I didn’t like the idea of Ulla to start with. I’m easily distracted and in a world filled with distractions, reminders, beeping and buzzing, adding another distractor to my life didn’t feel like it would be something helpful.Surely, I’d just turn it off and ignore it like I do with most reminders. I know I should drink plenty of water every day and I do on most days, but some days I drink coffee because I need the caffeine or I’d fall over from lack of sleep.
Turns out, I was wrong. The Ulla is a simple idea executed brilliantly. It’s a small sensor that attaches to any glass or water bottle and flashes when I don’t drink often enough. It isn’t connected to my phone. It doesn’t make any noise. It doesn’t keep going off all the time – maybe it sort of does, but not in that annoying, I’m just going to ignore it now kind of way. It’s a soft reminder that also looks really beautiful sitting on my desk or waiting on my bedside table (it doesn’t activate in the dark). The accelerometer is confused by movement, so it doesn’t work consistently when travelling, but I still take it as it will work once I reach my destination and put it down on a static surface.
I know that on chaotic, tired days drinking more will help me feel better, but it’s the time when I’m least likely to remember. I have loved my Ulla because (a) it isn’t annoying and (b) it doesn’t require thought or any action on my part other than to pick up my water bottle and drink some water. It comes with the added bonus of reminded me first thing in the morning to fill up my water bottle.
The Ergohacks Verdict
In a world filled with distractions, to-do lists and schedules, it’s easy to get distracted from the important things. We underestimate how important hydration is and we overestimate how much we water we drink. It’s a small thing, but it really makes a huge difference. In a world filled with distractions, I’m easily distracted. I forget to pick up my water bottle. I think I’ll remember, I think it’s a simple thing I really ought to remember, but I don’t. I walk past the bottle to go make another cup of coffee, knowing I shouldn’t be having another coffee.
The Ulla has changed my habits by making the path of least resistance just to drink some water. It flashes, I drink some water. After the second or first flash of the day, I discover that I’m actually pretty thirsty. It rarely flashes again until the mid-afternoon slump as I naturally just start to drink more. Instead of putting on another pot of coffee an hour after lunch, it flashes again and I drink some water. By the second flash, I feel more alert and pass on that caffeine.
Apps haven’t worked for me. Neither has smart bottles. It just takes too much effort to set up and maintain for one small, simple part of my day. Ulla works for me. Better yet, it works for my 6-year old with Type 1 Diabetes who goes high if she doesn’t stay hydrated. Two weeks after placing it on my water bottle, it’s still there. It won’t be going in a drawer once this feature has been posted, it’ll stay on my favourite water bottle because I feel better when I stay hydrated and Ulla provides that gentle push to pick up that bottle sitting on my desk without annoying me. Recommended for anyone who knows they should be drinking more water but perpetually forgets to do so.
Price: rrp £25 currently £18.97 on Amazon (Prime eligible)
Paid extras: Battery (standard Coin cell battery CR2032) needs replacing around every 6 months
Ulla Labs is a Solvenian startup formed in 2015 by Damjan Malis specifically with the idea of creating the Ulla reminder. They’re based in Ljubljana and have been somewhat being a finalist in for the Slovenian startup of the year in 2016.
Ulla is a tiny piece of tech with an LED light, battery, accelerometer and processing chip cased in coloured (6 choices available) plastic capsule. A discreet elastic strap hooks it onto any water bottle and it works instantly with no set-up, no syncing, no charging needed (battery will last for 6 months). It has a motion sensor that detects when someone is nearby (no flashing water bottle on an empty desk) and will flash every 30-40 minutes if it hasn’t been picked up. So on days where I’m doing well drinking regularly, it never flashes whilst on distracted, forgetful days, it reminds me.
- Stand-alone product – doesn’t connect to your phone
- Simple to use and automatic (no set-up, no charging, no syncing)
- Light sensor detects when its dark and turns off
- Movement sensor that detects when you’re not in the room and turns it off
- Tilt sensor that when not activated for about 40 minutes, makes it flash
- Ulla’s blinking alert was developed by the US Navy to be discreet, but attract attention within your peripheral vision, so you won’t miss it when focused on work.
Compatibility: Ulla fits on bottles of all sizes, shapes and materials
Size: 4 x 2.5 x 1 cm
Weight: 25 g
Working temperature: 0°C to +70°C
Material: BPA-Free PolyPropylene
Battery life: Up to 6 months
Battery type: CR2032 coin cell
Auto ON/OFF: Yes
Proximity detection: Yes
Core: Low power Microcontroller, High precision 3-axis accelerometer, Ambient light sensor, Thermometer
In the box: Ulla – Hydration Reminder, Silicone mounting band, Battery (pre-installed), User manual.
We based our Ergohacks Verdict on 2 weeks of tinkering, testing and using 2 Ulla sensors kindly provided by Ulla. This article was first published on 16 June 2017.