Home stove, factories get smarter; outsourcing to China

NEW YORK—Tracy van Dyk, head of electronics at Biolite, was one of three presenters at the Hardware meetup last June 27 at Microsoft, but Van Dyk, but beyond talking about Biolite’s amazing cookware products, she got everybody’s attention by talking about how she and Biolite learned while searching for and manufacturing its products in China.

  • Construct a good RFQ package. Have full gerbers, BOM, description of product, test criteria and order quantity.
  • Cast a large net. Look for vendors that fit with your company size. See if they have employees
  • Set up a vendor qualification criteria.

Must have an English website

Fast response time/eagerness

Able to answer technical questions.

Good product detail/management

Willing to set up on-site visit

Must be willing to negotiate price

Having Van Dyk talk about the company’s manufacturing process makes perfect sense, as it also demonstrates a manufacturer’s capability.

One of many Biolite products is the HomeStove, a clean-burning stove that combines emissions reduction with cost-saving electricity generation. It reduces indoor smoke by more than 90 percent while fuel cost in half.

How does it work? The user feeds local fuels — whether it’s wood, cow dung, or crop residue — through the side of the stove. Then, they light the fuel much as they did their open fire. The heat from the flame is converted into electricity through a thermoelectric generator. This electrical powers an internal fan, which force-feeds oxygen into the flame, eliminating the smoke, and leading to the near and clean combustion of the fuel.

The stove generates surplus electricity, enough to charge a mobile phone and provide an evening’s worth of LED light. For developing countries with a dearth of wood, it also reduces wood use by 50 percent.

In terms of  reducing waste and increasing productivity, what tools do you need? Industrial software costs an arm and a leg. Not only that, it falls short of expectations.

Oden Technologies is on a mission to eliminate waste in manufacturing, as CEO and founder Willem Sunblad conveyed to the audience at the Hardware meetup.

The SaaS company combines industrial hardware, wireless connectivity, and big data architecture in one platform so all manufacturers can analyze and optimize their production from any device.

CEO Assaf Glazer’s presentation was personal, as the idea came to him monitoring his own baby.  He came up with a smart baby monitor for the IoT era. It’s called Nanit.

“When I had my son 4 years ago, I wanted to understand his behavior, make sure he was safe and healthy,” he said.

Now, he claims to have developed advanced computer vision and machine learning algorithms to help measure human behavior. “This is for parents and babies everywhere,” he said.

Unlike other baby monitors, Nanit does not require wearables or monitors on any baby. Instead, it uses an advanced camera that uses machine learning to provide sleep insights, measuring things like behavior throughout the night.

Lending credence to its Glazer’s claim is Nanit’s team composition, which reportedly comes from established companies such as Diapers.com, Philips and Time Warner.

Expected to launch in September at $350, the Nanit baby monitor reportedly collects temperature, humidity and sound. It closed a $6.6 million seed round.

Words recreated into 3D scenes, homes more connected than ever

NEW YORK – How do you create 3D scenes by simply describing them in words? How about conjuring some magical UX for IoT? Or having your home products connect with any device? These and more were tackled at the Hardwired NY meetup last June 8 at WeWork in Chelsea.


Bob Coyne, founder and CTO of WordsEye, showed the packed audience how to create 3D scenes simply by describing them in words. Users can reportedly make artwork, express visual opinion or simply play with it. They make good conversation pieces for social networks.

Those concerned about their privacy? Users have the option to keep their input text private even when sharing a scene itself. Any scene that is posted to the gallery or made public via a permalink can be copied by other users if the original scene’s text is disclosed.

When a scene is copied from another scene and then posted to the gallery, the new scene will display a small thumbnail in the bottom right hand corner, showing where it was derived from. This way, it claims, users can riff on each other’s scenes while still crediting the original artist. Only make use of personal and non-commercial use of their scenes.

How can you take it further? You can comment on existing scenes by opening and modifying them, if not responding with a new scene. If you want to play around with it more, you can change effects with illustrations, even add thought balloons, among others.

Coyne also shared what he and his team have learned.
•    New features/content fuel engagement
•    Users riff on each other’s scenes (visual banter)
•    Shared scenes attract new uers
•    Users like a token system
•    Giving a title is an important part of creativity
•    User requests: storyboarding/comic’ new 3D content choices; user 3D uploads; VR output; animated output

Chris Allen, founder and CEO of iDevices, has a growing line of HomeKit-enable products sold at Lowe’s stores. The company builds products that are compatible across platforms with focus on Siri, Google and Amazon.

iDevices’ products include the Socket, Wall Switch, Dimmer Switch and Wall Outlet. These build upon iDevices’ first three Homekit-enabled products: the iDevices Switch, an indoor connected plug; Outdoor Switch, a rain-tight, dual outlet connected plug and Thermostat.

Through the use of Apple HomeKit technology, iDevices is able to provide different ways for its users to control their home’s lights, outlets, thermostats, and more from their Apple’s iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and with Siri voice commands.

The iDevices Connected app provides users with ultimate convenience, comfort and security allowing them to control their home using their iOS 8.1+ mobile phone or tablet from anywhere.

Allen shared a few points about the direction of the market for 2016:

HomeKit: It’s early days for Apple HomeKit but there are lots of promising signs
Expenditure: Growth in smart home product and service spend continues to grow, estimated to reach 128 million households by 2018
Intent: 43 percent of consumers are most likely to purchase connected home products when renovating or upgrading their home

Next speaker was Josh Clark, founder of Big Medium, a company that specializes in designing multi-device experiences that blend function and inspiration. The challenge for him is how to create great individual experiences and create experiences across all of these devices.

Martin Broen, VP of Global Product Design at Pepsi, talked about how his design team uses prototyping to lead development of ideas. He cited the importance of not waiting too long to finish products, not skipping steps and not spending too much to test them.

Growing produce at home, managing diabetes everywhere

NEW YORK–Last December 1, Hardware Meetup featured talks from the founders of Grove, OneDrop and Boxee at the Microsoft offices.


Gabe Blanchet, CEO of Grove, showed how food lovers can grow food at home while–get this–fish swims below it. Yes, even it will fit in a cramped New York apartment  .

Imagine an aquarium but with plants growing on top of it. But why fish? The fish process the food they are fed and produce ammonia-rich waste. Beneficial microbes convert the ammonia to nitrates (organic plant fertilizer), simultaneously supplying the plants with nutrients and the fish with clean water. No need for cleaning your tank.

Blanchet recounts how in its early adopter program, he and his team had 50 prototypes before they developed its current iteration,which was made from the startup’s own manufacturing facility, quite an ambitious project and the work shows. Grove even helps you from start to finish the way you it provides you the seeds, fish to add to your tank, and measure the health of your system. You can grow leafy greens, herbs and fruiting crops.

As of last December 1, Grove has already surpassed its targeted $100,000-Kickstarter crowdfunding goal with over $300,000.

Jeff Dachis of OneDrop Today came from the world of digital advertising, the hugely popular Razorfish but switched to designing a USB-like diabetic management device that come in eye-candy colors.    

Dachis said 30 million Americans suffer diabetes and 5 million of them die every year. He hopes to empower 500M people with diabetes with the merging of both software (allowing diabetics to record experiences in restaurants to share with other diabetics) and hardware (giving them an device that makes it easy for them to live their life with the disease).

The default posting feature in its app is public because it wants to foster community-building and allow everyone to share personal behavior-based insights. Dachis is trying to switch mindsets and make managing the disease less intimidating for diabetics. Even the app allows for a personal stream of likes and stickers.

Idan Cohen, cofounder of Boxee before smart TVs were all the rage, talked about how his company got acquired by Samsung. He’s one of the few hardware startup veterans in New York.

Korea’s Samsung reportedly agreed to pay about $30 million for his company. Boxee developed an interface which allows users to record and store content in the Cloud, providing easier access to Internet video content than other applications.

Could he have kept going with Boxee for 7 years that he was running it?  He paused and thought it over before saying yes. It’s hard to give up your baby, after all.

“You have to deal with hardware, retail, distribution and a lot of other things,” he said.

What preoccupies him these days is close to what Grove is doing–growing produce.