Tern Water wants to do for your faucet what Nest did for your thermostat - Technical.ly Philly


Mar. 29, 2016 10:14 am

Tern Water wants to do for your faucet what Nest did for your thermostat

The water purification startup is out to make the Flint water crisis a thing of the past.

A rendering of Tern's Smart Faucet in action.

(Courtesy image)

Tern Water is seeking to make problems like the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich., a thing of the past.

Drexel students and cofounders Mohamed Zerban and Connor White, CEO and chief creative officer, respectively, have created the Smart Faucet, a faucet attachment to filter water in people’s homes. It also gives real-time data of water consumption and environmental impact, an estimate of water quality and when the user needs to replace the filter.

Zerban worked at the Philadelphia Water Department for six months where he learned about the importance of having a clean water supply. Philly’s current infrastructure was built decades ago, he said, and the city uses chlorine as its primary method of purification. Those who live closest to the purification plant are likely to have more chlorine in their water.

“That’s when I felt the need to make water more efficient in homes,” Zerban said. “I realized how old the infrastructure is and how impractical it would be to take it apart and completely redo it.”

Planning for the project began in 2014. The team conducted research, interviewed residents and development firms about what to focus on and drew up hundreds of ideas, “literally on scraps of paper,” White said.

The biggest issue people are facing is lack of information and no way to ensure the water they’re consuming is clean, Zerban said.

“People want to be guaranteed that they have healthy, clean water leaving their faucet,” he added.

Zerban and White sought out a multi-disciplinary team to build and launch the company. Tern Water established four main tenets of its mission: purification, recycling, generation and conversation.

“By going through these stages, it’s the most practical way of reaching our mission in a realistic way,” White said.

Tern Water’s ultimate mission is to create a “true sustainable home” and “redefine the home water system,” White said.

Tern Smart Faucet.

(Courtesy image)

White focuses on the way users interact with the brand as well as the product. He also is involved in product development, prototyping and marketing.


Zerban was born in Egypt and moved to England when he was 4 years old, living there until he was about 10. He then moved to the Persian Gulf area for about seven years before coming to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University.

Across the world, water is becoming more of a severe problem and Flint is just the beginning, Zerban said. He added that in Egypt, the water infrastructure is old and the water is highly polluted by chemicals and metals, and the Gulf area barely has an infrastructure at all.

The Smart Faucet, which will be launched this spring, comes in four universal attachments. It will only be available only in the U.S. and Canada, but the team is hoping to expand to Europe.

White said the Tern Water is currently working on several more projects.

“We definitely want to be a part of greater social water impact,” he added. “We’re not a one-and-done company … we’ll be around for a long time.”

Lian Parsons

Lian Parsons is a journalism student at Temple University and former assistant news editor for The Temple News. The Boston native is a cat, poetry and Beyonce enthusiast.

  • Jay R. Newlin

    While I appreciate their innovation and their interest in addressing a serious problem, it is difficult to claim making a situation such as that in Flint, Michigan, “a thing of the past” with technology that will probably be at a price point too high for the majority of people who are most affected by such situations. I’m glad to see this idea, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of an impact this technology will have on our homes, but let’s be very careful what claims we make about such social-justice and infrastructure issues.

  • Adrienne

    Currently part of Flint’s problem is that the lead levels are so high that the filters are not effective. So, if this product can’t filter out much, much more lead than typical residential filters then I guess it doesn’t so much “make the Flint water crisis a thing of the past” as just tell you that you can’t drink your water. I’m pretty sure Flint residents already know that.

  • Sue

    This really isn’t great marketing. I’m not saying water filtration or knowing what is in your water is a bad idea, however, as other commenters mentioned, it would not have prevented Flint. And if it can, the price point would make it useless to those it could have helped. Furthermore, most US residents’ biggest water concern is that it’s hard or has a lot of chlorine. Neither of those will kill you in the doses found in tap water. This feels like fear mongering to sell a product that is already clean and safe. It’s also a bit insulting to people in countries where the water is inaccessible due to lack of infrastructure and/or is truly unsafe to drink. My advice is to rethink how you frame this product and find a way to give back to parts of the world that actually need technology like this.


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