MicroBot Alert Begins Shipping
Making the smallest, smartest consumer sensor has not been easy. We are excited to share that we have started shipping the MicroBot Alert to select customers. Earlier this year, we introduced the MicroBot Alert (formerly ‘Sense’) to the world through Kickstarter. We completed the hardware several months ago and have been working on the software for some time.
Three Reasons why Making the Smallest Smartest Consumer Sensor is Difficult:
- Small form factor. We designed Alert to be no larger than the size of an Oreo cookie. It was important to us that it be portable and discrete. It was also important that we include as many sensors as possible while keeping it affordable. The challenge with the size came with locating eight sensors in such a small space. We spent quite a bit of time adjusting the position of each sensor so that they would accurately capture their atmospheric data without affecting each other. In addition to the proximity of the sensors, we also needed to be conscious of the position of the battery as to not affect the sensors.
2. Power efficiency. Speaking of battery, our MicroBots use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with the companion app. BLE allows us to keep the battery (and product!) size small and battery life long. Even with BLE, the eight sensors draw a lot of power! The challenge came with programing the sensors to be as efficient as possible. We accomplished this by periodically putting the sensors into sleep mode and giving the user flexibility with how many and how often they want the sensors to communicate with the companion app. This allows users to extend the battery life to up to 1 month on one charge. We also introduced the Battery Extender which increases the battery life to up to 2 years.
3. Connectivity with the Companion App. As mentioned above, Alert uses BLE to communicate with the companion app. Because of this, it works right out of the box by connecting to a smartphone or tablet through the Bluetooth signal. This connection has proven very difficult to keep stable. The app is built in both iOS and Android operating systems and each continues to push new updates which has affected the connection. We have also seen the app disconnect randomly and for reasons within our software. For these reasons, we have decided to release the product to customers willing to Beta test the app. This will allow us to continue testing it in different environments. We are also developing a companion Hub *(Hub M)* that allows for a constant connection. Hub M sits within Bluetooth range of the Alert and connects to Wi-Fi so users can monitor their environment from anywhere in the world.
Where we’re at…
Anyone who has built a hardware IoT product knows that it is not easy. Hardware is hard! Fortunately, the hardware is complete and well tested. As we continue to work on the software, we’ve decided to start shipping the Beta app to our earliest customers who are open to help test and provide feedback in different environments. Over the next few weeks we will be shipping to customers around the world. We are asking for feedback and will continue to send software updates.
We’ve already heard how people plan to use Alert. Many people simply want to get smart alerts and insights into their daily environment and air quality at home. While others plan to use it by checking toxicities (including TVOC) on the road and in conditions like a hotel. From monitoring a baby nursery’s to tracking a bike route, we look forward to hearing how our community uses Alert and finalizing our Beta so we can roll it out to the masses.