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From Maker to Mainstream – Productizing Innovation

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Product design does not have a formula. There is no one-size-fits-all playbook. But the journey of any innovator is rich with insights. For those who are wondering what it may be like in the trenches, we’ll take a walk through the process one developer team from the maker community followed in taking their innovation through the design and development process.

The goal: Solve a serious problem, and in the process produce an in-demand mainstream product.

Every Two Minutes a Purse Is Stolen

Joan Dao was a college student at the University of Minnesota when the idea came to her that purses should be theft proof.

It wasn’t just an out-of-the-blue idea. Her brain-child was born out of an incident in which her mother’s purse was violently stolen in a parking lot after she was shopping in a store. Joan helped her mother recover after the trauma, but it was a long road. In addition to feelings of loss and vulnerability, she had to freeze financial accounts, replace identification, and had many doctor visits to deal with the physical trauma.

Joan saw the incident partly as a failure of technology. A blind spot in the grocery store where the robbery occurred meant the thieves got away with the act. They ran to an alley where there was no camera with facial recognition. The police took a record of the theft, but without any method of identifying the thieves, there was really nothing they could do. And of course the purse had no tracking mechanism. She was inspired to come up with a game-changing wearable design.

Since the ultimate design included a Digi XBee® module that controlled the necessary communications, we talked with Joan about her development process and how she plans to take her project from ideation to mainstream.


Launching the Initiative

Joan took the opportunity to become involved in a student group at UMN called Tesla Works. Similar to a real angel investment firm, Tesla Works supports worthy student projects. Once she pitched her idea and got the startup funding, she launched R&D.

“I put together a team and we worked on the project for a year, considering many ideas. We thought of built-in pressurized pepper spray. But then you have a bomb, so no-go. We thought about skunk smell, a panic alarm and Taser arcs. I had to channel my anger about what happened to my mother into the project.”

She realized they needed to solidify their planning around clear goals:

  • Nothing about the design could be illegal
  • It had to be TSA friendly
  • The design had to be financially feasible; the team needed to work with technology (such as sensors) they would have access to readily at low cost

See the video of the team discussing the product design process.

As the pieces began to fall into place, Joan incorporated her company as Colette Technologies, LLC. However, the team is now in the process of reincorporating as “Ilesovi Inc.” and will use that name going forward.

Prototyping: Crossing the Hurdles

The challenges of pulling off a major technology innovation are enormous, especially for a group of students who are only able to commit part-time due to their studies. There were many bumps in the road: four electrical engineers quit, design ideas didn’t pan out, and unreliable technology that was easily available for college students failed frequently. Without an unwavering commitment to seeing this project through, it would not have had a chance.Internal purse design

Finding a designer who could produce a prototype proved to be a larger challenge. The team lost their first designer, who left to pursue a PhD at Cornell in Apparel Design, with her previous work in developing space suits for NASA. Having no one who had a high level of sewing skills stalled the team for months. At last, the team found a freshman who had been sewing all her life and was eager to contribute her skills to the project.

The first prototype included these features:

  • Fashionable Slash-proof design
  • Biometric closure that runs on a fingerprint scanner
  • Robust, anti-pry lock
  • GPS track-ability
  • A method to deter the thief

The theft deterrence alone was a major undertaking. The team reviewed many ideas from exploding dye packs to mace. But many of these options would affect the user as well as the thief. They finally settled on a panic alarm that automatically sounds if the purse strap is broken—an “intentional failure” designed to protect the wearer if the purse strap is yanked.

“The alarm sounds at 120 decibels,” Joan said. “It wails. Ninety decibels is a loud rock concert. This is a siren.”

Market FeasibilityAnti-theft purse fashion

Ilesovi had an opportunity to showcase their prototype purse at the Embedded Systems Conference in Silicon Valley in December, 2016. The team’s apparel designer created the prototype to demo at the conference over Thanksgiving weekend using a polyurethane fabric and a stainless steel cable for reinforcement in the seams.

Not only did the team receive exposure for their idea, but they were able to get some instant feedback on the market climate for their product. A conference swarming with people right before the holidays was the perfect opportunity. “There were a lot of guys who wanted the purse as a Christmas gift for their significant others. We knew we had a product ripe for commercialization.”

Patenting

From there the team decided it was time to pursue a patent. They worked with a local IP attorney who helped them file the patent paperwork to secure rights to the design and features, and now have a patent pending.

A new challenge presented itself. The team needed to solidify the technology behind the product and determine how to create a product in scale.

This is where Digi International entered the story.

Technology Advancement and Press

The team was struggling to get their electronics to work when they met associates from Digi International; and morale was low. Then several things happened in fairly quick succession:

  • In the fall of 2017, Ilesovi attended an IoT Fuse Hack Day where they were given a Digi XBee module that would reliably support their connectivity needs.
  • At IoT Fuse, they worked on the product’s fingerprint scanner and finally achieved success.
  • They agreed to join Digi at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and put on a demo in Digi’s booth. This led to a lot of press attention, including an article in the Wall Street Journal.
  • Additionally, they had a huge boom in site traffic, with many people asking how they can buy the product.
  • They underwent a major redesign that included switching from a stepper motor to a solenoid.

Beta Product

Today, the team is preparing to launch a beta product that they will use to obtain real world feedback. This process includes evaluating and updating many of the design elements for usability, reliability and appearance, as well as completing required RF testing and simulated theft testing. It also involves developing a small scale line of 60 items.

“The primary goal is to get user feedback. Customers who buy the beta will get to trade it in for a free upgrade just for being a part of the beta,” Joan said.

The Future for Joan Dao and Ilesovi Inc.

The theft-proof purse team has received so much positive feedback that they know they have a marketable product that will enjoy exceptional demand. Every two minutes someone’s wallet or purse is stolen in the U.S., and very few are ever recovered. The product hits a nerve, and Joan has heard so many stories and received so many requests for related products that she knows it’s only a matter of time before she will need to set her sights higher, broaden the product line and meet a greater demand.

With a degree in neuroscience, Joan has an enormous interest in the Medtech space, from her research in deep brain simulation therapy for Parkinson’s disease patients to wearables that monitor various health metrics.

Joan also has a passion for helping women in technology. Ilesovi’s mechanical engineer, electrical engineer and apparel designer are all women, and she often finds herself mentoring young women who are navigating their way in a male-dominated arena.

Why Ilesovi? Ilesovi is a portmanteau of Spanish and Vietnamese. Ileso means “unscathed” or “unharmed” and “vi” is Vietnamese for “purse.”

A Company to Watch

Innovators and engineers join the Maker community for a wide range of reasons. These include a desire to design and build wireless devices and robotics as a hobby to creating products that can be produced on a mass scale for consumers and businesses.

Keep your sights on Ilesovi, as this initiative that started as a student project could very well one day be producing market-driven devices for B2B markets in high tech, government, financial and medical fields.

>>Check out these customer stories for more insight on how customers use Digi technology in their products and solutions.

How to Choose the Right Antenna for Your IoT Application

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Antennas come in many shapes and sizes, for many different uses. Some are attached externally to the product for the correct functionality, while others must be designed into the end device so it is both invisible and functional. For example, if you have a device enclosed in a metal box, like a router, your antenna is going to be connected externally. For a mobile device or wearable, however, you probably want a smaller antenna that is built into the internal design. The types of antennas for these different applications vary not only due to size and placement, but also properties and functionality.

In this post, we’ve provided an overview of the most prevalent antenna types and their common IoT applications. Note that most categories of antennas have several sub-types. Additionally, the topic of antennas can quickly get into deep technical detail and mathematical formulas, which is beyond the scope of this post. . If you need further assistance with your antenna selection, our Wireless Design Services team can help.

Topics in this blog

  1. Dipole Antennas
  2. Monopole Antennas
  3. Loop Antennas
  4. Helical Antennas
  5. Patch Antennas
  6. Slot Antennas

1) Dipole Antennas

Dipole antennas are omni-directional, which means they radiate signals in all directions on at least one plane. They are typically large since they are half wavelength structures. This amounts to about 6 inches in length for cellular antennas. These antennas are nearly always used externally, such as for metal box devices like routers and gateways. They may ship with the device or may need to be ordered separately.

Properties of Dipole Antennas

Dipole antennas are very efficient antennas with a consistent performance, omni-directional radiation pattern, and reliable polarization. A dipole antenna has a radiation pattern that is not dependent on the size of the box or the ground plane.  This is accomplished because the dipole has balanced currents on both antenna arms resulting in little current flow on the ground plane or chassis. The radiation pattern looks like a donut with most of the energy being emitted from the broadside of the antenna. The antenna isolates itself from the metal box (chassis), which acts as the ground plane.

Common Applications for Dipole Antennas

Use a dipole antenna when you need to talk in all directions (omni-directional) and don’t know the location of the receiving link. Common applications for dipole antennas include cellular and Wi-Fi applications; there are different dipole models for each of these communication types. (Dipole has limited bandwidth, so different lengths are required for difference frequency bands.) The dipole antenna will work well for an external antenna mounted on a metal enclosure, regardless of the enclosure size. Metal enclosures are very common with industrial applications in harsh environments and external antennas are a near certainty under these constraints. Also, due to their high efficiency and consistent radiation pattern, labs often use dipoles for reference antennas to calibrate antenna measurement systems.

Three Ways to Accelerate Wireless Design Certification

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So, you’ve designed your wireless product and time-to-market is of the essence. It’s time to build your prototype and get your product into production, right?

Yes, but first you want to think about certification requirements. If you take a few important steps in the early stages, you can increase your chances of success in the certification process and actually improve your time to market.

 

Here are three important practices that can get your product to market faster, with fewer board spins and at a reduced cost:

  1. Don’t go worldwide just yet: If you design a new product for multi-regional roll-out with a single SKU or design, you will encounter huge certification hurdles. This is because RF (radio frequency) regulations and testing requirements vary by region. For multi-region rollout, your design will need an antenna and radio that support the various regional frequency bands, and pass certification for each. The wider bandwidth requires a physically larger antenna and a costlier radio, which affects your entire design. And everything that affects your design affects certifications. Therefore, sometimes a better practice is to start with one locale for initial rollout and then add geographic regions in phases with additional SKUs.
  2. Build certification success into your design: It’s critical to understand the standards and tests involved in the certification process before you start to design. In Digi’s Wireless Design Services (WDS), we often see situations where an organization launched into development without clear understanding of requirements or RF design best practices, only to have serious emissions issues with their electronics, or performance problems with their antenna, resulting in certification failures at the end of their development cycle and subsequent board spins.
    As mentioned earlier, the exact certification requirements vary depending upon the regions your end product will support. Certification requirements also depend on your communication method, as cellular products must pass additional certifications. See the related previous post, Preparing for Wireless Design Certification, to read about the most common certification requirements.
  3. Test at critical junctures: Testing aspects of your design along the way is a great practice. The goal is to be certification-ready and pass the first time in the actual certification process. Work with your test lab at phases throughout product development to do pre-scans and spot-check high risk areas. While this process can result in changes to your PCB layout and antenna implementation, the earlier you can identify issues, the lower your risk of failure in the formal certification process.

If you run into challenges or just need some assistance to put your best foot forward, a professional wireless design service like Digi’s WDS team can help. The support you require may include anything from advising on your basic design principles to providing a complete reworking of a design that is not passing certifications. While the best possible strategy is to design for certifications to avoid failures, even failing designs can be rescued and turned into successful products that pass certifications with flying colors.

>>DID YOU KNOW? DIGI’S WIRELESS DESIGN SERVICES TEAM CAN HELP YOU PASS CERTIFICATIONS ON THE FIRST TRY. SEE THE WDS CERTIFICATION PAGE.

Digi Wireless Design Service—Prototyping

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Digi Wireless Design Services helps companies bring ideas to life (and market). With its world-class RF lab, experienced engineers and a library of proven IP, Digi WDS is the trusted partner for many with challenging prototyping requirements. Adam Wolf, a Digi engineer walks us through the process of taking a Seattle Sport Sciences design request and transforming it into a representation of awesomeness in less than a week.

Click here to read the full story on Seattle Sport Sciences’ wireless device. Have any questions? Shoot Adam a tweet at @adamwwolf.

How We Built a 4G LTE Connected Digital Signage Solution

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We’re getting settled back in after an eventful few days at Digital Signage Expo. It was our first time at the event and we had a blast! Here at Digi, we mainly focus on the connectivity side of things whether it’s RF modules or a cellular router– that’s our expertise. But, in a digital signage solution, there are so many elements that come into play.

For this special event, we wanted to make sure we had a digital signage demo ready to go and we didn’t have much time to put it together. With some extremely helpful advice and easy-to-use tools we were able to get it up and running in less than a week (thanks to Amazon Prime overnight shipping).

PeerlessandAndrew (2)

How We Did It
Here are the basic elements of the demo. First we needed an enclosure– something that we could mount a big ol’ monitor to. Our friends at Peerless-AV hooked us up. Their kiosk gave us an enclosure for not only the screen, but also the mini PC, TransPort cellular router, and other accessories like antennas and power supplies.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 2.08.33 PM

So now that we had all the gear hooked up and ready to go, we needed to figure out what we wanted to display on the screen. Screenfeed paid us a visit and set us up with some live RSS feeds.

These feeds allow us to send out fresh, new content to the display. Specifically, we had live financial data, major headlines of the day, and most importantly…weather updates. Another crucial aspect of serving up content to our display was the software to manage the images and RSS feeds.

Using our Wondersign free trial we plugged in our RSS feeds and .jpgs and had our screen displaying content in under an hour. Here’s a quick video that walks you through the display live on the DSE show floor!


There are many distinct advantages of delivering content via 4G LTE. For one, you get a high bandwidth connection that doesn’t need existing infrastructure like Ethernet or Wi-Fi, which offers the flexibility to deploy signage anywhere with network coverage. 4G LTE also provides a secure connection and the ability to easily manage a large deployment of devices via the cloud. This is just a demo, but many of Digi’s customers have realized the value of cellular connected signage. Learn how Monster Media is using cellular technology out in the field.

How Real Was Bud Light’s Life-Size Pac-Man Game? The Technology Talks

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One of the most buzzworthy commercials of Super Bowl XLIX was Bud Light’s Real Life Pac-Man spot for the #UpForWhatever campaign. The advertisement features a life-sized Pac-Man game where a seemingly unaware contender, Riley Smith, is challenged to munch pellets while being chased by ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

Here’s the commercial in case you missed it:

The Twitterverse thought that it was awesome and most people wanted to try the game out for themselves.

Real life Pac-Man! A million high fives to the first bar to make that a regular thing in their establishment.” –@mattlindner

Can real life Pac-Man be a thing with permanent game sets around the world?” –@DishNation

New life goal: be in real life Pac-Man.” –@NatalieAlynLind

We have failed as a society if human Pac-Man isn’t a real thing in the next 2-3 years” –@fsmikey

Then, there were others who were too skeptical to fully enjoy the spot:

Hey ad agencies, stop pretending it’s real. Anyway, sick ad. Bud Light” –@MathieuLcz

So, how real was real life Pac-Man? Is it be a game that you could really try in the future? Bud Light states that Smith’s participation was 100% organic. They say it was a live event, a real person, a real game board, all captured in real time. While we’ll leave Smith’s participation and the authenticity of the event up for debate, we can tell you that the game board itself was absolutely real. Bud Light and partners utilized Internet of Things technology to bridge digital and physical worlds and bring the Pac-Man game we all know and love to life.

Here’s How

Rick Galinson and Legacy Effects of Los Angeles, the same shop that provided Jurassic Park, Iron Man and Terminator effects designed the ghosts for the interactive game board.

Each roller-skating ghost costume is lit with about 4,000 LEDs, animated by a tiny open-source computer, the Parallax Propeller QuickStart Board, that communicates using Digi International’s tiny radio module, an XBee-PRO 802.15.4. The remote operator uses a laptop and another XBee module to send commands for the ghost’s flashing sequences.

“With the pressure of over 100 million viewers and a multi-million dollar campaign resting on these electronics, the Propeller chip from Parallax coupled with an XBEE PRO from Digi was an easy choice,” Galinson, SPFX Designer, said. “They performed flawlessly, are easy to implement and will remain my controller and communication products of choice for years to come.”

The technical details of the project had to be as straightforward as possible given short deadlines. Rob Faludi, Digi International’s Chief Innovator and author of Building Wireless Sensor Networks explains, “XBee radios are popular with artists and industrialists alike. They simplify radio communications between devices and the Internet, so critical projects can meet their deadlines without requiring extensive engineering efforts. There’s certainly no postponing the Super Bowl, so XBees were a great choice to ensure this project came off without a hitch.”

A total of five ghost costumes were produced with one serving as a backup. It took about twelve people to assemble the costumes in time for the commercial. Be sure to get a close look at their eyes, which exhibit the original video game character and move with the roller-skating ghost’s movement. Jon McPhalen’s Spin/ASM WS2812 driver figured prominently as a key source code object for this project.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the game and event coming together:

“It’s now easier than ever with IoT technology to create mesmerizing digital experiences in the physical world. We’re not only seeing this in entertainment with Bud Light’s Pac-Man game, but also commercially with connected solutions for energy systems, transportation monitoring, medical care and even municipal street lighting, Faludi said. “XBees can be a power-up for almost any connected device project.”

So, to answer a question that may be burning in many fan’s minds: yes, it’s totally possible that you too could be running from Blinky the ghost in real life (IRL). Maybe coming to a bar near you? We’re not sure. But one thing we’re positive about is our digital and physical worlds will continue to come together to create these incredible dream-like experiences; both for fun and entertainment and for solving real-world problems.

Digi XLR PRO long-range radio: Connects over 100+ miles with Punch2 Technology

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As wireless networks become more and more ubiquitous, so does the need to deal with noisy RF environments. This problem is especially relevant for businesses that depend on reliable communications for their operations and can’t risk losing critical data._xlr_Pro_side1

This is where the Digi XLR PRO comes in. Using patent-pending Punch2 Technology, this 1 watt, 900 MHz radio, punches through noise and achieves exceptional link quality at long distances– even in the most difficult RF conditions. We’ve even tested this radio and established a link at 150 miles, one of the limiting factors being the curvature of the Earth (more about that soon)!

Enough talking, check out the video below to see what the Digi XLR PRO is all about.

Have any questions? Click here to get all the Digi XLR PRO specs and information.

Home is Where the Heat is: Heat Seek is Helping NYC Keep Warm

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heatseekDecember is here, and with it, so are the single-digit temperatures. Many of us know how unbearable the cold can be during the dead of winter. Whether you’re dealing with it on your daily commute, outside taking the dog for a walk, or trying to get some groceries, the cold has a way of making you just want to get back to the warmth and comfort of your home. But, for many, this problem persists even when they’re home. Digi’s customer, Heat Seek NYC, wants to make this a problem of the past.

For those at the mercy of a landlord, resolving heating issues can be a lengthy and bureaucratic process. Did you know NYC handles over 200,000 heating complaints every year? In order to provide proof of poor heating, tenants are tasked with manually recording the temperatures of their apartments.

A group of New York City residents recognized this as a major public issue and founded Heat Seek NYC to efficiently address this overwhelming number of complaints and ensure no New York City resident has to spend winter in a cold home.

HeatSeekPartsTheir wireless sensor system automatically records apartment temperatures– streamlining the way NYC handles heating complaints and solves disputes between tenants and landlords.

Let’s take a look and see how Heat Seek built this wireless sensor network.

The sensor network is built entirely with off-the-shelf components. The low-cost temperature sensors connect via XBee using DigiMesh technology to create a reliable network that can easily connect throughout a building. Then, the team turned a Raspberry Pi into a cellular gateway enabling it to transmit temp. data, which is sent to a server to be accessed by residents, advocates, and lawyers. Additionally, Heat Seek is working to give the housing department (HPD) access to data to assist building inspectors. As the team transitions from prototype to a production version of their system they’re evaluating the ConnectPort X4 and Device Cloud for their connectivity and remote management needs.

This public record of heating complaints is used to generate The Cold Map.

BigApps_HeatSeek_blog

After winning the NYC BigApps Challenge and a successfully funded Kickstarter, Heat Seek has had a busy 2014 getting the business off the ground. The goal is to install 1,000 sensors throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx this year!

Not only does Heat Seek provide a system of accountability, but they also enable landlords to heat their buildings more effectively. Want to learn more about Heat Seek? Check out a demo and see how a landlord can use it to reduce heating violations and keep tenants warm.

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! Contact Us
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