While most of us who live in the US (with notable exceptions) are within reach of safe drinking water, the same cannot be said for hundreds of millions of people around the world. In fact, for many in countries with aging infrastructure and generally poor conditions, finding potable water is a daily struggle.

For those traveling or living temporarily in countries with unsafe drinking water, one way to make sure the water is drinkable is to test it. There are any number of widely available and affordable water tests, many in the form of disposable kits. If you want a reusable kit, there products like the HM Digital TDS, which is cheap and reliable.

And now there’s the TestDrop from Lishtot, which tests water quality not through the use of internal chemical sensor but through analyzing the water’s electrical fields. How does that work? According to the company’s chief scientist Dr. Alan Bauer, the device detects finds for contaminants by looking for distortions in those electric fields. When water is clean, the results come back showing a negative electric field. When water is dirty, positive. And because the device is detecting electric fields rather than utilizing some form of chemical bacteria sensor, there’s no need to put the device into the water.

Of course, the user of the company’s handheld device doesn’t need to understand the technical details behind the product, but instead just places the sensor next to a plastic cup with a water sample and looks to see whether there is a blue or red light. Blue means potable, red non-potable. If a user wants more details on what a red light means, they can look at the mobile app that comes with the device for information on what contaminants the device found.

Dr. Bauer showed me the device at their booth at the Sands and it seemed to work well. He also showed me the device’s three different sensitivity levels, the lower of which might say the water is safe in a typical US home, and another with higher sensitivity which could detect much more minute increases in minerals or contaminants from, say, a water filter that needs to be replaced.

And it’s because of this ability to detect small differences in water quality that the company has garnered interest from home appliance and home water systems companies. These companies want to embed this technology into their products to give consumers an always-present water quality sensor.

As I wrote this morning in our piece on Aryballe’s digital odor detection technology, interest in this type of technology is part of a broader trend where appliance makers are looking to add increased intelligence through digital sensors to their products. There’s also increased interest at CES this year in using technology to better understand and manage water (more on that in later posts).

You can see a video of Dr. Bauer showing how the TestDrop Pro works below.