Marketing

LX wins prestigious BRII Grant program with Revolutionary Spray Advisory System

Maverick Spray Advisory for Tackling Agricultural Spray Drift is a winner for 2021 Grant Application

 

Introduction to the challenge

The LX Product Design Process

Introducing Maverick

Next Steps From Here

 

Introduction to the BRII challenge – Looking for an Agricultural Spray Advisory Solution 

Back in September 2020, LX Design House submitted an initial proposal for the BRII Challenge (Business Research and Innovation Initiative) administered by the CRDC (Cotton Research and Development Corporation), posed to seek technology solutions to revolutionise Agricultural Spraying processes and reduce the issue of Spray Drift.

Spray Drift can occur where a pesticide or other chemical is sprayed from a machine when conditions are less than favourable. There are a number of parameters that can affect this, from the wind speed and direction, to the type of nozzle used on the spray rig, to the height of the ‘boom’ arms that extend out to disseminate the chemical. 

With so many variables, both fixed and fluid, that can change across the course of a spraying process, it can be incredibly challenging to get this process perfect. Imperfect spraying can lead to volatilisation of the chemical and subsequent drift of these chemicals in weather systems that can carry it far off course. These systems can then deposit it into other more sensitive crops areas, particularly those like cotton, as well as local waterways and ecosystems and onto suburban and rural communities.

These environmental impacts, combined with the risk of litigation for the farmer, the loss of efficacy and the resulting increased costs for chemicals, mean there are myriad drivers to wanting a solution for this issue. However current attempts to tackle the issue of Spray drift have often centred on education which can be contradictory or overwhelming for the end user. Any tools available to help farmers plan more effectively may deal with improving efficacy or reducing drift, but not both. 

Similarly the data sources available to farmers to help assess variables for spray windows are disparate, complex and are only available for pre-planning purposes. So if conditions change in a variable mid spraying that cannot be tracked easily by visual observation, the likelihood is that the operator will continue spraying in  unfavourable conditions.

Agricultural Spray Rig in a field with a process notification superimposed over it

The LX Product Design Process

The above observations were gleaned from an in depth research and discovery process, similar to the client discovery processes and workshops we run with any of our Design House clients. 

Taking experience and knowledge gained from full stack development across multiple industries, including AgTech Product Development, we knew that understanding the end user in this instance would determine how successful any end product would be. To tackle the issue of Agricultural Spray drift, we knew from interviews and discovery sessions that any proposed solution would need to have the following characteristics:

  1. Aim to not only tackle the issue of spray drift but also try to improve efficacy and accuracy for the operator to help drive operational efficiencies/savings.
  2. Be easy to install, deploy and use. Farmers are comfortable using complex equipment and systems in modern day farming, but any solution that sought to encourage uptake shouldn’t take more time or effort than the processes it claims to improve on. 
  3. Be machinery agnostic or allow for differing entry levels. We knew that a solution needed to be accessible to differing income levels and access to resources. If a product or solution was cost prohibitive we do it would not achieve adoption at the scale required to have a significant impact on the industry and the issue of Spray Drift.
  4. Be managed as a full stack design project. This was an internal direction, based on the requirement to give the end user a remarkable experience that achieved the 3 prior goals. Whilst the product design process would ultimately end up drawing on third party data sources and some existing products, we wanted to ensure that everything from the electronic hardware through to the apps and reporting dashboards followed the same LX Design Principles and was power efficient, long lasting and easy to use.

 

By combining these key goals and drawing on our team’s expertise in system architecture and low power IoT and Electronic product development, we created our proposed solution. 

 

Maverick by LX: Spray Drift Advisory System (BRII 2021 Solution) from LX Marketing on Vimeo.

Introducing Maverick: An Agricultural Spray Advisory System 

Our proposed solution takes a specific configuration of our IoT static sensing and tracking products as well as specially designed software to create a system that helps operators with the entirety of the spray application process. From planning for the most effective spray windows, to mid process alerts and updates on key variables, to post spray analysis and learning materials, we want to give farmers the ability to increase effectiveness over time and receive real-time alerts that help them data informed decisions as they’re spraying. 

Maverick provides a tiered entry system for farmers, so regardless of their investment capability, they are able to access the system and start seeing tangible results. At its most advanced level, Maverick is able to open up spray windows to operators that would not previously have been available, so the most sophisticated operators have access to higher level risk calculations underpinned by more data points and real time alerts. 

The name Maverick is fitting, as we’re wanting to give operators the ability to push the envelope and have more choice around spraying rather than less, but we’re ensuring those choices are backed by a wealth of data. And whilst we cannot disclose too much about how the solution works at this stage, we’re looking forward to launching Maverick in the near future and sharing more with you when we can!

Farmer in a field with an ipad and a software notification superimposed over the top

The Process & Next Steps From Here

From over 20 different Australian companies that initially applied to the BRII & CRDC Revolutionising Spray Drift Challenge, LX was successful in being selected as one of the final six. 

The next stages were a video presentation, feasibility study and Proof of Concept application.  We are incredibly proud of the hard work and effort the LX team of engineers, software developers, sales and marketing professionals and support staff put into this process. Over 4 months, we developed a system we truly believe has the ability to affect large scale change in this industry. 

We are beyond honoured to have had the opportunity to go through this process and to be selected as winners of the BRII Grant 2021 is amazing! Congrats to the LX Team!

The next steps from here are delivering on the proof of concept prototype and final product for our agricultural spray advisory system, and executing our commercialisation plan. Whilst we can’t give too much away about the solution itself right now, we’ll be providing updates as we go, so please sign up to our Newsletter at the form below if you’d like to be kept in the loop! 

 

MarketingLX Winners of BRII 2021 Grant: Agricultural Spray Advisory Solution

Wildlife Tracker Case Study: The K-Tracker, An Award Winning Remote Telemetry Monitor for Koalas

How an innovative smart collar and tracking tag is helping conserve wild Koala Populations

 

When Endeavour Veterinary Ecology came to LX to ask us to help them build a custom animal collar for tracking Koalas, it seemed like an interesting challenge. Wildlife tracker tags and collars were by no means new in Australia or in the smart technology market. We’ve already developed tracker collars for pets and a quick google search will show you that GPS trackers in tags and collars have been used for a number of years in animal tracking and conservation.

However when we went through our discovery process workshops with the EVE team, it quickly transpired that there was a real need for something different in this space. This case study combines our passion for creating the right device for the use case, creating a better world at scale, and developing products that really show what IoT technology can do when applied effectively. 

Fast forward to nearly ten years later and we’ve continued working with EVE to create a new generation of the K-tracker, building on their experience in the field and all of our accumulated knowledge around this space. We believe great products should keep evolving and this story is just an example of how the data from a device can help inform how to make it even better. 

Read on to find out how we solved this challenge! 

Jump to the section you want to read most:

The Challenge for the Koala Wildlife Tracker & Collar

The Solution – a Connected Animal Tracker 

Additional Benefits of IoT Wildlife Trackers and Connected Devices

Wildlife tracker collar on a Koala bear with back to the camera

The challenge for the Koala Wildlife Tracker & Collar

The original challenge from EVE came when they had already had a prototype tracker and collar built by a third party, and had hit a wall with functionality in the field. They came to us looking for a tracker that would enable them to track wild Koala populations across SE Queensland with a collar that was custom built for the animals. 

These animals are often moving through fairly dense bush and whilst conservation often involves some human contact, the EVE team try to limit this, so any device needed to last in the field. That meant that the design needed to be hardwearing; able to withstand the animals knocking against branches or occasionally falling or jumping from one spot to another. Koalas are also territorial and fight, so the collar and tracking device would have to stay on even during combat and be resilient against clawing. Additionally, the power source would need to be reliable so that a device could be fitted and left for a significant time period.

Another element of the challenge for the K-tracker was connectivity. Whilst urban encroachment and loss of habitat is one of the issues facing Koala populations, generally they are found in rural areas without wifi or cellular connectivity. The wildlife tracker devices needed to be able to provide geolocation reporting using a network that was long range and power efficient. 

Finally form was key – most of the other animal trackers on the market were not fit for purpose because they would obstruct climbing, were too heavy or could cause fatality through accidental hanging. EVE needed a collar that was purpose built for the animals they were tracking.

The challenge was to create a connected device and collar that would provide fairly frequent, reliable geolocation reporting on a large number of animals. A device that could be deployed quickly and easily and then trusted to last in the field. They needed a device that was power efficient, robust and would withstand the day to day activities of wild Koalas.

They came to us with this challenge and we developed the K-tracker. 

 

The Solution – A Connected Animal Tracker 

The earlier iterations of the K-tracker were about fixing the immediate problem or challenge. The EVE team wanted to be able to remotely monitor the location and movements of the Koala populations, so the device would enable them to spend less time in the field, increase productivity and gain insights over time around movements.

We built the K-tracker to provide near real-time GPS reporting for animal tracking that would be reliable and power efficient. The device uses a solar powered built in battery unit with a standard battery fallback and the second generation reports using a private LoRa network deployed by our Base Station units. This long range network is able to transfer data through rural settings and is power efficient meaning the devices can last for a long time – up to 5 years in the field even with regular reporting. 

LX designed the K-Tracker product using our innovative IoT Cores engine. This allows us to start with the core functionality required by most remote monitoring systems and then add or subtract functionality as needed. By controlling the project from the electronic hardware right through to the casing design and software, we were able to ensure the finished product would meet the specific requirements that this use case had set.

Watch our full interview with the EVE team about the K-tracker device and the results below.

The current generation of the K-tracker device also provides a wealth of data alongside geolocation that gives the EVE team key insights into the movements and behavioural patterns of the individual and the colony. This includes impact detection and low activity detection/alert if an animal is sick or injured. The team can also monitor the proximity of the different tags to one another to identify behaviours like isolation, mating and fighting. Whilst some of this behaviour could be monitored using cameras, this would depend on the animals being in a particular area, whereas the trackers provide the data even when conservationists don’t have eyes (camera based or physical) on the animals. 

Alongside these reports, the tag will also monitor for free-fall motion and the collar protects against the issue of accidental hanging with an automatic breakpoint based on the weight of the Koala. The collar and the housing for the tracker have been designed to be durable whilst not weighing the animals down or obstructing movement. The team at LX built the unit to withstand the temperatures an animal would experience in the bush and also protected against inundation for example, if the Koala is crossing a creek or experiences heavy rainfall.

These features of form and function have enabled the EVE team to spend less time manually tracking in the field, and have provided a wealth of information that helps them make informed decisions around conservation activities. With the ability to monitor large groups of animals at any one time and with access to easy reporting through the desktop and mobile apps, the K-tracker is enabling the EVE team to work more efficiently and is helping protect one of our iconic native animals. 

See more about our tracker range here, including the Cygni Device which was used for the K-Tracker Project.

Satellite map of SE Queensland, Australia highlighting the location of wild koalas

Additional benefits of IoT Wildlife Trackers and Connected Devices

When the initial K-tracker tags were deployed on Koala populations, the desired outcomes were to be able to remotely monitor the animals and intervene when necessary if they were to come within range of a high risk area. Such areas might include mine sites, roads and industrial areas. 

EVE were concerned that populations were declining and they wanted to monitor movements and interaction to see potential causes for this and be able to prevent as many fatalities as possible. When the wildlife trackers were deployed however, it brought to light a previously unknown factor; that wild dog populations in the area were partially responsible for the declining numbers. This is an example of how the effective deployment of IoT devices and trackers in these environments can give you important data you didn’t know existed prior to implementing this technology. The amount of manual observation it would have taken to uncover this without technology would not have been feasible for the team and in this way, technology is really opening up what we can do with Animal tracking and conservation.

Wildlife trackers, collars, computer connected cameras and drones enable us to safely monitor wild and agricultural animals like never before. From tracking cows across a rural property to avoid loss and injury, to using IoT sensor driven cameras and drones to record poaching and illegal activities, technology is helping us protect wildlife all over the world. 

Have a wildlife tracker or sensing device you’d like to discuss? Speak to our team today. 

MarketingWildlife Tracker Case Study: K-Tracker Smart Collar and Tag

Connected Technology & Wearables in Sports: A Helping Hand or Unfair Advantage?

How is IoT and Technology Impacting Sport, and Where Is The Future for Tech in Sport?

 

From the launch of Hawkeye technology in Tennis and Cricket in the early 2000s, to the controversy around the LZR swimsuit at the Beijing Olympics in 2008; to the current boom of wearables for sports and health monitoring, tech is becoming increasingly common in the world of sport.

Whether used for professional athletes to measure inputs such as gait, heart rate, time in motion or speed, or just as simple IoT devices for counting steps in the average walker, connected technology is changing the way we exercise. It’s impacting every element of sport and exercise from spectating, participation and competing, healthcare around sports, and sports as a commercial industry. 

But with connected devices, sensors, cameras and even virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) now becoming more prevalent in sport, is this new tech wave a good or bad thing? And what are the considerations for developing a sports technology device?

Performance athlete running with metric symbols superimposed showing speed, location and energy

Jump to a section:

Types of Sports Technology

Developing a Wearable or Electronic Product for Sports

Does Connected Technology Create an Unfair Advantage?

How Does Sports Technology Benefit Athletes and Users?

Wider Benefits of IoT and Tech in Sports and Recreation

Types of Sports Technology 

One of the biggest sectors in sports technology is of course,  wearables. From wrist wear GPS trackers and heart monitors, to fully connected sports analytics vests, the sports wearables market was predicted to be worth nearly $15 billion by this year. 

Connected, small form sensors in watches, vests, head gear or even footwear can provide invaluable data to athletes and their support staff. It is small wonder that this is one of the fastest growing uses of smart technology and electronics in sport.

Aside from wearable technology, cameras and drones with advanced computing functionality have seen increased use in competitive sports. An example is the Hawkeye System, used in tennis and more recently in international soccer competitions as a goal line monitor. 

There are also technologies for monitoring and providing feedback on injuries (or the potential for injury) now becoming more popular. At LX, we recently worked with our client Headsafe to develop a connected, portable brain assessment device that can help medical professionals determine likelihood of concussion. Such devices can be used for preventative activities, by examining risk factors in an athlete’s performance that could lead to injury. They can also be used to help with diagnosis of injury, or provide data insights for ‘return to activity’ windows in recovering athletes. 

Alongside from the commercial ubiquity of hardware-based tech products, the rise of software and big data in sport has been just as transformational across the industry. From algorithms for assessing relative player value, to real time game analysis and new ways of engaging with audiences at home and in the stadium, data now underpins how many of us interact with competitive sport. 

 

Developing a Wearable or Electronic Product for Sports

With an increasingly competitive and fragmented market, and new restrictions on tech being posed by health and legal bodies, what are the considerations when developing a wearable or piece of electronic technology for the sports market?

Firstly, engineers and companies want to consider where the tech is being used. Is it a training aid, or something to be used in live games? If the latter, then what are the laws or code of conduct that governs technology use for that sport in that country? What are the legal considerations on an international level?

More practically, you may need to consider what type of activity the device is being used for. If it is remote sensing or monitoring and not a wearable, then likely size and weight are less of a consideration. Similarly, if it’s a tracker to be attached to a watercraft or bike, considerations around IP and IK rating would be important. 

If you are designing a connected wearable, however, then small form or low profile devices are usually desirable. This is so that they do not inhibit the athlete, or have the potential to cause injury. Particularly in contact sports such as rugby, polo or American football, considerations around impact; not only in regard to hardware and industrial design to protect the device, but also to ensure the device does not injure players, is of vital importance. 

Expanding on IP rating, for water sports or winter sports where temperature is a factor, does the device need to be able to operate under extremes of temperature? And if out on the water, or in use in more remote locations, what kind of network connectivity is best? For example, the network used for data transmission on a tracker for an endurance runner out in rural areas is likely to be different to that for a soccer player in an urban stadium, with access to wifi coverage. 

Finally what is the function this device is performing? How accurate does reporting data need to be, and what is the required frequency of transmission? To use the endurance runner example, GPS tracking might only need to be approximate with reporting every hour or so. In contrast, a tennis player might need heart rate, distance travelled and serve speed reporting in near real-time.  

Ultimately, these environmental and use case factors will determine the look, size, weight and network capability of a connected sports device. 

 

Do you have an idea for a connected sports wearable or IoT device you’d like to discuss? Contact us today for an obligation free discussion. 

Close up of tennis racket resting on net with partial view of player in background

Does Connected Technology Create an Unfair Advantage?

Since its introduction into sport, tech has created division and courted controversy among professionals, fans and athletes. This is because there are often grey areas around whether a piece of technology gives an athlete an advantage, or is simply allowing them to reach their natural potential.

Again the difference between tech used in training versus that used in live sports is an important distinction. Both can give players/athletes an advantage, but it is harder to police or legislate against tech used in training. Consider a boxer who has access to an AR/VR program of an opponent’s fighting style prior to a fight. That athlete is able to plan and train better than an opponent without this technology. He or She may still lose the fight, but was it a fair fight? What is the difference between having access to that technology and having a more experienced coach? 

For use in live competition, we can look at swimmers at the 2008 Olympics who adopted the LZR Speedo suit designed by NASA and consistently broke records in their class. Research showed the suit reduced drag by up to 25% and provided a material advantage to the point where it was banned in future competitions.

Was this tech use fair to the other swimmers in that event? Perhaps so, if everyone had access to the same equipment and it was a choice whether to use it or not. But what about the previous holders of those records? Is it fair they were stripped of that title, arguably on the basis of new emerging technology, rather than an increase in natural talent? 

Furthermore, when we look at international competitions like the Olympics, there is already a disparity between the OECD countries and developing nations. This is evident in terms of access to funding, training facilities and personnel, healthcare and equipment. Does the introduction of performance enhancing technologies simply further widen the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’? At a certain point it could become pointless for some countries to compete if the margin between a podium position and missing out is based on access to technology.  

More generally in international competition, ‘Techno doping’ is becoming an increasingly contentious issue. Often, the impact of technology is not apparent until medals are won and records broken, like with the LZR suit. At this point it’s harder to say someone won unfairly because no one knew about a piece of technology in order to ban or restrict its use prior to the competition. With governing bodies often behind the tech curve when it comes to legislation against wearables, clothing and equipment used in competitions, there can be a lot of back and forth about what is allowed and what isn’t. This only serves to further confuse the issue for training teams, engineers and athletes, and can leave room for ‘wilful ignorance’ around whether technology should be verified before use in live competition.

Woman checks a sports wearable watch or fitness tracker

How Does Sports Technology Benefit Athletes and Users?

Technology can be used to help prevent and treat injury and chronic conditions in athletes, by monitoring their performance over time and providing early warning alerts for risks. This is something that manual observation is unlikely to achieve and, in this way, technology has been a real benefit to sports. 

Similarly, we now have the ability to access data in near real-time about an athlete’s performance. This allows for post activity analysis like never before, and this wealth of data is helping us to become better athletes, coaches, physicians and team mates. Even for the average person, the psychological impact that data reporting has on motivation to exercise is powerful. Studies have shown that step counters and social media sharing for apps like Strava keep us on track with fitness and weight loss goals

Technology also benefits sports professionals by giving them access to environments they might not otherwise be able to create. Through technology like AR and VR, athletes can be training even in an off season, or recreate games to see where they could have changed a play, or experience the associated psychological pressure of a live audience. 

In some ways, the rise of technology through IoT sensors and wearables reporting on performance have levelled the playing field. Access to data, AI and the ability to monitor key inputs removes some of the human element of coaching and the impact that a good or bad trainer can have on performance.  Therefore, when one player or team can access and utilise the same level of insight as another, they have equal opportunity to use it for performance improvement, regardless of the quality of their coaching staff. 

Taking this further, the value of the data collection from such technology cannot be understated. Although it comes with its own issues around privacy, anonymisation, and the impact that such data could have on an athlete’s market value if made publicly available, this data can do a lot of good. From aggregation of data and machine learning, we can develop better training programs, help prevent injury through increased understanding of the way sports impact the body, and drive increased performance. 

Technology can also help us create better equipment. Notwithstanding the issues around fair access to this, data from wearables and connected sensors could provide the architecture for a more streamlined racing bike, a faster rowing boat, or a tennis racket that increases serve speed. 

GPS Sports technology for location monitoring

Wider Benefits of IoT and Tech in Sports and Recreation

There is an obvious benefit to increased knowledge, and the ability to make data-informed decisions as a result of new technology. Whether that new data is used to improve training, performance, equipment and health/injury care in sport, it can materially impact both the individual and the community. And although most of these advances emerge at a professional level initially, the results generally filter down to education and personal training or more amateur level sports players. 

Outside of the educational benefits, sports technology is helping us enjoy watching sport in new ways as well. From connected tech that allows stadium spectators to listen to a soccer referee, to devices that allow cricket players to interact directly from the field, we can get closer to the action than ever before. 

And perhaps one of the greatest benefits of sports technology is that it enables better access to sport for differently abled people. From advanced engineering that allows para athletes to compete more safely in events like weight lifting and contact sports, to coaching environments for those with conditions like autism, sport has always been a connecting force, and technology is only helping that. 

disabled athelete with prosthetic performance blade

 

Conclusions

Whilst smart technology, connected wearables and computer driven cameras come with a whole host of potential risks and  considerations, overall, technology is bettering the field of play for sporting activities. 

Sport brings us together, provides entertainment, keeps us fit and pushes us to excel. Like engineers with technology, athletes are always looking to push the boundaries of what is possible, and it feels inevitable that tech and sports will continue to converge in the future.

The issues around data privacy and access, legislation for fair and safe competition, and how these advances impact the wider community are all important factors in sports tech and we cannot afford to ignore them. But at the same time, it’s exciting to think about what might be possible in the future with sports technology. Will we see completely new sports born from tech? What about new ways of viewing sports, for example an ‘athlete’s eye view’ of the field? The possibilities seem endless!

MarketingSports Technology and Smart Devices in Athletics

LX IoT Design to be deployed in World Leading Pipeline Monitoring Project

Remote monitoring of gas pipeline assets is an enabler for SEA Gas and Fleet Space

Fleet Space recently announced an exciting new IoT technology project using Fleet Space’s “Smart Sign Technology for Continuous Easement Interference Monitoring” on gas pipelines operated by SEA Gas. LX is pleased to be included as a design partner in this project. The project is currently underway with proof of concept development in train and a plan for rollout to start with a 13km stretch near Murray Bridge.

The full pipeline proposed for deployment extends over 700km through South Australia and Victoria and to date has required regular inspection through costly and inefficient manual inspection. Now continuous and accurate remote reporting will be possible through a network of low power IoT devices – micro cameras – connected to gateways via the LoRa network. 

The cameras are connected to processors that utilise machine learning to make decisions at the edge. These are able to detect and report on the arrival of heavy machinery and other traffic that may pose a risk to pipeline assets.

The project is a joint venture with Wollongong University and the Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) with the latter providing funding to the project as part of a wider drive towards decarbonisation of national energy networks. When the project is completed and the devices successfully deployed, it will position SEA Gas as ‘world leading’ in the adoption and deployment of IoT solutions for monitoring energy assets. The technology itself has the potential to be applied to myriad other industries that require monitoring of remote assets and areas in this way. 

The various data streams collected by the devices are sent via Fleet Space’s nano-satellite network, providing intelligent reporting in real-time. To achieve the same coverage through manual inspection would be resource intensive and cost prohibitive. LX is working with Fleet Space and SEA Gas to develop these devices for deployment in remote and demanding outdoor environments. 

Sign next to a fence post with text - Caution High Pressure Gas Line

Why is IoT technology important in Gas Pipeline Monitoring?

External interference with assets is a real issue for energy and utilities. With pipelines routed through rural and remote locations, interference with pipeline structures has the potential to impact not only supply, but the safety of those nearby. 

With continuous monitoring through IoT technology, easement interference and potential threats can be detected and addressed sooner, reducing the risk of events that can cost millions of dollars in disruption and physical damage. 

Added to this, the risks of human inspection are reduced and the cost savings through reduced manual checking mean that labour can be redeployed, creating increased operational efficiencies.

This exciting deployment of IoT technology and hybrid network communications opens the door to monitoring remote assets on a global scale – creating far reaching impact and benefits. 

 

MarketingLX IoT technology deployed in world leading pipeline monitoring project

Why is Prototyping important and which kind do you need?

When considering a new product, prototyping is a key part of the process

Contents:

Introduction to Prototyping

Benefits of Prototyping

Types of Prototyping

Next Steps in Prototyping

Introduction to Prototyping

A quick web search for the meaning of ‘prototype’ will tell you that it is the ‘first or preliminary’ version of a device or product from which other forms are developed. The reality is a little more complicated, with lots of different types of prototypes that are created at different stages on the product development journey, and for different reasons. That statement is even more relevant when we discuss custom electronic products and IoT Product development, where we consider additional functionality such as the ability for there the air (OTA) firmware updates, or the environmental requirements for many IoT Products. 

So when navigating the road to a complete product, which prototype do you need and when? We explore prototyping options and considerations for each kind here. But first, let’s look more generally at why prototypes are an important and beneficial element of product design. 

Benefits of a prototype

1. Test and refine the design

One of the biggest benefits of prototyping is that it allows you to test whether a product will actually work. In terms of both functionality and form, does it answer the requirements you’ve set for it in order to fill a particular market need? Often ideas work perfectly in theory, but actually building out a physical version of your product can highlight gaps in your thinking or even a way your original idea could be improved. If you are creating a prototype yourself, this process is also useful for identifying skills gaps within your team based on the requirements of the product. With a completely new product or design where there are a lot of unknowns, a prototype can provide invaluable data around the later stages in the process – such as manufacturing readiness.

2. Choose/refine the materials

Creating a prototype really puts your idea to the test for whether it works at scale. Generally when people are developing a product for commercial reasons, they’re eventually looking to manufacture for domestic or international retail. And you may have preconceived preferences for casing materials, or the look and feel of the finished article. Certain types of prototype can quickly uncover whether your material choice is feasible for your product. For example if there are functionality requirements that restrict design decisions, such as a product needing to be heatproof at high temperatures, or have certain tensile strength properties, prototyping can establish which materials will work best. 

Budget also becomes a consideration here, a prototype can give you an early indication of the materials cost for a product, allowing teams to forecast procurement and manufacturing costs on a wider scale in comparison to your projected retail revenue. Additionally, if the product is intended for international markets, you would consider at the prototyping stage the casing and safety certification requirements for each market and what adjustments need to be made. 

3. Get others on board with your idea 

Often we get clients that are looking for a visual prototype or a proof of concept in order to win investment from partners or sign off from a stakeholder group. A physical version (working or not) can be a powerful visual tool in this process.

Beyond just convincing a board of directors or an investor however, prototypes can help take your wider team on the journey. Involving your marketing team at the prototyping stage can initiate early insights to drive positioning and USPs that become the basis for launch strategy. Bringing in a legal team can help with defining key IP around the product and how best to protect it across domestic and international markets. And certainly, getting as many reviewers on a product early in the process can help point out any potential pitfalls or key considerations. 

The key takeaway here is that prototypes should serve a predefined goal at each stage. Whether that is testing the electronic functionality of a product or getting feedback from focus groups on a visual prototype, teams should aim to gather new learnings and insights with each iteration.

Types of Prototype

In the new product development process, there are usually 4 distinct kinds of prototype at different stages of the process. We list them below and the purpose they serve. However it is useful to note that you may require several iterations of a prototype at a particular stage to ensure your design is functioning correctly. For example with a POC (Proof of Concept Prototype), you have the opportunity to uncover the minimum specifications for your product at a stage where it is far less costly to make amendments, so you may have a couple of versions to get this right before moving on. 

At LX we are able to create all kinds of prototypes and help you right from the start of the project. However you can also approach a design service provider like us when you already have a proof of concept or even a working prototype, it very much depends on your individual requirements and the existing skill sets within your organisation.

1. Proof of concept Prototype

Proof of concept prototypes, as the name suggests, are there to prove that the idea or concept works in reality. As mentioned above, this is a key time for identifying possible risks or areas that need development from the original idea. Occasionally these types of prototype may be used for convincing investors/boards but usually they are more restricted to a core team and simply test the feasibility of the original concept. As such many of the elements in a POC prototype are not bespoke and use ‘off the shelf’ materials, for example using existing PCBs which is where the prototype for a custom electronic product often starts. Generally team will want to move onto custom electronics development early in the process, but development kits can serve a purpose here to get a POC quickly and to budget.

The proof of concept prototype generally doesn’t look like the (intended) finished product – this is about functionality rather than finish.

2. Visual Prototypes

Visual Prototypes look more like the finished article and depending on your requirements, should at least look as though they function as a finished article. That being said, visual prototypes often do not have working parts at all, or very limited functionality as this kind is more about the show. It is usually a visual prototype that clients shop around to their board of directors, potential business partners or investors to secure funding or bring them on the journey. 

However it is not just about showing others, this stage of the prototyping process can also be key for making decisions around industrial design and casing/form materials. Working these out at the POC or visual prototype stage can help avoid costly changes down the track. Processes used here may include anything from foam or clay moulding through to CNC Machining, stereolithography or selective laser sintering 3D printing, dependent on the level of finished required and the materials used for the final product. 

3. Working Prototypes

Working Prototypes and Production prototypes may sometimes be used interchangeably, but if designs are evolving, a working prototype is a full embodiment of the finished product that allows for a little flexibility. It should look and act as a completely finished product but may not be engineered for mass scale production.

Often working prototypes are used for marketing purposes such as trade shows and with consumer testing groups but the final product that gets manufactured ends up being a different colour or perhaps uses a slightly different casing material. Based on the feedback of these testing environments and other data sources, final adjustments are made before manufacture. 

4. Production Prototypes

This is the prototype iteration that undergoes the manufacturing readiness testing. There are usually a number of different versions of a production or commercial prototype and they are all about testing the design and function as much as possible. Here you may have a final review of the design after initial focus group testing and make refinements.

There is also a stage for compliance testing and prototypes here may go through a short manufacturing run to check readiness for production at scale. If you have a product that requires specific certification in order to retail to your target market (medical devices for example), this is where that process takes place. Essentially production prototypes are your last opportunity to really stress test your design before you invest in materials, manufacturing and other supply chain and go-to-market costs. 

Next steps in Prototyping

We hope this article has impressed on you that with any new product project, prototyping is one of the most important and valuable processes you can undertake. You may have the resources within your team to get to a certain stage with prototyping but often when you start to get into the stage of customised elements, particularly for electronic products and IoT devices it is a good idea to bring in an expert team or at the very least, a consultant.

Your prototypes are your trial runs, and ultimately determine how successful your finished product is in the market. For help developing prototypes or advice on your project, book a call with us to discuss your requirements.

MarketingPrototyping – the why, the when and the how

LX would like to congratulate Telstra on winning the coveted Good Design Award for the development of the Telstra Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Locator.

The Telstra Locator is an innovative series of trackers, released by Australia’s largest telecommunications company, that will help customers keep track of belongings that matter most to them – from keys and bags, to bikes and pets.

The series comprises of a Bluetooth tag, which utilises the ‘Telstra Locator Bluetooth Community’ to obtain live location updates, while the Wi-Fi tag features additional connectivity to the Telstra Air network.

Telstra’s vast knowledge and deep understanding of telecommunications combined with LX’s experience in developing IoT products was leveraged to develop the innovative new listening network to help facilitate these trackers. The electronics (powered by the LX IoT Cores), embedded firmware, and mobile devices SDK design were undertaken by LX group.

MarketingTelstra wins coveted Good Design Award for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Locator

This year LX was honoured and excited to attend the 2019 Good Design Awards with partners Agersens and Caroma, each of whom won an award.

Agersens eShepherd – Gold Award

Agersens claimed the coveted Gold Good Design Award as recognition of their world-first innovation in livestock management, the eShepherd.

eShepherd is a livestock virtual fencing solution that provides remote pasture management, and animal monitoring for improved livestock and land welfare. Developed in Australia for the global market, eShepherd helps farmers manage their animals and land more effectively in the face of climate change.

Unlike an electric fence, it works by training livestock behaviour. The animal receives a warning tone when it walks towards the virtual boundary, and receives a small electric pulse when it crosses the line. Research shows that livestock learn to turn away at the tone, and avoid the pulse entirely. The response to an audio warning signal, instead of visual cue, makes virtual fencing possible. Farmers use a web-portal to create virtual boundaries and check on livestock activity, all of which are updated dynamically to ensure accurate data.

The system enables farmers to have large-scale rotational grazing that is tailored to farm geography, vegetation, and seasonal variations.

LX Group worked in collaboration with Agersens to develop the electronics that drive the eShepard, including the hardware, firmware, and elements of the cloud connectivity.

Caroma Smart Command – Best in Class

Caroma received a ‘Best in Class’ Good Design Award in the Hardware and Building category for their series of the Smart Command intelligent bathroom products.

The Smart Command ecosystem interfaces with smart bathroom fixtures to monitor data, including the fixture usage, number of flushes and water usage. It integrates with mobile apps, building management systems and cloud platforms.

It allows the monitoring and control of water usage to save water, as well as facilitating informed decisions to be made relating to cleaning, maintenance resourcing, and other building management functions.

LX developed worked with the team at Caroma to develop the connection between Smart Command devices and the building management system, and the web interface which displays critical data.

MarketingLX Celebrates 2019 Good Design awards with partners Agersens and Caroma

LX is honoured to be named as a finalist in the IoT Awards at the IoT Festival in Melbourne this week. The festival aims to reveal leading thinkers’ insights into how IoT creates new opportunities; showcases new and emerging IoT technologies; and shares IoT success stories from practitioners across all sectors of the economy.

LX and our clients have been nominated in two categories at the IoT Awards, to be announced later this evening. We have been nominated along with Senver for the TimerTag project in the Healthcare/Sport IoT category, and with Agersens and Cobalt in the IoT Channel Award category for the eShepherd Virtual Fence. This is a huge achievement for our clients, and we are delighted to be partnering with them on such exciting projects.

We would also like to congratulate our clients Telstra and CBA for their nominations as finalists in the Industrial IoT, Healthcare/Sport IoT and Primary Industry IoT categories.

We are thrilled to work with such innovative clients, and wish them, and all nominees, all the best this evening.

MarketingLX named a finalist in the IoT Awards at the IoT Festival in Melbourne this week

Oreo has released 2000 ‘Oreo Yo’Self’ cookies at oreoyoself.com.au, where Australian consumers are able to create an avatar of their own face and send it to themselves.

LX custom developed the Oreo printer to ensure cookie creme printing precision, as part of a new campaign via Traffik Group. A Dobot Magician is controlled via bespoke software that uses a camera on the robot arm to scan and print Oreo cookie creme – allowing a smooth and seamless journey from digital creation to production. The creme is dispensed from a syringe, moved by the Dobot arm, onto the giant Oreo cookie through 12 pneumatic air controlled syringes.

Customers are be able to select from a range of features to Oreo-fy themselves including; hair style and eye colour and style and accessories, to get playful and personalise their cookie.

Follow the live stream at oreoyoself.com.au.

LX Group is an electronic product development company. We work with clients from concept through to production, across a range of industries from food to consumer and medical products. Contact LX Group at lx-group.com.au to see how we can transform your idea to reality.

MarketingCreate your own Oreo Avatar and watch it printed live

Congratulations to our client, HeadsafeIP, who was awarded the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant for their product Nurochek in March. The Grant will allow for activities to complete commercialisation of the portable device which assesses traumatic neurological injuries. Following this, HeadsafeIP is planning to explore the use of Nurochek for degenerative neurological disorders including dementia, delirium and stroke.

Nurochek is a headset that measures aspects of the brain’s electrical activity using EEG. Both affordable and portable, the custom headset broadcasts EEG signals to a smartphone for analysis and to Cloud for secure storage. Subsequent tests can be carried out and compared to previous results or baseline to be examined by a doctor.

HeadsafeIP was also for awarded “StartUp of the Year” at the 9th annual Australian Healthcare Week (Click here to see the article), and has recently closed their Bridge Funding round with Australian, Euroupean and US investors. It’s exciting to partner with them on their journey!

LX has worked closely with HeadsafeIP on the Nurochek product development, delivering the custom electronics hardware design and embedded firmware development.

Contact LX to discuss how we can help you accelerate your new product development initiatives.

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MarketingNurochek Kicks Major Goals