Would you believe a critical piece of a new product developed by the Analog Garage was tested in the kitchen? It’s true. Not in the oven, mind you. But in a button on the counter, by the coffee maker.
This particular innovation helped round out the Sentinel platform, a cloud monitoring service for industrial applications. Sentinel features a wireless infrared camera module that watches for overheating components in factory equipment, and alerts maintenance to replace parts before they fail. The Sentinel is scaling from its first customers in manufacturing and municipal water treatment, and will soon be sold into manufacturing sites around the globe.
To help prove out the cloud service component of the platform, the team set the button by the coffee maker so that folks could push it to alert maintenance when the appliance wasn’t working, Vlad Kvartenko, Analog Garage senior product engineer who leads the team, told the Master Mechanic. The alerts were sent up to the cloud, and the team used the data to iron out kinks in the Sentinel service before customers ever got to use it.
Unlike Sentinel’s infrared module, the button wasn’t designed to predict failure. But it helped the team ready Sentinel for commercial deployment. As an added bonus, it gave residents of the Cambridge Innovation Center, where the Analog Garage resides, a fast and easy line of communication into maintenance. That helped boost uptime for the coffee maker, itself a critical component to productivity at the center.
The button is just one of example of the creative things the prototyping team – the real Master Mechanics of the Analog Garage – dreams up to validate new innovations and, if all goes well, prepare them for market.
The team is always coming up with creative ways to prove out and polish new ideas, Vlad said. His own workspace, like much of the rest of the Analog Garage lab, is a sea of connectors, cables, scopes, boxes and rolling tables. What-if ideas and equations overwhelm the lab’s whiteboard-style walls.
“It’s my team’s passion, to make things work,” he said. “It’s always something new and challenging here. That’s why we love the work.”
The job is different every day, Vlad said. Sometimes the team does rapid prototyping, piecing together crude designs with off-the-shelf parts. Other times, they take an already-proven idea and get it ready to graduate. They optimize the hardware and software. They even work with industrial designers on packaging.
And sometimes, they even get the coffee machine fixed faster.