Samsung’s Challenge Tackles Drought with IoT

Energy & Sustainability Science
Samsung’s Challenge Tackles Drought with IoT


Can makers create technology that truly makes the world a better place? Samsung believes so and their Makers Against Drought (M.A.D.) Challenge has certainly proven them right. With $100,000 on the line, makers were challenged to help solve the water crisis in California as well as other areas experiencing drought issues.


Contestants applied during the month of May 2015, submitting ideas and solutions. Out of nearly 600 submitted ideas from 57 countries, 150 lucky participants were chosen to actually build their prototype. They received a Samsung ARTIK 5 or ARTIK 10 development kit to work with on their projects. The ARTIK platform has built-in connectivity and an open software environment platform allowing the teams to create some pretty interesting IoT projects.

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After the open ideas application period, there were two stages to the competition:

First, the teams had to submit a reliably functioning prototype complete with source code.  47 teams, representing 18 countries,  brought together  qualifying challenge submissions. The prototypes and presentation videos were reviewed by Fred Patton,  Dan Gross, Janaina Pilomia, Wei Xiao, and Chidi Dibia of the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center (SSIC) who judged submissions based on quality, implementation, potential impact and user experience.

Judging and public voting began in April 2016, and resulted in the awarding of:

  • 10 finalists ($10,000)
  • 10 honorable mentions ($2,000)
  • 1 popular choice selection ($500)

The second part of the competition required the contestants to refine their ideas and more fully develop their projects. The final judging panel comprised thought leaders, venture capitalists and NGOs in the high and clean tech industries. Curtis Sasaki, VP, Samsung Developer Ecosystems, SSIC; Frances Spivy-Weber, Vice Chair, California Water Boards Resources Control Board; Ira Ehrenpreis, founding partner and recognized leader at DBL Partners; Anthony Brunello, President and founder of More than Smart; and Tim Draper, Founding partner at Draper Associates and DFJ.

The Grand Prize


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Electrodialysis Desalinator for Irrigation (EDDI)  provides farmers with an efficient means to remove salt from irrigation water, improving soil quality and reducing water use. The project was created by six hackathon-loving friends from New York City. Their project was chosen because of the sustainability aspects of the use cases, potential viability of the project and the interesting technical applications.  They were awarded $10,000 as finalists as well as the grand prize of $90,000!

About the winning team: the team comprises six friends from NYC Jesse Lee – Engineer and Team Captain, Tony Li – Software Engineer, Shea Molloy – UX/UI designer, Helen Huang – Sustainability Researcher and Builder, and Lara Mendelssohn – Circuitry Engineer.

Other projects that deserve honorable mention are:

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NESS, a standout in the finalists category, provides an on-demand hot water recirculation system that saves all the  water wasted while waiting for a hot shower. The product was developed by four working professionals based in Spain.

Tadpole AMAS, another finalist project, offers an automated, sustainable form of agricultural technology that lowers the entry barriers of adopting water saving practices such as aquaponics, hydroponics, and aquaculture units. 

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The ARTIK Smart Water Meter  awarded in the finalists category, earned the Popular Choice Award, based on a public vote on the Challenge website. Their solution provides an alternative to the current conventional water meter used in California with the Samsung ARTIK based Smart Meters.

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Smart Sink, a smart way of saving water by giving light notification when a user exceeds the daily or current water usage. This finalist is an integrated solution with Web interface that allows users to set limits, monitor data, and assess user statistics.

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EVA – Awarded in the Honorable Mentions category – is  an autonomous floating hydrometeorology device that identifies, measures and tracks areas  of open water that are most vulnerable to evaporation such as aqueducts, riverbanks and canals worldwide.


The Aquastat by the California-based team Droplytics is another Honorable Mention recipient. Their solution is an “aeroacoustics sensing platform” designed to be placed on or near water fixtures in the home to help monitor usage. It uses a combination of vibrational and acoustic sensing to ‘tune in’ on and estimate water flow.


Fantastic Results

These projects are fantastic examples of the type of thinking we need to tackle issues from climate change to healthcare. You can learn about the finalists and view the rest of the submissions by going to the (M.A.D) Challenge page and be sure to check out the SAMSUNG ARTIK platform for your IoT needs.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

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