The future is a scary place, yes -- but one thing we don't need to fear is being unaware that we're thirsty. Research and development firm Cambridge Consultants will be showing off its intriguing "i-dration" concept fitness water bottle at CES in a few weeks, combining a series of sensors on the bottle itself that communicate with an app you've got installed on your smartphone. The bottle will measure ambient temperature, how much fluid you've pounded, and how often you've consumed it; the phone, meanwhile, will use its accelerometer to measure how hard you're working out and combine that with heart rate data from a chest strap. After crunching some numbers, the app determines whether you're low on H2O -- and if you are, it'll make a blue light on the bottle pulse. If it seems like a roundabout way to stay hydrated... well, that's because it is, but Cambridge's angle is that this is a demonstrator for cool new ways that sensors can be tightly packed and integrated with smartphones to create "hardware apps." Speaking of, we could use a tall, cool glass of water. Follow the break for the full press release.

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Real-time hydration advice from new 'smart' drinks bottle

Cambridge Consultants introduces i-dration – the first in a new generation of hardware smartphone apps

Cambridge, UK and Cambridge, MA – December 7, 2010 – Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology product design and development firm, today announced the development of the i-dration drinks bottle. The i-dration is a device that works, in synchronization with a smartphone, to help sportspeople maintain optimum levels of hydration for improved performance. The company has developed the concept to demonstrate the full potential of mobile applications and how they can be brought to life through dedicated devices, or 'hardware apps'.

In physically demanding scenarios, levels of hydration can have a significant impact on performance, and the i-dration hardware app encourages athletes to drink when they need to, rather than only when they feel thirsty. Drinking too much water can have an equally negative effect on sports performance as drinking too little, so Cambridge Consultants designed the i-dration to ensure that users maintain a proper balance of hydration for optimum performance.

The device works by giving advice based on real-time data gathered by the bottle, which is transmitted wirelessly to a smartphone application. Intelligent sensors in the i-dration bottle can be used to monitor the external temperature, drinking frequency and quantity, and this data is then sent via Bluetooth to its user's smartphone. The phone's inbuilt accelerometer and gyroscope can measure exercise levels, and by 'fusing' the data from a heart rate chest-band and information pre-entered using the smartphone interface (such as height, age and weight), the application can perform an assessment of a user's hydration levels. The i-dration bottle then responds accordingly by flashing a blue light if the athlete needs to drink more.

i-dration demonstrates the work that Cambridge Consultants is currently undertaking in bringing mobile applications to life. "Most people still perceive an 'app' to be something that performs a certain task, whether it's checking the weather or the latest sports results, in a virtual world. However, we believe that in the next 12 to 18 months we will see a plethora of new dedicated 'hardware apps', such as the i-dration drinks bottle, that will work in tandem with a smartphone to enhance a range of consumer products and services ," said Rachel Harker, Business Development Manager at Cambridge Consultants. "While smartphones have some excellent capabilities, it is not always practical to use the device itself for collecting or displaying data. Inexpensive, wireless hardware apps have the potential to increase the versatility of smartphones. In the case of the i-dration bottle, it's also relevant to the increasing number of consumers who view their smartphones and technology products as integral to maintaining their health and wellness."

Such 'sensor fusion' algorithms, where the data from multiple sensors are fused together, are typically found in large distributed software systems, but can now be applied to smartphones with Internet connections working with dedicated hardware apps. Cambridge Consultants has the technology and the expertise to develop hardware apps for a vast range of functions, including the signal processing required for real time processing of the algorithms, at a low enough cost-point to make them commercially viable. Using this innovative approach, 'hardware apps' can be developed for multiple markets, including the medical and security sectors.

Cambridge Consultants will demonstrate its i-dration drinks bottle and application at the 2011 International CES, Jan 6th-9th at the LVCC in Las Vegas, USA.