Home stove, factories, baby monitors are getting smarter--plus what you need to know about outsourcing to China

NEW YORK—Tracy van Dyk, head of electronics at Biolite, was one of three presenters at the Hardware meetup last June 27 at Microsoft, but Van Dyk, but beyond talking about Biolite’s amazing cookware products, she got everybody’s attention by talking about how she and Biolite learned while searching for and manufacturing its products in China.

  • Construct a good RFQ package. Have full gerbers, BOM, description of product, test criteria and order quantity.
  • Cast a large net. Look for vendors that fit with your company size. See if they have employees
  • Set up a vendor qualification criteria.

Must have an English website

Fast response time/eagerness

Able to answer technical questions.

Good product detail/management

Willing to set up on-site visit

Must be willing to negotiate price

Having Van Dyk talk about the company’s manufacturing process makes perfect sense, as it also demonstrates a manufacturer’s capability.

One of many Biolite products is the HomeStove, a clean-burning stove that combines emissions reduction with cost-saving electricity generation. It reduces indoor smoke by more than 90 percent while fuel cost in half.  

How does it work? The user feeds local fuels --- whether it’s wood, cow dung, or crop residue -- through the side of the stove. Then, they light the fuel much as they did their open fire. The heat from the flame is converted into electricity through a thermoelectric generator. This electrical powers an internal fan, which force-feeds oxygen into the flame, eliminating the smoke, and leading to the near and clean combustion of the fuel.

The stove generates surplus electricity, enough to charge a mobile phone and provide an evening’s worth of LED light. For developing countries with a dearth of wood, it also reduces wood use by 50 percent.

In terms of  reducing waste and increasing productivity, what tools do you need? Industrial software costs an arm and a leg. Not only that, it falls short of expectations.

Oden Technologies is on a mission to eliminate waste in manufacturing, as CEO and founder Willem Sunblad conveyed to the audience at the Hardware meetup.

The SaaS company combines industrial hardware, wireless connectivity, and big data architecture in one platform so all manufacturers can analyze and optimize their production from any device.

CEO Assaf Glazer’s presentation was personal, as the idea came to him monitoring his own baby.  He came up with a smart baby monitor for the IoT era. It’s called Nanit.

“When I had my son 4 years ago, I wanted to understand his behavior, make sure he was safe and healthy,” he said.

Now, he claims to have developed advanced computer vision and machine learning algorithms to help measure human behavior. “This is for parents and babies everywhere,” he said.

Unlike other baby monitors, Nanit does not require wearables or monitors on any baby. Instead, it uses an advanced camera that uses machine learning to provide sleep insights, measuring things like behavior throughout the night.

Lending credence to its Glazer’s claim is Nanit’s team composition, which reportedly comes from established companies such as Diapers.com, Philips and Time Warner.

Expected to launch in September at $350, the Nanit baby monitor reportedly collects temperature, humidity and sound. It closed a $6.6 million seed round.