to be able to do was click a button to log a new pee at the current time, and delete pees (for when I accidentally pressed the button more than once).
For a while, I just had this iOS app that would load a UIWebView of the site. Now, I added an iOS home screen icon to the Rails app so I am using that instead.
Once I got this version going and was using it myself for a few days and talking to people about it, enough people showed interest in wanting to track their own pees. A few nights later I spent an hour adding a user account system, so now anyone can sign up and start logging pees.
Between releasing this first version with users and writing this post, about 20 people signed up. This started as just a project for me to use, but it’s pretty cool that other people want to use it, too.
Next, I’ll probably add some form of email notifications, since there aren’t any notifications yet.
After that, I will probably add some kind of “color” attribute for each pee, so you have the option to indicate how dark it is. I left that out of the first version so I could get something out faster, but I think it could be useful data. I’ve found some existing scales that are used to correlate urine color with hydration, some of which have up to 7 discrete levels, but I will probably go with something simpler like 3 levels.
Most development that happens on this will probably revolve around making it as fast and easy as possible for people to log their pees. I think the biggest barrier for most people is getting into the habit.
If it gets enough adoption, it would be cool to build a native iOS or Android app, or both. I think that could help with distribution by putting it in the App Store and Google Play.
It seems like many people don’t know about how to add Home Screen icons to websites in Safari, or the equivalent on Android. A native app would lower the barrier for pee tracking by separating it from the web browser.
Also, native apps would let the app send push notifications, which I think is important for the hydration reminders. I could set up email or SMS reminders, but that seems too old school right now. Notifications could also remind people to log their pees if they haven’t been.
I’m not a doctor, I’m just trying to keep myself hydrated and now help other people do the same. I don’t really look at this project as a business as much as a tool to help people stay healthy.
I have been keeping my own urination data in the app since a few days before 2015, so as long as I keep it up I plan to have a full year of my own pee data by 2016. At that point it would be fun to find people interested in researching this stuff, or people good at statistics, so we can dig into the data and come up with solid ways to make recommendations and provide useful metrics and analysis about the pee data.
Another direction I could see this going, if it gets a lot of traction, is a hardware device.
It would be like a funnel that you urinate through. Obviously, one of the biggest design considerations would be that it’s easy to clean and hard to get pee on yourself when using the device.
This device would provide some additional data about the urination event, like the volume and flow rate, but the biggest part would be analysis of biomarkers.
It could use mass spectrometry to analyze your urine, and could tell you way more than just your hydration level. From some brief conversations with people who know more about urine than I do, I’ve found that it may be possible to measure things like leukocytes, nitrates, protein, glucose, specific gravity, blood, ketones, bilirubin, and much more.
My early research when I first had the problem lead me to the uChek, which seems really cool. It’s a little bit different than the hardware concepts I’ve been throwing around since it requires consumables (test strips), but there may not be around using consumables for some tests.
I’ve done some preliminary research on instructables to see what kinds of homemade spectrometry is possible. These diffraction slides are kind of fun to play around with, especially if you have some different types of light sources around:
Any electrical engineers or hardware hackers out there interested?
Ideally, this kind of device would be open hardware, so it could be both available commercially and also have less expensive variants and DIY kits to improve health in developing parts of the world.
Release Early & Often
I want to help keep myself healthy and productive, which is why I built this. If it helps other people, awesome. If it grows into something bigger, that’s awesome, too. If I just keep using it to log my own pees and keep myself hydrated, fine with me!
No matter the outcome I’m happy with myself for spending very little time taking this from problem in my life to research to concept to prototype, and getting something out there that anyone in the world can sign up for and start using.
Check it out at http://www.peeandseeit.com
UPDATE: I’ve posted a second article about Pee & See discussing what’s going to happen next with it based on what I’ve learned so far.
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