June 2013: Behind the Scenes: Interviews with the IPSO CHALLENGE contestants – Redwire Consulting, LLC (Energy Harvesting Transformer)

Mariano Alvira and Josh Gordonson
Redwire Consulting, LLC

The IPSO CHALLENGE 2013 popped into our periphery. A timely coincidence, really. We came across the e-mail while searching for something else and saw that it fit perfectly with our plans to develop an internet-connected energy harvesting current sensor. The next morning we decided that we’d give it a shot.  The deadline was heading for us fast, there were a dozen significant problems to solve, but we knew that it was possible.  Tackling each problem unearthed several more.  Before we knew it, our design process was building more of an ever-expanding list of design challenges than an internet connected CT.

The contest had a fast paced timeline with a strong focus on tangible results. The first round required a video submission and we had about 1 month to do it. Our goal was to produce a video that both conveyed the utility of our harvesting CT but also our competency as a team to execute the much harder second phase. We decided to demonstrate the three aspects of the system: the way and ease it can be installed, the measurement of the primary current, and the ability to harvest power.

Weeks passed, experiments succeeded and failed, and we ended up with a mostly functioning prototype.

Moving on to the semi-final was quite stressful. Our development at that point had each individual function working by itself. This contest had the unique element of a hands-off remote deployment in Finland and we knew from experience that integrating individually
working elements into a functioning system is always much harder than anticipated. We also knew, from previous engineering contest experience, that logistics tend to disqualify a significant number of entrants (and in fact, almost disqualified us as our demo had to be
heroically rescued from customs!). Typically we solve this by packing most of the lab and accompanying the demo so we can fix and finish it along the way. But that was not possible for this contest, as it was to be operated by the judges. Over the next month, we solved this
problem by created a demo that was as refined, self-contained and worked “out-of-the-box” as much as we could. Aside from a glitch on the server-side (which had an easy fix) the demo worked as planned. After that, most of the hard work was done; there wasn’t much else to change or fix on the demo. Just bring it to Chicago (easy after shipping it to Finland) and talk about what it did.

Now that the IPSO CHALLENGE is over, during the next few months we’ll be producing the final designs for manufacturing. Pushing for the IPSO CHALLENGE has put our development timeline for this product on track; we are currently working on a beta site deployment of 100 buildings featuring full branch circuit power monitoring.

Our advice to future entrants would be to think big, embrace the unknown, and to focus development. Our submission is a small piece in a big puzzle — effective load monitoring of buildings. We selected the hardest and most innovative part and pushed hard to until we made it real.

The IPSO CHALLENGE is great format for creating a community of IP innovators and enthusiasts while showing the world the benefit of connecting devices with a ubiquitous, interoperable, language – IP. We hope the CHALLENGE will continue to push passionate technologists to develop the future of IP.

Watch for more developments from Redwire Consulting at http://www.redwirellc.com/ and CONGRATULATIONS! from all of the IPSO Alliance.

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