Year in Review 2016
What a banner year! Aside from the various dumpster fires, 2016 was a fantastic year for Tomorrow Lab. Along with offering continued support of several projects in the midst of production runs, we facilitated the design and development of another 13 projects, ranging in time from one week to one year, with clients as unique as their products.
On top of all that, we celebrated our 5th Anniversary as a small business; employed three new staff members, a total of six interns (and two high school students for class credit!) and a slew of outstanding freelancers; ate our weight in nearly 50 weekly Friday team lunches; and moved our office from Koreatown to Chinatown (the dumplings made us do it).
Below we’ve outlined some details of our staff, our projects, and our year.
Tomorrow Lab Team
In addition to leading the helm of Tomorrow Lab as partners and design/engineer genies (geniuses?), Ted Ullrich and Pepin Gelardi taught a course called ‘Smart Objects’ in the School of Visual Arts’ MFA in Interaction Design program (IxD) & Products of Design program (PoD). They were also the keynote speakers at the IxD Thesis Festival Graduate Show that fall. Ted visited his alma mater, Purdue University, for a TEDxPurdue talk, and Pepin co-hosted a “Changing Tastes: How Design Shapes Demand” panel discussion with his sister, Piera, from Refinery 29.
Shelby Thompson, our Business & Marketing Manager, celebrated her fourth anniversary at Tomorrow Lab in November! After continuously plugging the #WomeninSTEM hashtag on various social medias, she also focuses on product and business development. She is on the lookout for more ladies to join our crew (hint, hint)!
As for the newbies: Joe Gonzalez, a homegrown New Yorker from the Bronx, started at Tomorrow Lab as an intern in the winter of 2015. We liked him so much, we asked him to come onboard as an Industrial Designer just after the new year. Tan Tran joined the crew that spring as a Mechanical Product Design Engineer after completing his Masters of Integrated Product Design at UPenn. Around the Fourth of July, Dorian Fernandez left Texas Instruments, and moved across the country from California, to become our Electrical Product Design Engineer.
Products We Love
While we cannot disclose all the products we helped create in 2016, we can tell you about some of our favorites. With each partnership, we learn more and more about the kinds of products we want to continue to create with companies both small and large. Some clients are scrappy start ups with nothing but a concept and a prototype in hand to start their product. Others are corporate companies and ad agencies looking at places like Tomorrow Lab get their feet on the ground on explored and vetted product ideas.
The Most Wonderful Ornament: USPS Tracked Your Holiday Package
This holiday season, the United States Postal Service® introduced an innovative way for friends and family to track packages in the mail with a Smart Ornament. You’ll know when your package has been sent, delivered and — for the first time ever — opened by the recipient. Allowing the sender and recipient to share the magic moment of opening a gift together, from across the city, country, or globe.
In under three months time, Tomorrow Lab worked with McCann in NYC to define, design, develop, and deliver 50 ornament kits for beta trials during the 2016 holiday season.
RaceYa: Toy Cars for Teaching STEM
RaceYa uses customizable, remote-controlled race cars to teach kids about STEM. For this project, Tomorrow Lab created a modular, building block-like car that can easily be integrated into a education curriculum. Through our process, we developed a feature strategy that satisfied a kid’s need to play and a parent’s need for that play to be educational.
We chose the following six elements to focus on because they enabled a large number of play-based curriculums with immediately noticeable effects when varied: Batteries, Gear Ratios, Weights and Body Wraps, Wheels and Tread, Suspension, Electronic Stability Control (ESC). All fasteners were required to be removable, kid friendly, and thumb-tightenable. We also updated the brand identity for RaceYa to focus on playfulness, education, and motion.
Hasbro: Connected Music Play Experience
This summer, Tomorrow Lab teamed up with the toy company Hasbro to help their Integrated Play & Mobile Gaming (IPMG) group bring rapid technology and design development to new connected game ideas much like a Guitar Hero concept. In the scope of this project, we rapidly developed a high-fidelity proof-of-concept hardware prototype.
This portable game includes a rollable and collapsible playmat with a rechargeable battery, incorporated flexible PCBs and NFC antennas, and playing cards with embedded NFC tags to integrate into the mobile app and help players create their own competitive DJ playlists. Look for prototypes at SXSW this spring, and the new toy will be available for sale this fall.
Belay: Healthcare System for Families with Food Allergies
Belay is a digital healthcare ecosystem designed to help children and families manage food allergies. This system is comprised of a central mobile app, an interconnected system that links WiFi and Bluetooth enabled products, and a group of connected devices. Over the course of 18 months, Tomorrow Lab worked in collaboration with Adler Design, Impel Studio, Studio Rodrigo, Bytefly, IP attorneys, and the Above the Fold Team, among others to develop this innovative, smart system.
Our work included product strategy and hardware product architecture, electrical engineering and firmware development, and provided copywriting and editing for the mobile app and important documentation. After several rounds of prototyping, we delivered six sets of prototypes for field testing. Stay tuned for more on when these will be available to the public!
WayCount: The Future of Traffic Data Counting
WayCount is a platform for collecting and sharing accurate automobile and bicycle traffic counting data. By sharing traffic data online, we aim to positively influence transportation design decisions and create better cities. Using the WayCount app, you can use your mobile device to setup a device for a traffic study, then later upload that data to the cloud, and use the WayCount.com website to access and manage your data.
While Tomorrow Lab has been working on WayCount for several years, our partnership with CountingCars.com helped bring this product to the next level. The device will be on sale this spring at www.CountingCars.com (which Ted is looking forward to immensely). Below is a timeline of the progress of WayCount’s product features and changes since the start of this project.
Lotik Labs: Smart Water Usage Monitoring
Lotik Labs provides “point-of-use” water monitoring wherever water is used. Unlike traditional flow meters, installation is a snap as sensors clamp-on to the outside of pipes, and instantly transmit data so that consumers receive real-time water intelligence. Over the course of a year, Tomorrow Lab worked with Lotik Labs to develop the product strategy, mechanical architecture, industrial design, electronics, and firmware for the first version of the product.
After several rounds of prototyping, we delivered a pilot production of 200 units for field testing. The project finished with a design refinement round to further integrate the learnings from pilot production and real-world testing.
Teralytic: Bringing IoT to Big Agriculture
Teralytic is a US-based precision agriculture firm creating a connected hardware and software platform to improve a farm’s yield by monitoring the growing conditions of the soil. By offering low-cost and easy to use sensor hardware, each platform packed with sophisticated soil sensing capabilities, a farmer managing dozens or thousands of acres can increase crop yields while using less water and less fertilizer.
In this project, Tomorrow Lab helped to rapidly translate the technical ambition of the client into a concise list of features, functional proof-of-concept breadboard, and visualized product design.
What‘s happening at Tomorrow Lab in 2017?
While we will take on new projects as the year moves along; we will also continue to support many existing clients as they move into manufacturing their products both here in the US and overseas with some of our most trusted relationships with fabricators, factories, and product assembly lines. Sometimes that means we receive prototypes here in the Lab and have to build them ourselves!
Everyone here at Tomorrow Lab is exploring options for learning something new in 2017. From the Electrical team trading spaces with the Mechanical team to get more hands on and teach each other about coding; to others digging into some of the software we use to for different aspects of the products we design; and others still jumping into getting better at 3D printing and using the Other Mill to generate PCBs in-house. We are dedicated to taking advantage of being surrounded by well-educated, creative, and diverse colleagues; each with a strong suit we may not use as often as we could if we just knew more about it! Collaboration is key at Tomorrow Lab, after all.
In other exciting news, Pepin is going to be a father this year (of twins — a boy and a girl!), which is a whole new ballgame! We are very excited to meet the littlest Gelardis in April 2017.
Thanks for reading! Stay in touch, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @TomorrowLabNYC.