protoTYPING: The Amazing Race to CES

The engineering and design sprint to get the Inirv React ready for its debut at CES

Connected devices are all the rage and the team at Enventys Partners has been serving more and more clients that are bringing IoT devices to market. These so-called “smart” devices are showing up in every product category from home automation, automotive and recreational products, and sales and consumer interest in these devices is on the rise.

The latest IoT device on the Enventys Partners workbench is the Inirv React smart stove device. It is a product that replaces existing stove knobs with motor-driven smart knobs that automatically turn the stove off if an unsafe condition is detected in the kitchen. The two-piece system features a ceiling mounted sensor that detects motion, gas and smoke and the knob unit to control the burners. It is compatible with most stoves that have mechanical knobs and features an app that can be used to control the position of the burners.

IoT: Inirv React Knobs

The Inirv React knobs installed on a stove.

Inspiration

The Inirv React was invented by Ranjith Babu and Akshita Iyer from Durham, NC, and both graduates of Duke University. The inspiration for the device came from a seemingly mundane trip to the movies in 2015. Akshita’s mom, Radhika Iyer, was visiting from Buffalo, NY and had been doing some cooking during the day. The three of them stepped out to see a movie and as the opening credits rolled, Akshita’s mom had a sinking feeling that she had left one of the burners on. Grudgingly, they left the theater and went home to check on it. When they arrived, they found their house engulfed in smoke. Fortunately they made it home before a fire broke out, and the scare gave them the spark to create a device to help protect against these situations.

After some research they found that cooking equipment is the number one source of house fires, costing Americans over $1 billion dollars in damage each year. They knew they had an idea that would help save lives and money, but they needed some help to bring it to life. So, they reached out to a local design firm to help them make some prototypes. The first models were a great test of the technology and allowed them to vet the patentable technology behind the product and garner interest from inventors. However, their prototypes were lacking in some areas. The knob unit was too big, heavy and expensive, and the aesthetics of the device were not refined enough to live in the home environment.

The Inirv team found Enventys Partners in the fall of 2016 and we have the full service design, engineering and marketing services they needed.

In mid-October the design team was challenged to give the React a whole new look in a smaller package so that the product could be launched on Kickstarter and at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January. It was a great challenge and we got started on it right away.

With no time to waste, the design, engineering, and electronics teams started work simultaneously. The design team studied the kitchen environment and trends in the IoT marketplace. They drove the conceptual development of the project and gave the sensor and motor units their new iconic style. The primary goal for the engineering team was to reduce the diameter and the height of the unit. They reviewed the existing CAD files and looked at solutions to shrink the drive train while still delivering the torque required to turn the stove knobs. The electronics team immediately started breadboarding the circuit with Cypress Bluetooth Low Energy development modules and started working on the code to read the sensors, control the Bluetooth communication, and drive the motors and LEDs.

IoT: Inirv Concept Sketch

Concept sketch rendering done by the industrial design team.

The first major deadline was in mid December to film the Kickstarter video and shoot collateral images. The design and engineering team used SolidWorks CAD software to design the shells and drivetrain to house the internals while maintaining the new aesthetic. Just after Thanksgiving, 3D printed parts were built and assembled in the shop. In the meantime, I designed and built circuits with Trinket microcontrollers to drive the units for filming. The prototypes were painted and given an A-level finish and were done just in time for our film shoot.

IoT: Inirv Test Fitting

Patrick Bailey (right) and I test fitting some prototype parts.

After filming, we had two weeks left to get a functional prototype ready for CES. We made a number of tweaks to the mechanical design and got updated knob units 3D printed. However, the biggest challenge was the circuit board. The knobs are small, so it was a puzzle to get the BTLE and microprocessor module to fit inside the housing. Engineer Patrick Bailey worked hand in hand with electrical guru, Larry Ober and they ended up with 3 boards for the device that fit perfectly inside the knob.

IoT: Inirv Cypress BTLE development board

The Cypress BTLE development board used to prototype the electronics.

The boards arrived just a week before CES and it was a sprint to get it ready.

With so many small parts, it takes a full day to get the PCBs populated with all of the electrical components. Then there is the small matter of troubleshooting the circuit. We had some issues with the LEDs and that cost us some time, and the day before the show, we found a short on the board, and had to remove half of the components on the motor PCB to fix it. At 5am on the day the prototypes had to leave, we did our final systems check and got it boxed up. After 28 hours with no sleep, I went home for 40 minutes to shower, grab my bags and say goodbye to the kids, before heading to the airport.

Industrial Designer, Raeshon McNeil working on the sensor unit prototype.

Industrial Designer, Raeshon McNeil working on the sensor unit prototype.

To CES!

Upon arriving in Vegas, I jumped in a cab with “Fast Eddie”, a Bulgarian taxi driver with 35 years of experience on the strip. He got me safely to the hotel and I got all of the parts unpacked for one last test. Fortunately, all of the prototypes made it in one piece and they worked flawlessly.

In the morning I arrived at the show and got the demo setup. The Kickstarter campaign had launched the night before and was already at $20,000 after the first day. After many weeks of long hours, I finally got a chance to enjoy the journey and the job well done, and felt a great sense of pride for the product and to be part of the Enventys Partners team that helped to bring it to life.

IoT: The Inirv Team

The Inirv team, left to right, Radhika Iyer, Akshita Iyer, and Ranjith Babu at CES.

The Inirv React had a great launch at CES.

The product was well received at CES by other industry professionals, and the team is in early stage talks with large manufacturers for potential licensing deals. The Kickstarter campaign continues to flourish and as of this writing was over $95,000 in funding. However, the development work on the product has not ceased. We are now working on final design files for the mechanical and electrical components, and are pushing to start working with a manufacturer in the spring to deliver the first production units to Kickstarter backers towards the end of 2017.


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Originally published at Edison Nation Blog.